John (one of the disciples) was there near the cross as Jesus lived what seemed his final moments. The mother of Jesus, Mary, was also there. These were excruciating moments, watching their loved one suffer. The pain they felt was probably intense. The confusion was unsettling. Their hopes were being nailed to a cross, and their hearts likely throbbed with each rise and fall of Jesus taking breaths while hanging there. Yet in those moments, they were seen by Jesus – and united. “Woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.“
We don’t know a lot of details about the life of John after the resurrection scenes found in the gospels. He and Mary seemed to move to the area of Ephesus, where John would have made sure Mary was taken care of. He likely spent time with her, perhaps even coming to know the heart of Jesus through her in ways that impacted how he presented his gospel message. His gospel in particular is drenched in the Love of God that was revealed in the life of Jesus Christ, and a desire for that Love to be known in all the unique ways John was allowed to understand them.
A while back, you may remember (or can read here) me sharing about a book by Niall Williams. I enjoyed it enough to put another one of his on my “to read” list, and finally finished it recently. The novel is simply called “John”. It touches briefly on the topics I’ve just mentioned.
But a large part of this book focuses on John on the island of Patmos (after Mary died, and he went (or was forced into exile) while Christians were persecuted on the mainland), and the final days of his return to Ephesus. The book imagines with compelling details, the possible scenarios John may have wrestled with in his final months and years. It’s an aspect of John that we don’t often allow ourselves to wonder about. How was his faith tested, as he shared his letters and all that had been experienced by him or revealed to him – yet lived in a world that didn’t seem to be coming under the increased Lordship of the Love of Jesus Christ. He is increasingly surrounded with false prophets and gospels, and people who adapt the message of Jesus to better fit the reality they seem to live in. His response as imagined by Williams here is an invitation for many of us.
A question that John wrestles with – is one that many of us are faced with on a regular basis as well: What does it look like to faithfully wait for Jesus? John’s own followers are in often overcome with humility in his presence – after all, this man has walked with Jesus! Yet he wrestles with wondering – if God has such power and the Kingdom truly “has come” or “is now coming”, why doesn’t it look the way he would imagine?
Small spoiler alert: The good news of John’s story is not that Jesus returns to bring completion and New Creation within John’s lifetime. Nor will the activity and narrative of God always fulfill what we may imagine it should. But Love has come, is coming, and will continue to come in ways that invite us to join, & discover it as our foundation. This living Love is sight for the blind. This is light in the darkness. This is hope for the weary. This is Jesus, Son of God – through whom cosmic redemption has already begun.
Cue LeVar Burton, “But you don’t have to take my word for it….”