“... when you were younger, you girded yourself ..." (John 21:18-19)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” "Follow me!" (John 21:18-19 NKJV)

Why is 'girded' a more appropriate translation?

Jesus stated this directly to Peter. The New King James Version translation is being used because the NIV, NLT, ESV and other Bible versions have translated the Greek word ζώννυμι (zōnnymi) to "clothe" or "dress" as in "clothe yourself" or "dress yourself."

In this context, "girded" is a more appropriate translation* for ζώννυμι.

Jesus was not concerned about whether Peter would be dressing himself. Why would this be such a big deal to Jesus?

We don't typically use the word gird in modern English. But during Jesus' time, people referred to girding, because it was typically necessary to prevent clothing from falling off. Today we have belts, suspenders, and other articles of clothing that keep our clothing girded.

During the time of Jesus, robes were often worn. To keep them from falling off or coming open, they were girded with rope among the less wealthy. The wealthier classes often girded their clothing with fancier tassels.

Here Jesus is referring to girding in another way. He is speaking of being bound.

What does 'girding' have to do with Jesus' point?

Jesus is using the concept of girding both in the sense of clothing and in the sense of the ability to stabilize one's body. Girding symbolizes binding clothing to the body, but also, in Jesus' second use of the word, the body itself being bound or girded.

Jesus is also discussing Peter's freedom to move about: "when you were younger, you... walked where you wished."

Now Jesus is stating that when Peter's body grows old, he will no longer be able to walk where he wished, because, "another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."

This can only take place under two scenarios: Either Jesus is speaking of Peter growing so old that he won't be able to take care of himself, or that he will be imprisoned.

The kind of prison stated here relates to being bound in chains, as many prisoners were in those days. When one is bound and shackled, there is no opportunity to travel freely, and there is no opportunity to dress oneself.

The Book of John then states:
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (John 21:19)
The early Christian teacher Origin wrote about Peter's eventual death:
"Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer." (From Leo the Great 440-461)
This is consistent with Jesus' prophesy: "you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."

Stretching out one's hands would be appropriate to crucifixion, just as the concept of "another will gird you" because in this case, the reference to gird would relate to the body being girded to a cross.

As Origin wrote, and as put forth by other early Christian teachers, Peter would be imprisoned in his later years by the Romans due to his incessant teachings, and the Romans eventually crucified him. But because Peter felt unworthy of being crucified as Jesus had been, he requested the cross be turned upside down.

This documents part of the life of a dedicated follower. And indeed, Jesus confirmed this, as he emphatically instructed Peter:
"Follow me!"

Does Jesus mean he wants Peter to also be crucified?

Such an instruction would be preposterous. No spiritual teacher would request their student willingly submit themselves to death.

As such, those who ritually submit to self-infliction and self-crucifixion among some institutions around the world are certainly not following Jesus. Such acts revolve around impressing others with the extent of their devotion.

Jesus simply wanted Peter to carry on his teachings. Jesus wanted Peter to dedicate his life to Jesus' teachings, and then pass on those teachings to others.

This is also how Peter "glorified God" with his life and death of his physical body: by his loving service to the Supreme Being.

Spiritual life is not about becoming a great teacher or having lots of followers; or becoming famous for being such a great spiritual person or being the big man in a church or other organization.

Spiritual life is about re-developing our personal loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Spiritual life is about love: Loving the Supreme Being and loving others.

How is love expressed? 

It is expressed with loving service. Activities that please the one we love.

We can see this among relationships of this world. When someone cares about another person they will do things that please the other person.

This is inseparable from love.

And this is the sum and substance of spiritual life: Loving service to the Supreme Being.

This is why Jesus said about his own service:
“My food, is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
Why would Jesus say that doing God's will is his food? Because food symbolizes becoming fed or fulfilled. Jesus is stating that he becomes fulfilled when he does God's will. Why?

Because Jesus loves the Supreme Being. He cares about Him. He wants to do what pleases his beloved God.

This is the secret of spiritual life. Spiritual life is not about being saved or going to heaven. Spiritual life is about wanting to please the Supreme Being. This is called love.

And it is this love, and loving service to the Supreme Being that Jesus wanted Peter to follow. Jesus wanted Peter to "finish His work" by passing on Jesus' teachings to others. And as Peter did this, he glorified the Supreme Being not just by passing on Jesus' teachings. He dedicated his entire life to the loving service of God. 

This also included the death of his physical body - as Peter was crucified upside down by the Romans.

And what was the most important teaching of Jesus that Peter lived by?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

*Here is the translation of these verses from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"Very truly I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked wherever you wanted. But when you are old, you shall reach out your hands and another will gird you, and carry you where you don’t want to go.” Now this he said to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God. And after he said this, he said, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)