"Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:21-23)
Peter‘s faults and failures are either mentioned more often than the other disciples or the other disciples faults and failures were committed less frequently However, we continue to witness the tenderness and grace of Jesus Christ in response to Peter’s propensity to say or do the wrong things. On this occasion, Jesus has renewed Peter’s call to follow him and informed Peter that he would die a death by which God would be glorified. On hearing this remark, Peter, opens mouth and inserts foot by asking Jesus about the Apostle John and what his future held. Would John live a long life or die a martyr? Our Lord rebukes Peter by informing him to be concerned about his own life and obedience in light of God’s revealed will rather than being caught up in curiosity concerning God’s secret will about John.
However, I do not desire to focus on Peter’s idle curiosity but to observe how easily God’s word can be misunderstood or misapplied. Jesus response to Peter was, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” From the response of Christ to Peter some of the disciples began to advocate that Jesus had said John would not die. The Bible does not detail how this conclusion was arrived at by the disciples but there are at least two possibilities to consider. These two factors also contribute to faulty biblical conclusions and convictions today.
I. The disciples misunderstood what was actually said. What they heard and what Jesus expressed were different. The erroneous conclusion, possibly, was due to their negligence to confirm what Jesus had actually spoken to Peter. James exhorts hearers of the word to be “swift to hear” while the writer of Hebrews rebukes the audience because they were “dull of hearing.” Christians are guilty now and then of “quoting” Bible passages that are not in the Bible. An example is when Christians report “God helps those who help themselves.” Is that what the Bible actually records?
II. They correctly heard what Jesus said but misinterpreted the meaning. Christians often err because of a failure to understand what the Bible is actually expressing because a preconceived idea is forced into the text. Technically, this is called eisegesis.
Christians are to study the Bible and endeavor to “rightly divide” or “handle” God’s word to understand the true meaning and intent. Theologically, the science of interpreting Scripture by using correct methods is called hermeneutics. The Apostle John obviously was concerned enough about the false report to correct it. He rectified it in the ending of the Gospel by writing, “Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”.
Can you imagine the awful results flowing from the incorrect report of John falsely by misinformed disciples? Eventually, John would die and many might say: “Jesus said John would not die. Jesus’s words are untrue. Jesus lied or did not really have knowledge of the future. Jesus’s disciples informed us that John would not die but he did.”
John recognized the weight of importance in knowing and reporting accurately what Jesus said because salvation is in Christ alone. He did not want there to be any reluctance or hesitance to place faith in Jesus Christ because of false information that was circulating. We have a holy obligation to honestly and accurately consider what God says and trust that He will give us understanding (2 Timothy 2:7) and to clarify misunderstandings of God and His word as given opportunity.