John 21: 15-25 – Word Feed
If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
The Gospel of John ends with the author telling us that Jesus did too many good things to contain in writing. Jesus, likewise, continues to do miraculous and amazing things through the Church by the Holy Spirit.
Despite this, we still die! (Awfully abrupt, yeah?)
The last words of Jesus in this Gospel are:
“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
It’s an odd way to end a story, no? Jesus talks to Peter after reconciling his soul; then Jesus alludes to the fact that Peter will be put to death in a fashion similar to himself. Peter then asks, presumably about what will happen to John, and Jesus uses this as a moment to illustrate the importance of following regardless of who else is along for the ride.
It kind of feels like John just wants to put himself in the final scene. But if that were the case, he wouldn’t obscure his name with the title, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
I believe John is trying to convince his reader, that whether we live or die and whether those around us live or die, the temporary nature of this life should not determine how we live it. We cannot control how long we live but we can control the how we live.
And how we live is laid out for us in the verses just prior to these final words in a very familiar interaction.
I will insert it here because I love it:
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
I will discuss it here because I am terrified by it.
The Fear of the Lord strikes me real here because in a series of questions and answers that address the topic of love and affection, Jesus ends the discussion by saying essentially:
“There will come a season of your life where you will lose complete control over what you want. You will follow me into death so that others might find life, and you will do it out of love.”
Jesus asks Peter about his love and then tells Peter he will die. The he says, “Follow me!”
Peter couldn’t keep his mouth shut. But I think there is more to Peter than impulsiveness. I think Peter asks about John because it exposes a certain thread in Peter’s life in which he is constantly wrestling with.
I think Peter felt his devotion was dependent on who he surrounded himself with. I think Peter thought his story was not sustainable without those who followed Jesus with him.
I think that is why Peter is so adamant about declaring, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” yet he later denies. I think that is why Peter wants to be the only one to walk on water, yet falls. I think it is why Jesus tells him, he will be a rock and will be sifted by Satan. I think this is why Peter swings a sword at the servant to the high priest. I think Peter is at war with his devotion and is insecure about his desire to choose following Jesus when others aren’t immediately available to hold him accountable.
Which is why this is how it ends. A man, John, who we believe wrote this Gospel just prior or while exiled to an island as a lonely prisoner, writing about a friend, Peter, who church history tells us was crucified upside down talks to Jesus, the savior of the world, the only perfect one, have a conversation about how they will tell their story.
And the how is demonstrated in the caring for the who.
“Feed my lambs.
Take care of my sheep.
Feed my sheep.”
In that grouping of lambs and sheep, we should also find ourselves. Self-care is equally as important as caring for others, until the time comes when we are no longer able to care for ourselves. Then our care for others comes from allowing others or God to care for us. And even from that place we are telling our love story.
In 35 blog entries, I’ve written through the Gospel of John. I’ve used 25,000 words. That’s almost 10,000 words more than the Gospel itself. My longest entry was 1,370 words from John 5 which was about mental illness. My website stats also have that entry as the most viewed of any of my posts surrounding the Gospel itself. One thing I’ve come to conclude is based on either the algorithms through Facebook or lack of interest, writing through the Gospels don’t get nearly as much attention as when I write about just about anything else. I’m not sure if it is the Scripture/Theological denseness or if it is just too hard to read something that feels repetitive. After all, there are hundreds of better articles written about Scripture. But I set out to write through this book and Ezekiel and by accident Jude over the course of 2 years.
I’m going to take a break from writing through books of the Bible for at least the rest of 2018. Meaning most of my writing will be reflective more than Scripture based. I may try to write more comedy again since that was more my wheelhouse at the end of college.
One major benefit from writing through the Gospel of John though, is I have fallen more in love with Jesus. I actually do feel like I understand Him better. I feel like I understand his movements and his desire for us more. I’ve also come to conclude He is more gentle than I knew. I’ve gotten the sense that more than anything, His desire is for me to keep following rather than wallowing. I’ve learned that freedom is found in telling an honest story. This is also the reason why I like the Gospel of John so much, I feel like I’m there.
So if you’ve read this far, thanks for being there/here to. I’m excited about your story that you fill the world with on your journey. Jesus is excited to be a part of it!