Part 96 – John 21:24
This great gospel has a curious ending. 21: 25 “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” is, on the face of it, an almost childish statement. What does it really mean and why is it there? The last two verses of the gospel contain references to 3 apparently different people: ‘the disciple who testifies to these things’, ‘we’ and ‘I’. Who are they all? ‘The disciple’ is in all probability a reference to the ‘disciple that Jesus loved’ who has appeared several times in the gospel and we assume, on the evidence of the very early church, was young John the apostle who eventually went to live in Ephesus, founded a church there, gathered a devoted group of disciples round him, live to a grand old age, and either wrote, dictated, or left the gospel to be constructed by someone else from his notes and teachings. The ‘we’ who ‘know that his testimony is true’ are probably members of that small circle of his disciples and the ‘I’ is one of them who did the actual writing down of the words on the first and original scroll – a quite highly skilled task not to be undertaken by an untrained scribe,
This all relates to the situation that Jesus mentioned in 5:31 and 8:14 when he said “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true (or valid)” and “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” In their culture it was absolutely necessary to have more than one witness to anything important. Deut 19: 15 “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” laid down a very important and unbreakable requirement of Jewish practice. Jesus complied with it, so do the folk who put together the final version of this Gospel, one of the greatest writings mankind has ever produced, if not the very greatest.
It has been a truly wonderful experience to write all these little ‘gems’ as I have called them, working my way through from ‘In the beginning’ to this ‘testimony is true’. I suppose the very last verse which says “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” is no longer true if taken literally! We are no longer limited to papyrus or paper but have the enormous capacity of modern computer storage where everything could be written down in computer-talk, but there is not enough room in our hearts for all the wonder and the glory of what John wrote on a papyrus scroll nearly 2000 years ago. Oh, that we may all make the most of who we are: Peter-like active, talkative, quick to respond and to make mistakes, having an immediate impact on those we meet; or John-like cautious, not moving far from our home base, prone to thinking and writing for almost too long and leaving a long legacy. Or all the many of us somewhere in between those two extremes.
John almost certainly didn’t stop there. We cannot be 100 percent sure that he wrote the epistle we call 1 John but it seems very likely. There we shall see that he did not have an entirely easy time. His fellowship group had its rebels and dissidents just the same as we will all encounter. But he persevered through to old age. What about you? Can you gather a group of friends and challenge them to study this wonderful letter in detail? I have written notes for our group and would be happy to send you a copy. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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