The first two verses of today’s text shift the focus
from Peter to the Beloved disciple. Like he does elsewhere, with other
characters in his Gospel, John reminds the reader of when the beloved disciple
first appeared in his narrative. The question of Jesus to Peter in 21:22: “If
it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” has caused
consternation. John already provides a correction of the misunderstanding that
this disciple would not die and so, this is not what Jesus meant. By using a
favorite word of his, “remain”, John points out what he means by Jesus’ seeming
enigmatic words. This disciple will indeed remain through the words that he has
written in his Gospel. Though he will die a physical death, he will continue to
live in the witness that he has given to Jesus in his Gospel. Just as Peter
will give witness to Jesus by dying a martyr’s death, the beloved disciple will
give witness to Jesus by his Gospel.
The Gospel ends with a hyperbolic statement which also
serves as a warning of how the Gospel and all of scripture must be interpreted.
The Gospel is only a pointer and must be seen in that light. The person of
Jesus is bigger than any writing or Gospel can ever contain and, no matter how
much is said of Jesus, in the final analysis, it will always be inadequate.
This does not mean that we must not say what we know. Rather, it means that,
even as we say what we know, we must realize that there is much more that we do
not know and so cannot say.
There is an obsession with so many today with
prolonging life. These use all kinds of artificial means to try to look
younger. They dye their hair black; get tummy tucks, nose jobs, and even
plastic surgery to remove wrinkles. They imagine that they can cheat death and
live forever. They hardly realize that what is important is not the length of
time one lives, but how one lives in the time given to us. It is quality, not quantity
that is important. Jesus’ words about the beloved disciple are not about his
living forever, or not dying, they are about the witness that endures even
after he dies. This means that each of us, like the beloved disciple, has the
ability to leave a legacy even after we are gone from this world. It is up to
us to decide what kind of legacy it is going to be.