The Sixty-Fourth and Final in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus has but a few final words for his disciples before he ascends into heaven. That night on which they celebrated the Passover together now seems so long time ago in light of all of the things which have happened since. Jesus has since been arrested, tried, crucified, rose again from the dead, and then appeared to his disciples three times–twice in Jerusalem, and once in Galilee. The fundamental character of redemptive history has changed. Jesus will reinstate Peter as chief apostle, and prepare the others for a new phase of redemptive history, when Jesus pours out his Holy Spirit upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus’ disciples will go and preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, and in doing so, will turn the whole world upside down.
We have finally come to the end of our series on the Gospel of John. Sixty-four sermons, twenty one chapters, eight-hundred and seventy-nine verses. This is truly an amazing document–especially in comparison to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). John’s Gospel has many affinities with the other gospels, yet at the same time John has a completely different organizational structure and unique points of emphasis. Hopefully, John’s Gospel will remain familiar to us as we move on to new biblical texts in the weeks to come. Now that we know John’s Gospel a bit better, it is my hope that we all turn to it often and read through it regularly. This gospel is too important to neglect.
As I pointed out last time when we began going through the epilogue of John (the 21st chapter), critical scholars tend to argue that this chapter is an appendage–not an integral part of the gospel, and tagged on to the end by either John, or someone else. As we saw, however, these verses make an important point and are not carelessly stuck on to the end of John’s summary statement in 20:30-31 as critical scholars believe. Recall that in his summary statement, John writes, “now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” This is both a summary statement of the content of his gospel, as well as a challenge to all who read and hear the gospel to believe in Jesus Christ.
In context, John’s point about believing in Jesus and then possessing life in his name is tied to the blessing which Jesus extends to the doubting Thomas, as well as to those, who, unlike Thomas, believe in Jesus based upon the testimony of those who did see Jesus’ miracles and heard him preach. John says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In addition to defining the promised blessings, John’s summary statement also wraps-up his account Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in Jerusalem. Yet several important things do occur after the risen Jesus appears to his disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem eight days after Easter. These things are recounted in John 21.
In chapter twenty-one the scene shifts from Jerusalem to the Galilee region at some point in the days and weeks after Jesus appeared to his disciples on two different occasions in Jerusalem. After this, the disciples (at least those mentioned here by John) returned to their home towns and their previous vocation–fishing. Although Jesus told them that he would go ahead of them to the Galilee, they did not recognize Jesus when he began speaking to them from the shore. Given the difficulties of grasping the new realities of redemptive-history after Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples do not expect that Jesus was the one speaking to them from the water’s edge as they struggled to get their boat ashore.
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