Peter vs. John: Comparison

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The Bible isn’t known for being a comedy…because it isn’t. But sometimes a little humor sneaks in there, like this:

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (John 20:3-4)

Commentaries expound on the significance of this moment, that it’s actually an important thing that shows that neither of them entered the tomb alone, etc. But at first blush, it just comes across as humorous, right?

“We were both running to the tomb–I got there first–and then we went in.”

We know that the disciples weren’t perfect, that they sinned and struggled just like we do. And since comparison is a major struggle today, I’m guessing it always has been, even if this particular passage has a further point. But in finishing our church ladies’ study of John last night, we see Peter outright comparing himself to John after learning that Peter’s own death will be terrifying:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:20a, 21)

I love Peter. So much. Over and over, he does the wrong thing or doesn’t understand or charges in where he shouldn’t–but the Lord never gives up on Peter. Even here, when Peter doesn’t like his lot and compares it to another, Jesus basically just says, “Mind your business. I gave you a job; go do it” (my own paraphrase of John 21:22).

John is promised a long life with ample comfort and time to write books, while Peter is promised suffering. Both are good and both glorify God–but these men can’t have both things.

And neither can you or I. Sometimes, I look at other people’s lives and want the ease I see there: family around to help, job security, clear and visible calling. Other times, I read a touching tale of someone clinging to Christ in great trial, and I long for what they have or despair that I’m too weak-willed to walk the road they’ve been given.

This is useless, fruitless, and deadly. If I am looking to the path of another, I am not looking to my own–and then I become useless and fruitless. But God anticipated this and reminds us over and over and over to look to our own:

  • The tenth commandment tells us not to covet possessions, but wouldn’t this extend to the work and lives we’ve been given? (Exodus 20:17)
  • Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the field who receive the same wages for different work–what kindness! (Matthew 20:1-16)
  • Paul instructs the Thessalonians to live quietly and mind their own affairs (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
  • Paul uses the example of a body to explain to the Corinthians that are different roles within the Body and that it suffers without people doing their part (1 Corinthians 12:15-16)
  • Hebrews 11 offers an extensive list of faithful men and women–and they made that list by acting in faith where God had put them

There’s plenty more examples, I’m sure.

Peter, John, and all of the disciples had to rise above their desire for comparison in order to be useful. We need to do the same. need to do the same.

My friends’ struggles and victories can encourage me to run the race before me only if my heart is rightly praising God for His work in and through them–not when I’m trying to insert myself into their (or any other) narrative.

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