St. John's Gospel
The Resurrection Part 5: c21:15-23
Posted on February 19th 2012 in St. John's Gospel
The hidden purpose of Jesus’ further post-Resurrection appearance may be glimpsed in His conversation with Peter, and the thrice asked question, ‘Do you love me?’ The risen Jesus is preparing St Peter for his commission to become a ‘Good Shepherd’ of the one flock himself, in imitation of the Master. Jesus was leaving Peter as ‘the vicar of His love’. The First Vatican Council used this text to emphasis this ministry of unity that the papacy possessed. The word ‘love’ in English translates three Greek words, companionship, friendship and love as commitment (agape). Here the word used emphasises the sense of loving commitment up to the end.
The number of questions resonates with the three denials of Peter during the trial scene at the house of Caiaphas. Peter recognises the need to be asked, but finds the third question hurtful, yet the answer he gives is the most profound statement of faith. Jesus knows everything, and therefore can be trusted to speak the truth out of love for Peter and become the one to whom Peter can entrust his life.
The reality of following Jesus will ultimately lead to his own crucifixion, which by tradition took place in the upside down position. The account in the Acts of the Apostles shows that Peter took time to embrace fully his mission but he finally did travel to Rome and preach the Gospel within the capital of the Roman world.
The mission of John was to be different. He who ‘grasped these things’ will write the Gospel. The community of John, established at Ephesus would by tradition continue to live what the Gospel contained while Peter would travel to the heart of the Empire.
The second conclusion to the Gospel of St John,(the first being at the end of the previous chapter), emphasises that not everything Jesus said and did has been written down, but only those necessary for faith. The Gospels were never meant to be simple eye-witness reports, but a divinely inspired selection of those divine words and actions that inform the Christian of his or her faith. The project established in the Prologue would now be complete: ‘for while the Law came through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ’ (1:17)
The Resurrection c20: Part 3 vv 19-29: The appearance to the disciples
Posted on February 5th 2012 in St. John's Gospel
The return of Peter and John to the Upper Room has not dispelled their fear. The intimations of the Resurrection which were prompted by the empty tomb were not enough to dispel their fears over the consequences of the death of Jesus. The risen Jesus enters their fearful world with the encouraging words, ‘Peace be with you’. This offer of peace is linked to the historical event of His death, and reveals the inner meaning of His death on the Cross. The gift of peace was the ulterior motive of His public life, to establish a new relationship between God and His chosen people. Now the risen Jesus is able to impart, as promised in the same upper room on that fateful night, the Holy Spirit which he does by breathing on them. They in their turn will be sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit and enabled to bring about peace through the forgiveness of sins. The sending forth of the apostles picks up many of the themes addressed by Jesus in his long monologue and His prayer to the Father before His arrest in Gethsemane. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the apostles will bring peace and joy to the world. Through their teaching about Jesus, and about the true nature of sin and righteousness, they will make the absent Jesus present in the Church and through the sacraments.
The disciples have undertaken the same journey as that of Mary Magdalene. The encounter with the risen Lord was sufficient for them, but for Thomas, who was not there that first visit, the desired requirement is much more substantial evidence to prove that the risen Jesus was not a collective hallucination or some sort of ghost. He needs the evidence given by tangible flesh. He is granted his wish a week later and, from exhibiting such doubt, he gives expression to full faith with the words ‘My Lord and my God’, giving recognition to the divinity of Jesus Christ. This divine nature of Jesus Christ was made visible through the wounds of His passion. The risen Jesus concludes this second visit not with a condemnation of Thomas but with a blessing on those who will come to believe through the testimony of the Apostles and the future mission of the Church. The apostolic experiences of the risen Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be foundational for the faith of every Christian.
The Resurrection c20: Part 2 vv 11-18 The appearance to Mary Magdalene
Posted on January 29th 2012 in St. John's Gospel
The departure of Peter and John from the empty tomb leaves Mary Magdalene alone outside the tomb fixated in her grief. The words and actions of Peter and John seem to have had no immediate effect. Her lament imitates that of Mary outside the tomb of Lazarus who, though accepting the theoretical possibility of the resurrection, failed to grasp that it might include Jesus’ friend Lazarus. Yet curiosity makes her enter the tomb and, far from being frightened by the angels who ask her a question, replies with the statement that betrays the worst, ‘They have taken my Lord away’.
The risen Jesus, unbeknown to her, enters into her world of grief, with the simple question that begins the Gospel as well (1:38), ‘Who are you looking for’. It was only when Jesus’ uses Mary’s name that she begins to recognise Him, a relationship modelled on that of the Good Shepherd. Jesus takes the initiative but does not do so at once. He prepares us through his unknown presence to receive the Good News. The relationship of faith needs to grow, so Mary Magdalene has to let go firstly of the physical Jesus. He is no longer just the Rabbi (Master) but the Son of God and this will only be completed when He ascends to His Father. This departure, begun with death on the Cross, will conclude with the risen Jesus imparting the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. Jesus gives a foretaste of this new relationship to Mary Magdalene when he reveals that He is ascending to ‘My Father, and your Father’. A new relationship is being established between God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the believer. The Christian believer will live within the orbit of the Trinity, the outpouring of love that is God. The statement in the Prologue, ‘All those who did accept Him, He empowered to become sons and daughters of God (1:12) has been realised. Thus Mary Magdalene becomes a true missionary of the Good News, and this sets the scene for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the Upper Room.
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