Today is the first time I’ve imagined my death glorifying God. Not that I’m thinking about how I might die, just wondering if I’ll be able to glorify God through it. I started wondering this after reading Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21:18-19.

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.”

Church tradition says that Peter was crucified to death like Jesus, but did not feel worthy enough to be crucified in the same manner so he asked to be nailed upside down.

Jesus’ words to Peter were not about crucifixion, they were about losing control. In youth, do what you want, wear what you want, go where you like. In old age, someone else will take over. I’ve always read, “stretch out your hands” like the motion of getting handcuffs, but it could have been just needing someone else to get clothes on. What if the person will “carry you where you do not want to go” wasn’t just because he would be a prisoner but because he would be unable to get around? The words could be read both ways, but either way, Peter was to glorify God not just in life, but in death.

I’ve seen God be glorified in many people’s deaths. It happens as the people still alive tell the stories of how the person who passed had blessed them, served them, and pointed them to Jesus.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a youth pastor in Littleton, CO when I attended the memorial of one of the boys killed in the Columbine shooting. His name was John Tomlin. According to the testimony of his friends, family, and some of his writing that was read at the memorial, he was a believer and he cared about the lost.” His pastor presented the gospel clearly at the service and then took the mic again during the reception and invited students to respond. Thirty students accepted Jesus at the reception. It made me imagine John in heaven saying, “Wow God, thank you for using my life and my death to bring so many classmates into your kingdom!”

Believers are not in control of how they die, but they can “follow” Jesus until that time so that their lives and deaths bring him glory.

Pastor John Riley

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