Mentmore – Sunday 27 December 2009
Reading 1 John 1
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Gospel John 21.19b-25
Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumour spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
Jesus did many other things as well. 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.
Church – John Apostle & Evangelist
Is this same person? What do we know?
One of 12 disciples
Only one to live to old age
Son of Zebedee and Salome – brother of James the Greater – Boanerges (Sons of Thunder)
Origin fishermen with father – lake of Genessaret
May have been disciples of John the Baptist
One of most prominent disciples of Jesus
Peter James John – only witnesses to:
Raising of Jairus’s daughter
Agony in Gethsemane
John leaned on Christ’s breast at Last Supper
May be the anonymous “beloved disciple” in John’s gospel
Only disciple to remain with women at foot of cross
John became founder and pillar of church
Usually represented as eagle
John very different from synoptic gospels
More unified – after Prologue, gospel arranged in two parts – first laid out in 4 geographical groupings – second book contained farewell discourses, death, burial and resurrection
Full of contrasts – light/dark; heaven above/earth beneath; truth/falsehood
Is Evangelist and Apostle same person? Probably not – gospel not finalised until 90 – 100AD – but may have been substantially the word of John the apostle, and rearranged later on.
John of Patmos
Writer of 2 and 3 John; Revelation
Also called John the Divine
Tradition has it he is the same as John the Evangelist
Comes from end of John, but taken on its own makes little sense. John seems to end with chapter 20:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these things are written so you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The following chapter starts with Peter fishing again, and the miraculous catch when Jesus appears and tells Peter to cast his net on the right side of the boat. Jesus then gives Peter instructions about the church. Peter promises three times to love his flock, cancelling out the three denials before the cock crew.
Peter turns and sees the disciple whom Jesus loved, and asks Jesus about him. Jesus replies If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?
It’s a strange reply – it seems to indicate John will remain alive until the second coming. The disciple whom Jesus loved is then identified as the writer of the gospel, and there the book ends.
Peter will eventually be crucified like his master, but John lives to a ripe old ages and is probably buried in Ephesus.
John’s Gospel and I John
Regardless of who was the writer – and I suppose a later redactor using material from John the son of Zebedee looks very possible – the gospel means more to many Christians than any other book in the Bible. But today I want to draw your attention to the similarity between John 1 and I John 1 – and especially the relevance of what John says about his church to what we see today.
John 1 opens with those familiar verses about the Word, identified with Christ, who was with God in the beginning and was God. The author of I john 1 declares he is witness to the word of life. He has seen it, testifies to it, and declares to us what was revealed to him.
John’s gospel talks about the relationship of God and Jesus Christ. I John says we can have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
John’s gospel tells us Jesus is the light that shines in darkness. I John declares that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. We are to walk in this light and have fellowship with one another and with God.
The two chapters are strikingly similar. But it’s this business of having fellowship with each other in the light that John goes on to apply to his church. He is distraught over a schism in the church whereby Christians are falling out about who Jesus was, and what difference his coming has made. John writes with the heartfelt hope that our joy will be consummated.
We can apply this plea that we should all walk in the fellowship of the light and in joy with each other to the sorry state of our church today – falling out over sexuality, the appointment of women as bishops, and other divisions even less important than the real differences that split the early church in the first century AD.
John’s words resonate in the Anglican communion as strongly today as they did when they were first written:
9 Those who claim to be in the light but hate a fellow believer are still in the darkness. 10 Those who love their fellow believers live in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
My hope, frail though it might be, is that the message of Christmas leads us to listen more to each other. May we take these words of John to heart and walk together in the light.