3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 21

Contents

Chapter 21

fishThis is the final part in a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

In Chapter 21


REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 21

Seeing The Lord

The chapter opens with a clue:

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way

– John 21:1

This otherwise unnecessary comment is included purely to set the scene for Jesus to “show himself”.

When he does, it’s a little odd. He stands on the shore and calls out that the fishermen ought to cast their net on the other side of the boat. At that point, “the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (verse 4). Recall from earlier in the study, that “know” and “believe” are closely linked. Belief is presented as the key to “knowing” properly, and one can only believe if one has heard (except where Resurrection is concerned, as we saw especially in week 11).


Knowing

As an aside, there were various “Gnostic” sects around at the time John was writing. One of the key doctrines of Gnosticism is that knowledge is what unlocks spiritual insight, so that by attaining good knowledge, one can become enlightened (which is seen as a way of expressing the somewhat different Christian notion of being “saved”). John is careful to emphasise that the truth is actually the reverse: Various people, including the disciples, have trouble “knowing”, until they really believe, and it is believing that gives rise to Salvation.

For a little more on the topic of “knowing”, see Week 14 of the study:

wk14

Click to open Week 14 in a new tab

 


When the disciples were trying to deal with the enormous catch of fish, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” told Peter, “it is the Lord!” (V7)

Notice how John describes what happened next: “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord…”

In other words, Peter couldn’t see for himself that Jesus was the Lord, but believed what was said to him about it.

Let’s skip down to verse 14 and see if we can detect a hint of how the Resurrection is supposed to change things in our See/Hear/Believe study:

This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

– John 21:14

 

Who is The Lord?

peterfeedThe next section is an awkward conversation between Jesus and Peter. Many things could be said about it, but I think the strategic reason John put it here is because it affirms who Jesus is.

For example in verse 17, this important double statement from Peter: he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Here we are assured that Jesus knows “everything”, and also that he knows the heart of his followers. This is an important commentary on the concept of correct “knowing”.

Jesus goes on to prove Peter correct about his omniscience by predicting Peter’s future:

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)

– John 21:18-19

And this is followed by Jesus’ signature imperative, “Follow me” (Verse 19)

This is a neat introduction to our Lord who is omniscient, knows his people’s hearts, and calls them to follow him.

The disciple who might live forever

The last section is a bit strange at first glance, but I have come across a tantalising theory on what it may mean.

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?”

– John 21:20-23

Now this all makes little sense on the face of it, but consider…

What if John’s Gospel is written by John, but not about John…? What if “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was actually Lazarus of Bethany, whom we met in Chapter 11?

This would make sense of the passage before us. After all, if Lazarus had already been resurrected, wouldn’t that raise a big question as to whether he was ever going to die…? Is he part of “The Resurrection”, the final raising of all people to eternal life? This is an appealing explanation for the otherwise strange statement, “So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die.” – Verse 23

And wouldn’t Jesus’ answer ensure that people anticipated his imminent return? Especially if they noticed that Lazarus was getting older?

Ben Witherington puts a case for a theory in which “the disciple whom Jesus loved” could be a reference to Lazarus. Click here to open his article in another browser tab.

… and if that is the case, that what we have is John the author of the Gospel, and Lazarus as the one telling the story (to John), then it makes sense of the last paragraph’s peculiar wording, too.

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.

– John 1:24-25

This appears to be an endorsement of the one telling the story to the author. The author is therefore speaking to his audience, vouching for the one telling the story.

Intriguing?

That last section has little to do with seeing, hearing and believing. Unless… Lazarus saw all these things, testified to them, and John is hearing and believing, and encouraging his audience to do likewise.


QUESTIONS TO PONDER FROM CHAPTER 20

What is John trying to show us about hearing, seeing, and believing?

How has this study series changed the way you are reading the Gospel of John?

Has this study series expanded on any themes from the first 18 verses in Chapter 1?


Other posts in this series:

Gospel of John

Posted on May 24th, 2012 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

The Gospel of John: Many people's favourite book, but scholars neglected it for centuries! Historicity Differences between John and the Synoptic…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 1

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Chapter 1: Prologue, and John the Baptist introduces Jesus This is part 1 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 2

Posted on May 10th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 2: Signs This is part 2 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 3

Posted on May 16th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 3: Nicodemus, and darkness This is part 3 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 4

Posted on May 23rd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 4: The Samaritan Woman, the Harvest, and the Return to Galilee This is part 4 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 5

Posted on May 30th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 5: Sabbath, and the Son of God This is part 5 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 6

Posted on Jun 6th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 6: Feeding the 5000, Bread from Heaven, Words of Life This is part 6 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 7

Posted on Jun 13th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 7: The Festival, The Living Water This is part 7 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 8

Posted on Jun 20th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 8: The Adulteress, Light of the World, and Abraham's Sons This is part 8 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 9

Posted on Jun 27th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 9: To see This is part 9 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 10

Posted on Jul 4th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 10: The Voice of the Shepherd This is part 10 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 11

Posted on Jul 13th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 11: The Resurrection and the Life This is part 11 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 12

Posted on Jul 18th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 12: This is part 12 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 13

Posted on Jul 25th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 13 This is part 13 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 14

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 14 This is part 14 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 15

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 16

Posted on Sep 19th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 16 This is part 16 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 17

Posted on Oct 3rd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 16 This is part 17 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 18

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 19

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3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 20

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