John 21: Follow Me (Again)

My God, what an adventure.
Andrew Lewis

All four gospels report that Jesus said, “Follow me” to his prospective disciples at the beginning of his mission. The fourth gospel records that saying in John 1:43. Although Jesus spoke these words to Phillip, they appear in a section of John’s gospel that relates the call of Andrew, Simon Peter and Nathanael as well. The name of Nathanael appears only in John’s gospel, and following his appearance in chapter 1 his character disappears from the narrative until the 21st chapter.

In John 21:19, Jesus (now risen from the dead) once again repeats the call, “follow me.” This time, he speaks these words to Peter at the end of the “feed my sheep” discourse. Not coincidentally, we once again find the words “follow me” in a passage of the text where Nathanael is present.

With the reintroduction of Nathanael and the repetition of Jesus’ call to “follow me,” John takes us back to the beginning of his gospel.

The fourth gospel begins with John the Baptizer testifying to what he had seen. As the story transitions to the “call” narrative in John 1:35-51, Jesus repeatedly invites the prospective disciples to come and see for themselves. He asks what they are seeking and tells them they will see “greater things”. They will see “the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending on the the son of man” (an allusion to the Jacob story and the “stairway to heaven” in Genesis 28:12). As the gospel comes to its conclusion after 21 chapters of narrative, the disciples have indeed seen for themselves that Jesus is the savior of the world.

With the words “follow me,” however, Jesus indicated that the story was not over. A new chapter was just beginning. Just as the first disciples didn’t know where Jesus would take them during his journeys in Galilee and Judea, so now they don’t know exactly where following the risen savior lead them.

If they trusted him at the beginning, how much more can they trust him now. They’ve heard him speak and seen the signs which God accomplished through him. They watched him die and they’ve seen him conquer death.

Follow me. Hoot, yeah!

My God, what an adventure. 

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