22 May 2010

John 21:20-25

"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." (v.24-25)


These are the final verses of John's Gospel. They may not have been written by John at all but by a friend or companion after his death. They may even have been written as an afterthought to the book. These final verses, in fact, mirror the end of chapter 20 where the author says, "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book" (20:30).

The Bible is a central focus for Christians, but these sentences at the end of John's Gospel are a timely reminder that all the libraries in the world, or in our day all the digital storage systems, could not possibly contain all that Jesus did. What Jesus did and what Jesus was were all too explosive - too revolutionary - to be contained in human writing.

However good the Gospel writers were, however proficient the Bible translators and researchers are, nothing can 'capture' Jesus in words! Jesus is God's Word and, ultimately, the relationship of Christians needs to be with the 'Word made flesh' (John 1:14) - not words on a page. This is perhaps not an easy message for Bible-based Christians to take on board because it is risky and open ended. The Methodist Deed of Union puts it in an interesting way: "The doctrines of the evangelical faith, which Methodism has held from the beginning, and still holds, are based upon the divine revelation recorded in Holy Scriptures." A divine revelation which continues as we read the Scriptures.

To Ponder

What is your attitude to the Bible? In your journey of faith what other sources of inspiration do you look to?

If the author of John and his fellow Gospel writers had been able to write down a great deal more detail about Jesus' life and ministry, what would you like to discover more about? Why - would we be in a better position?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.