Reflections: December 27, 2020
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
By Bradley Drew
So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:23)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we. . ." "We interrupt this Christmas cheer to bring you another special report: though not martyred like the other apostles, John was persecuted, exiled and imprisoned on the island of Patmos." Wow. Talk about another unwanted intrusion into all our Christmas cheer, right?
No. Like yesterday, this commemoration is helpful, too. It reminds us of how lonely, how outside the fellowship of the world, a Christian will be in this life. For always enamored with its own free will, its own prayers, works, decisions, and righteousness, the world will always be convinced it has life with God in these things. And, if not in these alone, then in these plus a little Jesus. It doesn't hurt, after all, to include just a little Jesus here and there, right? Never just Jesus.
How different is the faith that John teaches us. Notice, and this is true in all his writings, John never refers to himself by name. He's just "the disciple whom Jesus loved, "or "the one who had been reclining at table close to Him" (John 21:20). He's simply "him," "this man," "this disciple," or "he" (John 21:21, 23). Why is that? The Gospel. This is a theology to live by. John teaches us that Jesus plus nothing equals everything for everyone. John is saying, "Who am I? That's not what matters. Who is Jesus? That's all that matters. And if Jesus loves me, He loves you, too, whoever you are."
That is the promise God washes on to you every day in Baptism. God makes Jesus your front and rear guard (Isaiah 52:12), saving you from yourself and from all of your sin. It's the "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11) God brings you now in every Absolution and sermon you hear from your pastor. Yes, all that belongs to Jesus belongs to you, now. Everything. "Co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). It's the promise God confirms with you at His Supper, "for you, for the forgiveness of sins."
Leave us out of it, says John. It's all Jesus. And that's a Christmas, a Merry Christmas, every sinner can celebrate. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Merciful Lord, cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed in the doctrine of Your blessed apostle and evangelist John, may come to the light of everlasting life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist)
-Rev. Bradley Drew is the pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, LA.
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