Lectio Divina: John 21:20-25
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
like Mary, the women and the apostles
on the day before the first Pentecost,
we are gathered in prayer.
Let the Holy Spirit descend also upon us,
that we may become enthusiastic believers
and faithful witnesses to the Person
and the good news of Jesus.
May our way of living bear witness
that Jesus is our light and life,
now and forever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 21:20-25
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, "Master, who is the one who will betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me." So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?" It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
Today’s Gospel begins with Peter’s question: “Lord, what about him?” Jesus begins to speak with Peter.
• John 21:20-21: Peter’s question concerning John’s destiny. At this moment, Peter turned back and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved and asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus had just indicated Peter’s destiny, and now Peter wants to know from Jesus what is this other disciple’s destiny. It is a matter of curiosity which does not deserve a proper response from Jesus.
• John 21:22: The mysterious response of Jesus. Jesus says, “If I want him to stay behind until I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow Me.” A mysterious utterance which ends again with the same affirmation as before: Follow me! Jesus seems to want to bridle Peter’s curiosity. Just as each one of us has his/her own history, in the same way each one of us has his/her own way of following Jesus. Nobody is the exact copy of another person. Each one of us should be creative in following Jesus. This also recalls the laborers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1-15). Each of us also has our own history and relationship with Jesus which is personal and directed by Him if we accept it.
• John 21:23: The Evangelist clarifies the meaning of Jesus’ response. Ancient tradition identifies the Beloved Disciple with the Apostle John and says that he died when he was almost one hundred years old. Putting together John’s old age with Jesus’ mysterious response, the Evangelist clarifies things saying, “The rumor then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet, Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die,’ but, ‘ If I want him to stay behind until I come; what does that matter to you?’” Perhaps, it is a warning to be attentive to the interpretation of the words of Jesus and not base one’s beliefs on any rumor.
Peter’s questions, and the assumptions of the other disciples, could be an example of the sins of pride (hyperēphania), sadness or envy (lypē), and dejection or acedia (akēdia) in terms of the concepts of the fourth century monk Evagrius Ponticus, among others. Rather than rejoicing at the favorable treatment they thought John had, Peter wanted to know the details. Then the rumors and the gossip went out.
• John 21:24: Witness of the value of the Gospel. Chapter 21 is an added appendix when the final redaction of the Gospel was made. Chapter 20 ends with this statement: “There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of His disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through His name.” (Jn 20:30-31). The Book was ready but there were many other facts about Jesus. This is why, on the occasion of the definitive edition of the Gospel, some of these “many facts” about Jesus were chosen and added, very probably to clarify better the new problems at the end of the first century. We do not know who wrote the definitive redaction with the appendix, but we know it was someone in the community who could be trusted, because he writes, “This is the disciple who vouches for these things and has written them down and we know that his testimony is true.”
• John 21:25: The mystery of Jesus is inexhaustible. A beautiful thought to conclude the Gospel of John: “There was much more that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written.” It seems an exaggeration, but it is the truth. Never will anyone be capable of writing all the things that Jesus has done and continues to do in the life of people who follow Jesus!
4) For Personal Consideration
• Is there something in your life which Jesus has done and which could be added to this book which will never be written?
• Peter is very concerned about the other disciple rather than live his own “Follow Me” at that moment. Does this also happen to you?
• Several Church Doctors and Fathers talk about overcoming vices such as envy and pride with virtues. Many of their ways of life are an answer to “Follow Me”. How well informed are you about these and how might they be put to use personally in answering His call?
• One’s whole life is a relationship with Jesus. This is true for others as well. When there is gossip about another person, do you think Jesus says “What concern is it of yours?” at those moments too?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh in His holy temple!
Yahweh, His throne is in heaven;
His eyes watch over the world,
His gaze scrutinizes the children of Adam. (Ps 11:4)