20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
Verses 20-23 discuss the future of the apostle John.
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following,
Peter observed John following Jesus and himself.
who also had leaned on His breast at the supper,
This was the apostle John. The event referred to here harks back to John 13:24-25.
and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”
Again, this was John.
Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man [John]?”
Peter asked about the future of the apostle John. Peter said in effect, “If I am going to die because of my faith, what about John?”
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?
Jesus asserted that Peter should not concern himself with the will of God for others. It was none of his business what would happen to John. If John should remain on earth until Jesus comes back, that was of no concern to Peter. The implication is clear that Jesus will come back to earth in the future.
You [emphatic and singular] follow Me.”
Those committed to Christ need to follow wherever He may lead. Peter should only concern himself with the will of God for him.
Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple [John] would not die.
A rumor spread among the disciples that John would never die because of Jesus’ use of the word “remain” in the phrase “that he remain till I come.” This was a misinterpretation of what Jesus said. The “if” in “if I will” is hypothetical (third class condition); Jesus was only dealing with a hypothetical that John would live till He came back again. The apostle John lived into his 90s but Jesus never gave him an exemption from death. It was a misunderstanding about God’s promises. The disciples needed to carefully handle the Word of God.
Yet Jesus did not say to him [Peter] that he [John] would not die,
Jesus did not say to Peter that John would not die. He simply used a hypothesis of his living until the return of Christ.
This “but” is a strong contrast.
“If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
Whether John died imminently or not was of no concern to Peter. We cannot compare God’s plan for John against His plan for Peter. Peter should have been exclusively concerned with Jesus’ will for his own life.
It is easy to become distracted by trivial pursuits.
What God chooses to do with other people is none of our business. Many Christians become distracted by tertiary issues. They sometimes are more concerned about what happens in other believers’ lives than the will of God for their lives. God’s will for each individual is different.
There are times when we need to mind our own business. Our concern should be with the state of our own souls, not that of others. The big issue is our relationship to Jesus.
Some of us operate on an innate sense of fairness that is strictly within the bounds of human premises. This is what Peter did with John. We think that God treats other believers preferentially. This is to function from self-pity. We prefer to look over our shoulder at others rather than examine God’s specific plan for our lives. Jesus rejects this attitude of intruding into a realm of no concern to us. There is always the temptation to play god with other people’s lives. This tangent moves us off God’s purpose for our own lives. It is also an attempt to manage God’s plan and the affairs of others. It is to meddle in matters of no concern to us. There is no place for busybodies in His service.