“I tell you the truth, when you were younger, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 (NIV)
Peter walked away from faith, but now he has come back. Jesus knew he would walk away, yet He welcomes him back. He tells Peter what He wants him to do: “Feed my sheep.”
Then Jesus pulls back the curtain and gives Peter a glimpse of the future. Jesus says, “when you are old.” So, Peter is going to enjoy a long life. The problem is that the last chapter of his life isn’t going to be easy. “When you were younger, you dressed yourself.” That’s independence. You “went where you wanted.” That’s control. “But when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you.” You will lose your independence. “And someone else will… lead you where you do not want to go.” You will lose control.
Then we are told that “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (21:19). So these words are not a general description of Peter’s old age, they are a specific prophecy of the way in which he will die.
Peter, here’s how you are going to die: “You will stretch out your hands.” That’s what happened when someone was crucified. The outstretched hands were bound to the horizontal beam of the cross. Then the victim was led to the place of crucifixion.
Peter, you are going to have many years of ministry. You are going to pastor God’s flock. But your ministry is going to end with you being nailed to a cross. Then Jesus says, “Follow me.”
What would you have said?