John 21:19
This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, Follow me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.—These words are a comment by the writer, and quite in St. John’s style. (Comp. John 2:21; John 6:6; John 7:39; John 12:33.)

“By what death,” or, more exactly, by what manner of death (comp. John 12:33; John 18:32), indicates generally the martyrdom of Peter as distinct from a natural death, without special reference to the crucifixion. (See Note on last verse.)

For the phrase “glorify God,” comp. John 13:31; John 17:1; and see also Philippians 1:20; 1Peter 4:16. From its occurrence here in connection with St. Peter, it passed into the common language of the Church for the death of martyrs.

Follow me.—It may be, and the next verse makes it probable, that our Lord withdrew from the circle of the disciples, and by some movement or gesture signified to Peter that he should follow Him; but these words must have had for the Apostle a much fuller meaning. By the side of that lake he had first heard the command “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19); when sent forth on his apostleship, he had been taught that to follow Christ meant to take up the cross (Matthew 10:38); it was his words which drew from Christ the utterance, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:23); to his question at the Last Supper came the answer, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards” (John 13:36); and now the command has come again with the prophecy of martyrdom, and it must have carried to his mind the thought that he was to follow the Lord in suffering and death itself, and through the dark path which He had trodden was to follow Him to the Father’s home.

21:15-19 Our Lord addressed Peter by his original name, as if he had forfeited that of Peter through his denying him. He now answered, Thou knowest that I love thee; but without professing to love Jesus more than others. We must not be surprised to have our sincerity called into question, when we ourselves have done that which makes it doubtful. Every remembrance of past sins, even pardoned sins, renews the sorrow of a true penitent. Conscious of integrity, Peter solemnly appealed to Christ, as knowing all things, even the secrets of his heart. It is well when our falls and mistakes make us more humble and watchful. The sincerity of our love to God must be brought to the test; and it behoves us to inquire with earnest, preserving prayer to the heart-searching God, to examine and prove us, whether we are able to stand this test. No one can be qualified to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ, who does not love the good Shepherd more than any earthly advantage or object. It is the great concern of every good man, whatever death he dies, to glorify God in it; for what is our chief end but this, to die to the Lord, at the word of the Lord?By what death ... - In these words two things are implied:

1. that Peter would die a violent death; and,

2. that his death would be such as to honor God.

The ancients say that Peter was crucified at Rome, about 34 years after this, with his head downward. Clemens says that he was led to the crucifixion with his wife, and sustained her in her sufferings by exhorting her to remember the example of her Lord. He also adds that he died, not as the philosophers did, but with a firm hope of heaven, and patiently endured the pangs of the cross (Strom. vii.). This declaration of the Saviour was doubtless continually before the mind of Peter, and to the hour of his death he maintained the utmost constancy and fidelity in his cause, thus justifying the appellation which the Lord Jesus gave him - a rock.

19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God—not, therefore, a mere prediction of the manner of his death, but of the honor to be conferred upon him by dying for his Master. And, indeed, beyond doubt, this prediction was intended to follow up his triple restoration:—"Yes, Simon, thou shall not only feed My lambs, and feed My sheep, but after a long career of such service, shalt be counted worthy to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."

And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me—By thus connecting the utterance of this prediction with the invitation to follow Him, the Evangelist would indicate the deeper sense in which the call was understood, not merely to go along with Him at that moment, but to come after Him, "taking up his cross."

Ver. 19. See Poole on "John 21:18" This spake he,.... These are the words of the evangelist, explaining the meaning of Christ in like manner, as in John 12:33

signifying by what death he should glorify God; for by the above words Christ not only intimated that Peter should die, not a natural, but a violent death, or that he should die a martyr in his cause, but the very kind of death he should die, namely, by crucifixion; and that Peter was crucified at Rome, ecclesiastical history confirms (f), when Christ was magnified, and God was glorified by his zeal and courage, faith and patience, constancy and perseverance to the end:

and when he had spoken this: concerning the usage and treatment he should meet with, the sufferings he should undergo, and death he should die for his sake, for the present trial of him:

he saith unto him, follow me: which may be understood literally, Jesus now rising up, and ordering him to come after him; and yet as a sign of his following him, in a spiritual sense, exercising every grace upon him, discharging every duty towards him, faithfully and constantly performing his work and office, as an apostle and preacher of the Gospel, in which he had now reinstated and confirmed him, and patiently bearing and suffering all kind of reproach, persecution, and death, for his name's sake.

(f) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c 25.

This spake he, signifying by {f} what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

(f) That is, that Peter would die by a violent death.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 21:19. A comment, quite of Johannean stamp, on the remarkable saying. Comp. John 18:32, also John 12:33.

ποίῳ θανάτῳ] i.e. by what manner of death, namely, by the death of martyrdom, for which Peter, bound round with fetters, was conveyed to the place of execution. John, who wrote long after the death of Peter, presupposes the details as well known, as also Clem. Cor. I. 5. Peter was crucified, as tradition, from the time of Tertullian, Scorp. 15,[288] de praeser. 35, and Origen in Eusebius, credibly relates; the reader had therefore to take this special element of the ποιότης of the execution from history, as the fulfilment of the less definite word of prophecy, in addition to, but not to derive it from, the words of Christ themselves.

δοξάσει τ. θεόν] For such a death tended to the glorifying of God, in whose service he suffered for the revelation of His counsel and for the victory of His work (comp. John 17:4; John 17:6); hence δοξάζειν τ. θεόν became “magnificus martyrii titulus,” Grotius. See Suicer, Thes. I. p. 949. Comp. also Php 1:20; 1 Peter 4:16; Acts 5:41.

ἀκολούθει μοι] On the announcement of the martyrdom which is destined for Peter in his old age, there now follows, after a pause, the summons thereto, and that in the significant form: follow me! Comp. John 13:36; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24. This, then, refers, according to the context, to the following of Christ in the like death that He had died, i.e. in the death of martyrdom, which Peter is to undergo. Luther: “give thyself willingly to death.” Too special is the interpretation which refers it to the death of the cross, since this was not expressly characterized in John 21:18 (against Euth. Zigabenus and many others). Quite in opposition to the context, however (see also John 21:22), others, after Chrysostom and Theophylact, have referred it to the appointment to be oecumenical bishop. The reference to the guidance of the church is by no means to be connected with that to the death of martyrdom (Ewald, Jahrb. III. p. 171), since ἀκολ. is the opposite of μένειν, John 21:22. Others, again, have divested the words of all significance: Jesus had something particular to speak of with Peter, and hence summoned him to go with Him. In this way Kuinoel, Paulus, and even Tholuck and Schleiermacher, whilst Grotius, Bengel, Luthardt, Lange, Hengstenberg, Brückner, Baeumlein, Godet attempt to melt away the proper and symbolical meaning.

[288] “Tunc Petrus ab altero cingitur, cum cruci adstringitur.”19. This spake he] Now this He spake.

signifying by what death] Signifying by what manner of death. This comment is quite in S. John’s style (comp. John 12:33, John 18:32) [14]. It will depend on the interpretation of John 21:18 whether we understand this to mean crucifixion or simply martyrdom. That S. Peter was crucified at Rome rests on sufficient evidence, beginning with Tertullian (Scorp. xv.), and that he requested to be crucified head downwards is stated by Eusebius (H. E. iii. i. 2) on the authority of Origen.

he should glorify] Literally, he shall glorify.

Follow me] Perhaps the literal meaning is not altogether to be excluded; and it appears from S. Peter’s ‘turning about’ (John 21:20), that he understood the words literally and began to follow. But no doubt this command here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, is to be understood figuratively, the precise shade of meaning being determined by the context. Comp. John 1:43; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:21. In the present case there is probably a reference to John 13:36-37; and the ‘following’ includes following to a martyr’s death, and possibly the precise death of crucifixion.John 21:19. Σημαίνων, signifying) Such predictions are sometimes vouchsafed to those who excel in love and faithfulness.—ποίῳ, by what kind of death) John wrote his gospel before the death of Peter: and the event, in a few years after, corresponded to the prediction of the Lord recorded by John. Comp. ch. John 12:33 [referring to His own death].—δοξάσει, he was about to glorify) It is chiefly by suffering, not merely by doing, that the saints glorify God.—λέγει, He saith) forthwith.—ἀκολούθει μοι, follow Me) apart, by thyself: so as to hear what I have to do with thee alone; as also, that thou mayest undergo the suffering of the cross, John 21:18; John 21:22, ch. John 13:36. [This saying of the Lord, throughout the whole career of Peter’s life, secured his alacrity in following Christ.—V. g.] This following implied not so much the similarity of Peter’s death by the cross to that of Christ, which had already been intimated, as the fact of the death of Peter being separated from that of the Lord by a not exceedingly long interval, when compared with the lengthened stay of John. For there follows, What is that to thee? He had first of all said to the disciples, Follow Me (ch. John 1:43). The continuation of the beginning crowns the completion of Christianity.[409] This especially was the mind of Ignatius, to follow so as to attain to Christ.

[409] i.e. To follow Christ on to the last, as it is the first step, so it is the crowning of a disciple’s Christianity.—E. and T.Verse 19. - This he said, adds the evangelist, signifying by what manner of death, not necessarily crucifixion (Godet), but that violent and martyr-death to which the prince of the apostles was called. How many anticipations, partial beginnings, of the final scene must Peter have passed through before, in utter human helplessness, but in Divine, supernatural strength, he stretched out his hands, allowed another to gird him, prepare him for the day's work, and carry him whither all his nature would shrink to go! There is no other hint whatever of literal crucifixion than this phrase of "stretching out the hand," which is nowhere else applied to the peculiar method in which the crucified ones suffered. Doubtless the transposition of the two phrases must not be pressed too much, since the stretching of the arms might possibly bear the literal interpretation of the action which was forced upon the victim, and the subsequent "girding" refer to the subligaculum, by which he was fastened to the instrument of torture; while the "being carried whither he would not" might, though by some forcing of the phrase, be supposed, though enigmatically and obscurely, to refer to the uplifting of the cross with its living burden. The phrase, "signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God," is peculiarly Johannine (John 12:33; John 18:32). This sublime term for the suffering of the great saints, taken from the light which the Lord's agony had cast upon holy death, became a permanent Christian idea (Suicer, 'Thes.,' 1:949). When John wrote, the fact of Peter's death must have been well known throughout the Church. There is every probability that he had long since been crucified, and the solemnity of the utterance was augmented and pointed by the well-known manner of the death of the illustrious apostle. This was, however, by no means the only meaning that naturally flows out of the warning; nor is Peter's experience the only illustration that it bears. And when he had spoken this, Jesus saith to him, Follow me. There may have been a primary interpretation derived from Christ's removal to a distance from the rest of the disciples, and the intention of conferring upon Peter there and then, special and further instructions. But from the context, in which the contrasts of life, character, and service are conspicuous, it would seem impossible (Meyer) so to restrict the meaning, as Tholuck and others do. The command is the concentration into one burning utterance of all that is meant by Christian life - that coming into relation with the living Lord, that imitation of his principle of action, which, as St. Paul in Philippians it. has shown, was capable of imitation in the narrower and smaller circle of our human experience. If it be rational for the Lord to have said, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," and for Paul to have pressed upon his converts, "Be ye followers of God, as dear children;" "Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ," - then the Lord gathered all the rules of conduct which were involved in his previous discourses into one word, when he laid upon the man who should be a fisher of souls, a feeder of lambs, a shepherd of sheep, a feeder of the little sheep of the flock, the comprehensive duty, "Follow me." Those interpretations which make the words mean "Follow me as universal bishop and pastor," as that of Chrysostom does, are incompatible with the narrative; or if we suppose them to signify, "Follow me into the invisible world," or "Imitate me in my martyrdom," this would be unpractical, and by no means in obvious harmony with the kind of injunctions just given. We give the passage from James Innes' translation of Aug., 'Tr.,' 123:4, which Westcott justly implies is beyond translation: "Such was the end reached by that denier and lover; elated by his presumption, prostrated by his denial, cleansed by his weeping, approved by his confession, crowned by his suffering, - this was the end he reached: to die with a perfected love for the Name of him with whom, by a perverted forwardness, he had promised to die. He would do, when strengthened by Christ's resurrection, what in his weaknesss he had promised prematurely. The needful order was that Christ should first die for Peter's salvation, and then that Peter should die for the preaching of Christ." Our Lord, when appealed to with reference to John, does not merely repeat the injunction, "Follow me," but forces upon Peter the original summons. This undoubtedly gives a solemnity and specialty to the work of Peter, to which the subsequent career of John was not an exact parallel. It cannot be said that our Lord in any sense forbids John to follow him, but says that, though John may abide, may rest, may meditate, may see visions and dream dreams, until he the Lord should come, that would in no respect alter the direct advice given to Peter. On referring to the earliest scene described in this Gospel between Jesus and his disciples, we find that "Follow me" was addressed to Philip, Moreover, Andrew and John were, on their first introduction to Jesus as "the Lamb of God," already (ἀκολουθοῦντας) "following him," and they were even then asking for power or permission to "abide" (μένειν) with him. But Peter was not then told to "follow him," but was simply invested with the great name of Cephas (John 1:42). These details are obviously supplemented by those before us. The entire phraseology is borrowed from the earlier narrative. The true solution of the problem of the paragraph is that John had followed the Master from the first, and clung to him (ἔμεινε), abode with him, from those early days till the moment at which these memorable words were uttered. In the journeys to Jerusalem, at the interview with Nicodemus, in Samaria, at the pool of Bethesda, in the hall of the high priest, and in Pilate's Praetorium, at the upper chamber, and in the garden, to the cross, and to the grave of Joseph, the beloved disciple had "followed" his Master. Peter's devotion was intense and at times passionate, but it was marked with a striking disposition, from first to last, to lead as well as "follow," to advise as well as to be guided, to stretch forth his hands, and to gird himself for his own enterprises. But with all his extraordinary peculiarities, he had never really broken the bond or relinquished his faith; and now the Lord in one word corrects every one of his failings anew, and institutes him into his sublime mission by the call, "Follow me." But even yet, Peter's extraordinary characteristic, to guide rather than to follow, leads him once more to lake the initiative. For whatever gesture it was that our Lord made, which induced Peter to think of immediate action, we cannot say; but it would seem that, even before he began to follow, he gave another intensely vivid characterization of himself. By what death (ποίῳ)

Properly, by what manner of death. So Rev.

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