1 December 2007

John 21:24-25

"We know that his testimony is true." (v.24)


From the earliest days people recognised that there was something very different about the fourth Gospel. There was even debate about whether it should be included in the official list when it was being finalised. John is certainly very different from the other three Gospels.

Another interesting point is that it looks as if this Gospel has got two endings. Verses 20-21 of chapter 20 look like an ending. Then it starts again with another resurrection appearance story and chapter 21 ends with the ending in the two verses of today's reading.

All this gives scholars work to do, including trying to work out which one of the many Johns in the early Church actually wrote this Gospel.

The key word in this short reading is 'testimony'. This verse recognises, just as the other 'ending' at John 20:30-31 recognises, that this Gospel is not a straight, unbiased, historical account of the life and teaching of Jesus. It is much more than that - it is a testimony to Jesus and a testimony to what Jesus means to the writer.

The writer of the first ending believes that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God (John 20:31). Both these terms were titles for the old king of David's line in Jerusalem (on 'Son of God' see Psalm 2, an old coronation psalm). The writer of the second ending endorses that testimony (John 21:24).

Then this second ending adds the bit about the world not being big enough to hold all the books which could be written about Jesus. This remind us that our words fail to say everything we want to say about Jesus. And also that every title we might want to give to Jesus is inadequate, even the title of Christ (= 'Messiah') and 'King' as in the title of this week's readings, 'Christ the King'.

To Ponder

What does it mean to you to think of Christ as king?

Are there any downsides to the metaphor?

Christ might be 'seated at the right hand of God' as Prince of Heaven - as he is pictured in Revelation - and he might well be your king as he is mine: but he most certainly does not 'rule the world'. So, how helpful is it to use this particular title for Jesus?

Bible notes author

Revd Stephen Dawes

Stephen Dawes is a Methodist minister who has worked in the Hexham, Stafford and Bodmin circuits, taught Old Testament at Trinity College, Accra, and Queen's College, Birmingham and served as Chair of the Cornwall District. He is currently Director of Studies for the South West Ministry Training Course, a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Theology at the University of Exeter, minister of two little chapels in the St Austell Circuit and Canon Theologian of Truro Cathedral.