To Follow Jesus Into the Water

The end of John’s gospel has a dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus predicts Peter’s death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God). And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.'” (John 21:18, 19 ESV).

As divine fate would have it, tradition says that Peter was fleeing Rome due to the severe persecution of Christians under Emperor Nero. Peter saw the risen Jesus and pater asked, “Where are you going?” To which Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter courageously turned around and followed Jesus into the city where Peter was captured and crucified upside down. It’s a grim picture but also a very real call that Jesus gave his disciples. He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Following Jesus is not supposed to be whenever it suits us. Jesus is clear about this when he said, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus calls us to follow him everywhere and all the way! This means we follow him into the waters of baptism. It means we follow him in the way we live our lives. And it means we follow him in his suffering and resurrection. Christians cannot write off baptism as no big deal any more than they can write off suffering as something that’s not necessary. Christ commands his disciples to follow him no matter what.