The Witness


"Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” St. John xxi. 22.


Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist. John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and received from Christ the honorable title of Boanerges, which means "sons of thunder". Originally they were fishermen and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth. They probably were for a time disciples of John the Baptist, and were called by Christ from the circle of John's followers, together with Peter and Andrew, to become His disciples. The first disciples returned with their new Master from the Jordan to Galilee and apparently both John and the others remained for some time with Jesus. After the second return from Judea, John and his companions went back again to their trade of fishing until he and they were called by Christ a second time to definitive discipleship.

John was the younger of the two brothers and he had a prominent position in the Apostolic body. Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter, of the Transfiguration, and of the Agony in Gethsemane. Only John and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper. At the Supper itself John’s place was next to Christ on ‘Whose breast he leaned’. According to the generally accepted interpretation of ancient manuscripts, John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ, after the arrest, into the palace of the high priest. John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and he took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ. After the Resurrection John with Peter, were the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen. Later when Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present to recognize his Master standing on the shore. John is known as the Fourth Evangelist and his close relationship to his Lord and Master is shown by the title which is customarily attributed to him "the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church.

However controversy exists related to some things “John”. The ‘tradition’ is that John is the author of the forth gospel. ‘Tradition’ is what the church fathers have believed and taught for centuries. However, modern scholars would point to the scriptures and conclude that John did not write the gospel. They would say ‘the record of scripture can prove John was not the author of the gospel that was wrongly labeled the Gospel of John or Book of John by the traditions of men’. It may well be his witness of the events but not his personal writing, we can’t know for sure. The scriptural value of the Gospel of St. John is not in question.

Our society today has grasp a few quotes from the Gospel of John to support their cause, specifically “on whose breast he leaned” and "the disciple whom Jesus loved" are used to suggest that Jesus and John were intimate. There is no other scriptural evidence to support this interpretation of their relationship. It is though a good example of how scripture can be used incorrectly.

So what’s all this got to do with verse 22, "Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” Peter has asked Jesus, in reference to John, “What shall this man do?” In the passage prior to today’s reading Jesus has said to Peter ‘If you love me, then give your life to shepherding the sheep and the lambs of my flock.’ Peter now asks ‘what is John going to do?’ which seems to be a pretty reasonable question. However, Jesus responds by saying ‘If I want him to live until I return what business is that of yours?’ By way of a question Jesus tells Peter that John is to live a long time and be able to tell those who will follow all about Christ. It is clear that John did live to a very old age and it was his function to be pre-eminently the witness to Christ. John was the one who was able to say: ‘I saw these things, and I know that they are true.’ Paul was to be the pioneer of Christ, Peter the shepherd of Christ and John the witness of Christ.

By now you could be saying to yourself, ’So what does any of this have to do with me?’ It is more than just a lesson from the bible and it is more than ancient history. What Jesus is telling us is that each of us is to serve Christ where Christ has set us. As Jesus said to Peter ‘Never mind the task that is given to someone else.’ That is what he still says to each of one of us. God has given each of us certain gifts that are to be used to serve God. One persons’ gift is no better than another, nor do the gifts make one person greater than or less than the other. We are to use our gifts and be servants of Christ our Lord. Our glory is never in comparison with others; our glory is in the service of Christ, in whatever capacity he has allotted us.  

And in that service of Christ we will make mistakes. We are imperfect humans who, as hard as we try not too, will commit sin. We are blessed in that our savior died on the cross at Calvary to save sinners, to save us. He forgave us our sins and set for us the example of forgiving others who have sinned against us. Our Saviour Christ taught us “And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.” What could be more important than learning how to serve Christ and how to forgive others sins?

May the Holy Spirit be with you this day and always.          


And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN