Sometimes we see a scripture passage in a new way. That happened to me not long ago. Read these verses ignoring the chapter break.
John 13 36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” 37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” [New Living Translation]. (Remember, the gospel writer John did not put in chapter divisions.)
Jesus reassures Peter
What connection does Jesus expect the disciples to see between Peter’s “die for you” announcement and Jesus’ assurance that they could trust God, trust Jesus and remember the welcome to be found in the Father’s House? What did Peter mean to do while “dying” for Jesus? How do his activities in the Garden help us understand what he means here? (John. 18:11, Mt. 26:52) What kind of misunderstanding of Jesus way does Peter show leading Jesus to call him “satan”? (Mt. 16:23)
Didn’t Peter intend to do more than die? His likely heroes are the Maccabees* who liberated Judah from the Syrian Seleucid oppression some 150 years earlier. They used similar language to support their military activity. They believed that dying (killing?) to liberate Judah provided atonement for themselves and perhaps their fellow citizens. They defeated the Syrians, freeing Jerusalem and re-establishing pure worship.
On the other hand, opposing the violence of the Maccabees, the editor of the Daniel stories and visions focused on activities that upheld the covenant, encouraged repentance and continued faithful worship, but showed a willingness to defy oppressive rulers. Daniel and friends were willing face death (Dan. 3:17-18) as did the Maccabees, but did not turn to violence. As Daniel 12:3 puts it:
Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.
The way of peace
The wisdom teacher who wrote of Daniel and friends would have understood the connection between “trusting God” and “more than enough room in my Father’s home”. The Daniel editor/writer may have been the founder of the Essenes. Jesus way of peace showed signs of Essene influence. That way of peace, Jesus was telling Peter, could lead to death. Those “rooms” were especially for disciples who were willing to follow Jesus’s command. Reading I Peter confirms that Peter he had moved from the Maccabean idea that one could gain redemption through death against the enemies of God. He understood the words of Jesus:
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Mt. 5:43-47 (NLT)
*The Maccabees became active around 163 BC. The Seleucids, an empire headquartered in Syria for some years tortured, killed, sold Jews into slavery and burned of copies of the Torah. In response, a family of five sons, called the Maccabees, led a rebellion against them. After several years of war and in alliance with the Roman Empire, the Maccabees (later known as the Hasmonians) overthrew the Syrians and set up a free Hebrew state. The last of the Hasmonians was a wife of Herod the Great of New Testament times.