This part of the Gospel according to John provides an interesting insight into the continuity of the Christian life from the Passion through Pentecost and beyond. John is to remain just as Jesus Himself remains, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the world.”1 The Love and connection that united John with Jesus at the Last Supper as he rested upon the Sacred Heart comes to define not only who John is for Jesus, but also who John is as a Christian and who John is for us. Peter’s question and Jesus’ response invite us to discover who John is in a deeper way.
John receives his special mission, so to speak, as he leans and listens at the furnace of God’s Love. Jesus can entrust His secrets – His mercy and His compassion – to John completely because John simply allows his heart to be molded. John doesn’t need Jesus to match the expectations that everyone else seems to have about the Messiah, the Savior, or God Himself. Jesus loves John so much because John understands Him. John understands Jesus because his heart is on fire. John’s heart is on fire because he leans and rests on the true hearth, the heart of God. This is who John is for Jesus.
The unity and closeness that John experiences with Christ at the last supper opens his heart to begin already receiving the “other” Paraclete. The great secret of the Christian life is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. John is full of the Holy Spirit already at the Last Supper because his heart is full of love for Jesus. Now Jesus must leave so that John can discover, by interior revelation, the one who abides with him forever, the Spirit of Truth. This is who John is as a Christian: the one whose intimacy with Christ shaped his heart for the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit abides but also moves the one in whom He dwells. John’s mission – the way he is moved by the Spirit – is to remain. This seems almost paradoxical: how can the dynamism one receives from the Spirit result in remaining, staying put, abiding, etc.? John understands from Jesus that his own mission is to become, like Jesus and the Holy Spirit, “another Paraclete.” John’s own heart is to be pierced – like the VIrgin Mary’s2 – so that the Love of God may continue to cover and envelop many hearts. John’s mission, who he is for us, is to be the one who remains close to the heart of God, filled with the Spirit of Truth, disclosing to us these secrets in such a way that Jesus Himself comes again and again into our own hearts until His final coming in Glory.3
EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA:
For in Asia also great luminaries have fallen asleep who will rise again on the last day of the advent of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall search out all the saints.… And this is also where John is, who leaned on the bosom of the Lord, who was a priest wearing the miter, a martyr and a teacher, and he sleeps at Ephesus. 4
“Let him remain” till I come to restore everlasting bliss. And this may be expressed more clearly in this way: Let action that is perfected, informed by the example of my passion, follow me; but let contemplation that has only just begun remain until I come, to be perfected when I come. For the godly fullness of patience, reaching forward even unto death, follows Christ; but the fullness of knowledge remains until Christ comes, to be manifested then. For here the evils of this world are endured in the land of the dying, while the good things of the Lord shall be seen in the land of the living. For in saying, “I want him to remain till I come,” we are not to understand that John was supposed to remain on earth, or to abide permanently, but he was, rather, to wait. Therefore, what is signified by John shall certainly not be fulfilled now, but when Christ comes.[…]
Here, therefore, he loves us less because it is a place where he does not want us to remain. There [in heaven] he will love us in an even larger measure as the place toward which he would have us to be passing as we leave behind the place where he knows we would otherwise perish. Let Peter therefore love him, that we may obtain deliverance from our present mortality; let John be loved by him, that we may be preserved in the immortality to come.5
The Lord either said what he said to Peter about his martyrdom, or he said it about the gospel of John. As regards the martyrdom and this “Follow me,” [he means] suffer for me, suffer what I did. Because Christ was crucified, Peter too was crucified … while John experienced none of this. That is what is meant by, “It is thus that I wish him to remain.” Let him fall asleep without wounds, without torment, and wait for me. You, Peter, “Follow me,” suffer what I did. That’s one way these words can be explained.…
As regards the Gospel of John, though, this is what I think is meant: that Peter wrote about the Lord, others too wrote; but their writing was more concerned with the Lord’s humanity.… But while there is something about the divinity of Christ in Peter’s letters, in John’s gospel it is very much to the fore.… He soared above the clouds and soared above the stars, soared above the angels, soared above every creature and arrived at the Word through which all things were made.6
- Mt. 28:20.
- Lk. 2:35.
- Jn. 21:22.
- ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY 3.31.3. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 393–394). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 124.5. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 394–395). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 253.5. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 395). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.