Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
… the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
John’s gospel opens with the famous words: In the beginning was the Word. Today’s reading, from the end of the same gospel, underlines the inadequacy of our human words. The Word, which was with God, and which was God far exceeds the capacity of our human understanding. That Word far exceeds our capacity to record the totality of all that could be said.
Jesus came into the world to share in every moment of human existence from birth to death. Jesus, the Word, came to forge a new covenant between God and humanity. Jesus, born as a vulnerable baby and put to death as a common criminal, brought light, hope and redemption for the entire human race, the human race that God created in his own image.
Throughout John’s gospel we read of signs and wonders, of teaching and miraculous healings, of the love of God living and breathing in this world. How could anyone hope to do more than capture just a little of the essence of the omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience of God moving among us?
Of course, being human we try. We like to wrap things up in our own words, that is, we like to place the straitjacket of human understanding upon that which is far, far beyond our ability to truly comprehend. Today’s reading begins in this way. Peter and John (the beloved disciple) have travelled together through much, but now their ways are to diverge. In a very human way, there seems to be a need to know what lies in store for each of them. Through a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words, the rumour spreads that John is to live for ever. Already the power of gossip is undermining that which is so good because it is rooted in God.
Today’s reading makes it clear to us that we can never know the true story of Jesus Christ in its entirety because our puny, human minds are too small, too limited. We are simply called to accept what we have heard and to go forward in faith. That call is as true today as it was at the end of John’s gospel. But, to accept such truth, and to go forward in true faith, demands that we entrust ourselves to God alone, no matter what he may have in store for us.
Let us pray that we might not be distracted by the ‘gossip’ which seeks to undermine faith. Let us pray that we might accept the changes and chances that mark out our own paths of discipleship. Let us pray that we might, day by day, learn more and more of the truth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we might come to play our part in sharing our knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ with all we meet.