Why Look Over Your Shoulder?

John 21: 20-25
Acts 28:16-20,30-31/Psa 11

What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.
(John 21:22)

When called, why look over your shoulder?
Accept the responsibility...
Your blessing don’t pass to another,
When you hear His Words, “Come follow me.”

Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to His breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come, what concern is it of yours? You follow me!” The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:20-25)


John and James were the second set of brothers that Jesus called to be His apostles. The first were Peter and his younger brother Andrew, who were also fishermen. These brothers were Jesus’ closest friends. While Peter was the recognized leader, John was the most intimate to the Lord, seated by his side during their meals. He was not only privy to all the affairs and activities of the Master, but even heard His most private conversations. Which is why the Gospel of St. John is the most personal among the four evangelists who wrote about the life and lessons of the Messiah.

St. John was confident of his position, while St. Peter was not. Jesus had just ‘put him in his place’ by asking him 3 times if he loved Him (because of the 3 times that Peter denied Him). So when Jesus motioned Peter aside to have a word with him, he looked back at John for support, and said, “Lord, what about him?” And Jesus replied, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”

One would think that St. John the Evangelist would have primacy over St. Peter among all the apostles. He was the only one among the Twelve who did not leave his Master at the time of His Passion, standing at the foot of the cross. He was made guardian of our Lady by Jesus. He was the first to reach the tomb at the resurrection; and he was the first to recognize the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias.

But St. John deferred to St. Peter as the leader of the early Church. He knew his role, and early on gave moral support and companionship to Peter, affirming his leadership. He knew that Peter, the irresolute one, needed that support for the sake of the early church. In spite of his firm faith in Jesus, Peter at first had only a vague understanding of the mission and work that the Lord had planned for him. John, the closest to Jesus, provided him guidance, as we see him accompanying Peter after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Writing in the third person, John said, “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that His testimony is true.” (Jn.21:24)

Grant me, Lord, a companion like St. John, resolute in mind and will, but gentle of heart. With such a friend to guide me, I will not be afraid to take on the tasks You have set for us to do, or places You send us to. Amen.

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