18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
Verses 18 and 19 present Peter’s martyrdom. Peter was probably already dead for 30 years by the time the gospel of John was written in approximately AD 90. Jesus followed the commission of Peter with a prophecy about his death.
Most assuredly [amen, amen],
“Most assuredly” asserts solemnity of what is about to be said. Jesus now made it clear why He asked Peter whether he loved Him.
I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished;
At youth we are our own master, but when we grow old we depend on others. There is a liberty or freedom in being young.
but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish [the grave].”
This proverb is enigmatic. Peter during his youth dressed himself and went where he wanted to go. However, when he would grow old, he would be more limited. His independence would become more constricted. He would be forced to depend on others. Peter in approaching death would not be able to do what he wanted to do.
In old age there are more restrictions to life. Older people depend on others to help them, to dress them, and to lead them where they do not want to go. God’s plan for Peter was that he would go from being an independent person to being a prisoner or even a martyr. The idea of “stretch out your hands” was commonly understood as crucifixion in the first century.
Jesus here referred to Peter’s death. Peter was already dead by the time John wrote this gospel. Tradition says that he was crucified upside down by Nero in Rome 30 years after this writing (1 Clem. 5:4). He became a martyr. People would tie a rope around Peter and stretch out his hands for execution on a cross.
This He [Jesus] spoke, signifying by what [kind of] death he [Peter] would glorify God.
Verse 19 is John’s explanation of Jesus’ prediction about Peter in verse 18. Peter spoke of his own death in 2 Peter 1:14.
God had a plan for Peter’s death. He was to glorify Himself in it. Origin said that Peter died by crucifixion. If that is so, then Peter glorified God by symbolically portraying the crucifixion of Christ.
And when He had spoken this,
Jesus connected the prediction of Peter’s death with the invitation to follow Him. Peter would be counted worthy to die for his Lord.
He said to him, “Follow Me.”
This was a challenge for Peter to live the rest of his life following Christ. This apostle was to follow Jesus even in death. The idea was that Peter should use Jesus as a model in persecution and even death. This is also an indication that Jesus restored Peter to public ministry.
We can glorify God by dying grace.
Those who suffer or experience death for Jesus bring glory to our Lord (1 Pe 4:14-16). Peter lived 30 years with the prediction of his death hanging over him. We can glorify God in our death as well as our life. This was true for Samson and it can be true of us.