Verily, verily, I say unto thee
A way of speaking often used by Christ, when about to deliver anything of considerable moment, partly to raise the attention, and partly for the more strong asseveration of what is spoken; and may have reference both to what went before, confirming Peter's declaration of his love, which would be demonstrated by dying for him, and the testimony of his omniscience, by foretelling his death, and the kind of it; and to what follows after, which contains an account of Peter in his younger years, and a prophecy of what should befall him in old age:
when thou wast young;
not that he was old now, and capable he was of doing, and he did do but just now, what our Lord ascribes to his younger years:
thou girdest thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldst;
that is, he could put on his clothes himself, and gird them about him with a girdle, as was the custom of the eastern nations, who usually wore long garments; and as he, a little before, had girt his fisher's coat about him, and walked where he pleased; denoting the liberty of his will in things natural and civil, which every man is possessed of, though not in things spiritual, without the grace of God; and also his power of doing what was most grateful to him, without being hindered by, or obliged to ask the leave of others:
but when thou shalt be old;
implying, that he should live to a good old age, and be continued to be useful and serviceable in the cause of Christ, in preaching his Gospel, and feeding his lambs and sheep, as he did; for he lived to the times of Nero F3, under whom he suffered, about forty years after this:
thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee.
This refers not so much to an inability through old age to gird himself, and therefore should stretch forth his hands, that another might with more ease do it for him, and which would be the reverse of his former and present case; for the word gird is used in another sense than before, and signifies the binding of him as, a prisoner with cords, or chains; so "girding", with the Jews, is the same as (hryoahw hryvqh) , "tying and binding" F4: but either to the stretching out of his hands upon the cross, when he should be girt and bound to that; for persons were sometimes fastened to the cross with cords, and not always with nails F5: or, as others think, to his carrying of his cross on his shoulders, with his hands stretched out and bound to the piece of wood which went across; though his being girded or bound may as well be thought to follow the former, as this: indeed, what is added best suits with the latter,
and carry thee whither thou wouldst not;
to a painful, cruel, shameful, and accursed death, the death of the cross; not that Peter in spirit would be unwilling to die for Christ, nor was he; but it signifies, that he should die a death disagreeable to the flesh.
F3 Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 25.
F4 R. David Kimchi, Sepher Shorash. rad. (rgx)
F5 Lipsius de Cruce, l. 2. c. 8. Bartholinus de Cruce, p. 57. 112.