Friday 27 December 2019

Bible Book:

] said to him, ‘Follow me.’ (v. 19b)

John 21:19b-25 Friday 27 December 2019

Psalm: Psalm 117


‘The disciple whom Jesus loved’ (v. 20) appears only in the latter part of John's Gospel; verse 20b refers to his first appearance, in John 13:23-25. He is often portrayed in a rather tense, competitive relationship with Simon Peter. (See also John 20:2-20.) He is never identified. However, in the tradition of the Church the ‘beloved disciple’ is John, son of Zebedee. Among scholars, other candidates for the ‘beloved disciple’ include Lazarus and James (the brother of Jesus). And some think this particular disciple is an imagined person – an ‘ideal’ disciple (unlike the all too fallible disciples who deserted, disowned or betrayed Jesus).

This passage deals with a dispute in the church a generation after Jesus’s death.

It focused on the meaning of some words of Jesus. Simon Peter, having just been reinstituted as the church’s leader in the preceding verses, is reminded of his even more fundamental relation to Jesus – as a disciple (v. 19b). But Peter is still easily distracted by his fraught relationship with "the disciple whom Jesus loved". Peter has to know what is to become of his competitor. Jesus rebukes him: Peter’s exclusive focus must be on his own discipleship (v. 22).

The words Jesus used in rebuking Peter were misinterpreted in parts of the church to mean that the beloved disciple would not die before Jesus came again (in line with many in the early church who looked for Jesus’s imminent return, to bring in God’s new age). In fact, the beloved disciple was probably already dead, to the consternation of his devotees. But they had mistaken Jesus’s meaning (v. 23). And the beloved disciple had earlier made a written statement to dispel the rumour and put the record straight (v. 24).

So Jesus’s words, as ever, retain their authority.


To Ponder:

  • Each of us brings our own concerns, prejudices, understandings and experience to the interpretation of the words of scripture. But none of us can claim to know ‘the one and only true meaning’ of a phrase or text. We can develop our understanding by reading what scholars write. And we can talk over with one another how we make sense of what is in the scriptures. What is your experience of exploring scripture in a small group where different perspectives are shared? How can that be done better?
  • Discipleship is basic to every believer’s vocation. A disciple learns from Jesus and follows him. What inspires and encourages your growth as a disciple?
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