April 15, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Follow Me
John 21:15-25

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The “ingredients” of this session can be found in Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus first calls Simon Peter. When Jesus called his disciples then, the salient words were “Follow me!” In John’s gospel, although there is a recommissioning, Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” Quite unusually, Jesus caps this second call with a personal prophecy—that when Peter is old, he will be led away to death. This gives special point to the question, “Do you love me?”

Peter wonders aloud whether John will experience a similar fate; that is, whether John’s love for Jesus will be tested the same way. Jesus replies that the outcome is a matter between the disciple and his Master.

History and legend suggest that of the twelve disciples, only John did not die a martyr’s death. Because of this and because the disciples were chosen to be witnesses to Jesus and his resurrection (Acts 1:21-22), the word witness (Greek “marturia”) acquired its present meaning. That is, witnessing to Jesus can be the prelude to martyrdom.

As a graduate student, I wrote a letter implicating a prominent professor and the university hospital as promoting abortion on campus. This immediately politicized the community into factions—pro, con, and “keep the lid on.” I was soon asked by older and more experienced people to lead the pro-life group, and so received considerable publicity personally.

This new role led to some interesting confrontations, including one with a fellow graduate student and another with one of my professors. One night after midnight I was telephoned by a lady who berated me for raising an issue that was causing her great personal anguish. She was soon weeping, remembering her early experiences. We were able to have a meaningful discussion and communicate across a wide chasm.

In much of today’s world, literal martyrdom remains a fact. In North America, it usually takes such forms as being socially ostracized, publicly criticized, losing one’s job, or simply being laughed at. In all such situations, we may hear Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” and the further inquiry, “Really? How much?”

  • What sort of feelings might Peter have experienced after being told that he would die for his love?
  • In what ways might your Christian witness be rejected today?

—Kevin McCabe, Kmccabe57@hotmail.com

© 2018

Kevin McCabe is a writer, teacher, and poet. He was formerly an instructor in Classics at several universities, and has also been the author and editor of two books on Lucy Maud Montgomery and a number of works on the history and literature of the Niagara Peninsula. Kevin is a member of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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