After this Jesus said to Peter, ‘Follow me.’
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 opening words of John’s gospel ring out at this time of the year. Whether they know that they are the words of John, or not, many are familiar with the words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Across the world these words bring our annual carol services to a glorious, even triumphant, conclusion. These inspiring words were written by John, one who was a witness to the Word; one who proclaimed the Word; one who lived and died witnessing to the Word made flesh; one who was loved by the Word made flesh, Jesus, the Christ; one who loved the Word in return.
The use of Word as a way of referring to Jesus links directly to Jewish tradition and teaching as much as it looks forward to the future mission and ministry of Christ’s Church. Word is a translation of the Greek logos. The Greeks used logos to express that which is spoken and that which is unspoken. The Jews used the same concept of the Word to describe that which comes from God, both the creation of the universe and the law of God. These two uses of the Word emphasize the turning point in human history that we see in the birth of Jesus, the Christ.
Today the Church celebrates and gives thanks for John, apostle and evangelist. The challenge for us is to reflect upon John’s life and work and to consider how we might continue his work. As an evangelist John was an active and keen advocate of the Good News of Jesus Christ. As an apostle, as one chosen by Christ, he went out and lived the Good News he recorded in his gospel. We may not feel equipped with the necessary eloquence to create a written account of our faith, but we are all called to share that faith through our words and actions.
Too often we struggle with sharing our faith. We do our best to be kind and loving, to help those in need, but how often do we do these things in the name of Jesus Christ? After the well-known opening of John’s gospel there comes his account of the testimony of John the Baptist, who quotes from the prophet Isaiah: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ In this moment John, apostle and evangelist, presents us with a direct challenge. We are challenged to take up the baton and continue the race. We are called to love and serve, not just because we are ‘nice’ people, but because we take seriously the call to be faithful apostles and evangelists. Are we ready to face up to that challenge?
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