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John 21:20-23, NIV20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
June 22, 2012Moses had a visual image for this - "turning to the left and to the right." That's what Peter was doing. Jesus had just wiped the slate clean for Peter and placed great confidence in him by signaling him out from the others and personally bestowing upon him a commission that would require all his leadership skills. And what does Peter do? Instead of focusing on the magnitude of what Jesus had just stated, Peter looks at John and questions Jesus about John's future. He "looked to the right and to the left." He got distracted already.
How easily we all are influenced by what everyone else is doing. It gets us off course. It wastes our time. It trips us up and leads to a dead end street.
One of the gospel writers described the attitude of Jesus when he began his last journey to Jerusalem where he would be crucified. The phrase he used is that Jesus "set his face" toward Jerusalem. Which means Jesus did not look to the left nor to the right, but walked steadfastly toward the cross. That's the example Peter needed to ponder, instead of thinking about what was going to happen eventually to his fellow disciples.
Just another incident in Peter's life which makes him seem so real, so human.
June 23, 2012There's urgency in the voice of Jesus when he told Peter, "You must follow me." Jesus didn't seem to have a contingency plan. I wonder about that sometimes. The apostle Paul is another of those characters that seemed absolutely essential to spreading the message about Jesus throughout the Roman world. Certain people are so influential, they affect the course of history.
But it's not only the people in the history books that make a difference in the world. Everybody can influence another person by the way they live and respond to the events of life. I have been influenced by parents, teachers, neighbors, strangers. (Actually all those people "to the left and to the right"!) Mostly for the good, sometimes not good. But above all the voices that ring in my ears, I want to always hear the voice of Jesus, "You must follow me."
"You must follow me" is clear to Peter and to us. What is not clear to me is about John remaining alive until Jesus returns. He did live to be a very old man, and may have been the only disciple to do so. How he escaped the fate of the other disciples I do not know. Maybe that's the last miracle recorded in this gospel account. There are three epistles at the end of the Bible which bear his name, plus the book of Revelation.
John 21:24, NIV24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
June 24, 2012This is a strange-sounding verse and makes me think someone else may have added this chapter to John's gospel. But at this point in time, what does it matter who penned these last words.
The disciple John saw all these events described in this gospel and saved them for us by writing them down. What a loss it would have been to the Bible as a whole if John had not done so.
The other three gospel writers recorded the events in the life of Jesus as they saw them, or heard about them from someone who did see them. They wrote closer to the time they happened. I get the impression when reading John's gospel that he had a lifetime to think about what it all meant before he started to write. John interprets what he witnessed. He adds commentary, such as the verse I have mentioned many times throughout my journaling and which summarizes John's thinking so well--For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The gospel message is about God, our heavenly Father who dearly loves us all and wants nothing more than that we find our way home to our Father's house where abundance and joy await us.
For any doubters, whoever wrote this final chapter stressed that John is a reliable witness. He saw it with his own eyes, and his testimony is true. Long after all the others who walked and talked with Jesus had died, John remained alive. He was the last surviving primary source. All else was secondary.
John was a writer. I wonder if he was aware of that in his previous occupation as he fished the waters of Galilee?
John 21:25, NIV25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
June 25, 2012This last chapter of John's gospel is about abundance. An abundance of fish. An abundance of grace. In the final verse, an abundance of experiences in the life of Jesus, so many, if they were all written down there would not be room in this world to hold all the pages!
We are not told what happened to the 153 fish. Add them up by the pound and it would have been quite a lot of income when sold.
We do know there was a return on the grace. Jesus believed in his disciples and they did not fail him. They were faithful and bore testimony throughout the Roman world. 2000 years later, new disciples of Jesus are still repeating the message throughout the earth in a variety of ways. The Word continues to speak, to reveal, to invite everyone to believe and receive eternal life.
There's an old southern gospel hymn which says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through. . . . " We're just passing through on our way to our Father's house. I, for one, get caught up in "looking to my left and to my right." That's when I question and complain and lament all that's wrong with our world. I wonder where are the children of God? And why have God's people not been more influential in establishing righteousness on the earth? Maybe it's just a matter of evil being more noticeable. Or maybe the people who bear Christ's name do not convey a gracious spirit.
Whether we should have the mindset of passing through a temporary situation or that of living here with responsibility for our circumstances makes for a good debate. Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." Which implies we can make some heaven on earth while we are here.
The eternal life John wrote about is a gift awaiting a heart and hand that will believe and receive it and also share it. Eternal life begins now and because it is eternal, it can never end.
Present tense; future tense. Every Christian decides for themselves which will take precedence in their own life. But in keeping with the last verse of this book, I want to keep my eyes of faith open so I can see the abundant ways in which Jesus is still alive and active. Nourished by the Bread of Life, walking and talking with my Good Shepherd, I want to believe and receive--today, tomorrow, forever.