Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
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 it that is going to betray You?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to 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, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:20-23 (From the Eleventh Eothinon Gospel of Sunday Orthros) Tuesday of the 4th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Having just been restored in the eyes of the Lord, Peter made a mistake that we frequently make. Peter had been conversing with Jesus as they were walking, answering for his lack of “agape” love and being forgiven and restored by Jesus. He looked back and saw “the disciple whom Jesus loved” who is identified as the Apostle John (who would later write the Gospel of John) following Jesus and Peter. Peter asked “What about this man?”
Why did Peter ask this question? Jesus had just told Peter that Peter was going to eventually die for Christ. He was eventually going to die a martyr’s death and it was going to be in the same humiliating and painful way that Jesus died, by crucifixion. Undoubtedly, Peter wanted to know “Is John going to suffer the same fate as me?”
Jesus, I believe lovingly, did not answer Peter’s question directly. He didn’t say “No, John will not be martyred, he will outlive all of you and die peacefully in old age.” What would have happened if Jesus had said that? Would Peter have declared “that’s not fair,” or “why does he get to live and I have to die violently?” Would a full answer have shaken Peter’s faith?
Jesus said to Peter “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” In other words, “don’t worry about him. YOU follow me!”
In our world, we are “conditioned” to be in competition with other people. Even if we don’t know them. We look at our neighbors with judgment when we think “I’m older than them but they have a better car, I should have the better car.” Or “I have more education, I should make more money.” Or “why does a teenager have two children but the married couple has none?” Or the proverbial “why do bad things happen to the good people” or “why do the good die young?”
Christianity is not a competition by any means. While we are assisted in our journey by a community, the choice to follow Christ is a personal choice, and the judgment in front of Christ will be an individual judgment. We won’t stand in front of Him with our family, or our neighbors or our church community. The Lord has given each of us a different set of gifts and talents. Remember the parable of the talents? (Matthew 25: 14-31) No one got nothing. God has a specific plan for each of our lives, and these plans are not in competition with one another. When I was “younger” I used to wonder “why don’t I have a bigger parish, or a nicer home, or compared to everyone else my age I should be at a higher level of material gain.” Now that I am older and more mature, I still have these thoughts at times, but certainly not as much as I used to. I try to be grateful for what God has given me. I try to do the best I can with what I have been given by Him. And I try to not look at others, choosing to focus on my relationship with Christ. As I said, I try. And sometimes, I still fail. Sometimes I am still like Peter, wondering about the other guy.
Jesus’ message to Peter is “don’t worry about the other guy. I have plans for him, just as I have plans for you. I have given talents to him, just as I have given talents to you. My plans for him and for you are different. So are the talents I have given both of you. But what is most important is YOU follow me.” And that is what is most important to each of us, that each of us follows Him. Don’t get fixated on what you don’t have. Appreciate what you do have. And don’t get fixated on God’s plans for the lives of others. Be faithful in following His plan for YOU!
After the divine Resurrection, the Lord asked Peter thrice: Do you love me? and thus put him forward as shepherd of His flock. But when Peter saw that he whom Jesus loved was following, he asked the Master: Why is he here? And He said, “If I wish that he should remain until I come again, what is this to you, beloved Peter?” (Exapostelarion of the 11th Eothinon, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Keep your eyes on Christ today!
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