Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast 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 this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
John 21: 20-25
(From the Eleventh Eothinon Gospel)
Christ is Risen!
We read in the last reflection that Peter was restored by Jesus, following his three-fold denial of Christ. Indeed, Christ recognized that Peter did love Jesus and would one day give his life for Him. And just as happens many times in life, Peter didn’t just say “thank you very much for your forgiveness and your trust,” he wondered aloud about the fate of John, the beloved Disciples. Peter looked at John and said to the Lord, “Hey, what about him?” Jesus said to Peter, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? YOU follow me!” In other words, what happens to him is not of your concern. What is your charge is to follow me and be my disciple.
Indeed this is the Lord’s charge for each of us. To follow Him, and to spread His message, to love one another as He loves us. The Lord desires for each of us to enter into Paradise. How we will each get there—the talents we will have, the life experience we will have—these things will vary for each of us. We shouldn’t be concerned about how we compare to other people, for the journey to salvation isn’t a race, nor is it a test to see who can outlast or outwit the others. It isn’t a competition against anyone. I have my talents, and you have yours, and thankfully these talents we each have are different. Thankfully the life experiences we all have are different. Because in these differences, we have a depth and richness in the world and a fullness of society, when all the roles are filled.
Christ’s message to Peter and to us, is to not compare ourselves to others, not to place higher or lower values on one another. But to realize that we are all of infinite value in God’s eyes, and thus we are to encourage each other to do the best with the gifts we have, keeping our eyes on the prize at all times, salvation.
In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if we live longer or shorter than our neighbor, if we are richer or poorer than our neighbor, if we are regarded in higher or lower esteem than our neighbor. What matters is that we follow, that we follow Christ, that we know Christ, that we love Christ and that we love our neighbor as we love Christ, and as Christ loves us.
The passage concludes with some editorial words by the Apostle and Evangelist John. Truthfully, they are most likely the editorial words of John’s scribe, Prochoros. John 21:24 reads as though it was written by someone else, since it is in the third person: This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. If John had written this, he would have simply written “I have seen these things and am telling you that they are true.” Historical evidence points to John dictating the Gospel to a scribe named Prochoros.
Finally, John testifies that his Gospel (as well as the others) are not an exhaustive account of the life of Jesus. There are four Gospels, each slightly different. In addition, there are other “apocryphal” Gospel account written by Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Nicodemus, among others, which didn’t make the canon of Scripture. The purpose in John’s Gospel, according to John, was so that we have enough information to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
Blessed and all-wise Evangelist, in being loved by the Word who sees all things and using just scales will judge the universe, you surpassed the Disciples all in the abundance of your most ardent love for Christ the Lord, O divine Apostle John; for you were radiant in both mind and body with the handsome traits of purity and chastity, in being blest by God. (From the Praises of May 8, Feast of St. John the Theologian, Trans, by Fr. Seraphim Dedes).
Salvation is not a competition. Work on your own salvation. Encourage and help your neighbor to work on his.