John 21:22 (ESV) … Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
The last recorded words that Jesus spoke before his ascension are found at the beginning of the Book of Acts. They contain the promise of power through the Holy Spirit and the command to go into all the world with the gospel. But these are not the last words of Christ recorded in John’s Gospel. It is not that John did not know of Christ’s teaching on these other points. The fourth Gospel contains more instruction about the Holy Spirit than any other Gospel, and it contains its own version of the Great Commission (“As my Father has sent me, so I am sending you,” 20:21). It is rather that John wished to emphasize Christ’s call to discipleship as the Gospel closes. In John’s Gospel the last words of Christ are: “Follow me.”
Strikingly, these are also nearly the first words of Christ in this Gospel. John first quotes Christ in connection with the episode in which Andrew and the other unnamed disciple follow Jesus at the direction of John the Baptist. Jesus’ first words to them are: “What do you want?” (1:38). But as soon as they reply by asking where he is spending the night, he answers by the first of his great invitations: “Come and see” (v. 39). This is an invitation to discipleship. But lest we should miss this, Christ’s next utterance, an invitation to Philip, is literally “Follow me” (v. 43).
In a very real sense, then, these are the first and last words of Christ in John’s Gospel. They are a reminder that Christianity is Christ, not just believing in some abstract sense, but believing in him to the point of turning our back on all else to follow him.