Homily for June 3rd, 2017: John 21:20-25.
Having just received Jesus’ commission to “feed my sheep,” Peter asks about the man standing next to him, “the one who reclined upon [the Lord’s] breast during the [last] supper,” and asks: “Lord, what about him?” Bible scholars have been debating the reason for this question for two millennia. Some think that Peter may have been genuinely concerned that Jesus had said nothing about the fate of Peter’s best friend and fellow fisherman. Others discern a touch of jealousy in Peter, long present because of the special closeness between Jesus and this disciple, open for all to see. Both views are pure speculation. We simply don’t know the reason for Peter’s question. And at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. As we have already seen, not everything in Scripture is plain, simple, or obvious.
As so often in the gospels, Jesus does not answer the question he has been asked. Directing Peter to concentrate on the commission he has just received, Jesus answers the latter’s question with one of his own (a common practice in Jewish dialogue and disputation): “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” This response would be especially appropriate if Peter’s question contained a touch of jealousy.
John’s gospel closes with an affirmation of authenticity: “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true,” The concluding final sentence -- about there not being enough room in the whole world for books to record all Jesus’ works -- is a clear example of hyperbole: deliberate exaggeration for the sake of effect. This was common in antiquity. The Jewish philosopher Philo, for instance, writes: “If [God] were to display all his riches, even the entire earth, with the sea turned into dry land, would not contain them.” And the Church Father Origen says: “It is impossible t commit to writing all those particulars that belong to the glory of the Savior.” [cf. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, p. 1130]
The significance of the statement for us is simply this: if we are trying to follow Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor with all our heart, mind, and soul, we will be discovering more about him every day; until he sends his angel to call us home, to the place which he has prepared for us – where we shall experience not only peace and joy but ecstasy; for we shall see God face to face.