“Lord,’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Where are you going?’
Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow later.’
(37) ‘Lord’, Peter asked, ‘why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for You!’
(38) Jesus replied, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: a rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times. (14:1) Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…”
I have a question about the layout of the paragraphs here. Because there is a chapter break between 13:38 and 14:1, the reader is led to believe that 13:38 is the end of one thought, and 14:1 is the beginning of another. What if it’s not? What if 13:38-14:4 is all part of the same thought? It changes the tone of Jesus’ answer to Peter. In one scenario, Jesus answers Peter by simply saying, ‘no, you will deny Me’, and then He addresses everyone else, beginning with, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled…’
What if the statement “your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” was directed at Peter as a part of Jesus’ prophetic reply to Peter?
The answer to Peter’s denial is not, ‘you’re not good enough’, but instead the answer is, ‘let not your heart be troubled.’
My motive for offering this idea is that I am considering God’s benevolence and care. Sometimes, I get so focused on myself that I forget about His love, or more precisely his benevolence and also gentleness. In my fleshly mind, I have often carried around deep criticism, of myself and probably of others, and I think it has been easy at times to make God over in the image of my own thoughts and feelings; this is why the consideration of His benevolence is a fresh thought. I believe many of us need a fresh thought; something which did not come from within the matrices of our own thinking.
Finally, I would like to note some foreshadowing in this text. Jesus saying “you will follow me later” (13:36) fits with John 21:18-19, where Jesus foretold “by what kind of death he (Peter) would glorify God.” This also indicates the faithful life that Peter would live. Whether or not Peter derived that comfort from the conversation at the time is unclear to me.
I also want to mention Peter’s question in 13:37; “why can’t I follow you now?” I wonder how this relates to Jesus’ teachings about the Holy Spirit in the chapters of John that follow, and also Acts 1:4-5, prophesying the disciples being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is a time of preparation. In a recent conversation about pride, my wife put forth the idea that you are likely not the best person to accurately diagnose your own problems. I want to consider that idea in relation to a verse like 2 Chronicles 7:14, which indicates that one of the necessary parts of affecting personal repentance which in turn affects societal redemption is ‘humble yourself’. Again, I am not the most qualified person to diagnose my own problems. I need a fresh thought. I need a fresh thought so that I can follow God without making Him over in the image of the insufficient parts of my own thinking. Perhaps that is part of how a person is made “twice as much a son of hell” (from Matthew 23:15 NASB). There is a daily walk and sharp discernment made with many seemingly small course corrections along the way. The repentance needed is ever deeper, and the redemption received is abundant beyond comprehension. There is a universe of meaning, and personal application, in each of Jesus’ words.