St. John, Apostle & Evangelist, 2015

 

The Epistle. 1 St. John1:1-10

The Gospel.  St. John 21:19-25

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Today the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist is on our Ordo Calendar.

 

John is well loved by many Bible readers because of his own unique take on certain things that the other 3 Evangelists don't mention.

 

Notice the color today is not red.  We are not white solely because we are in the season of Christmas.

 

John is listed in our Prayer Book as Apostle & Evangelist.  He is not listed as a martyr, because he was not martyred by the accounts that we have. 

 

The Church seems to be universally in agreement that John was not martyred for the faith like the other 11 but was exiled to a small island called Patmos.

 

Patmos is a small island in the Aegean Sea.  It is about 7.5 miles in length.  Many Greek islands were used, because of their remoteness for prisoners.

 

It is thought that John ended up there as either a prisoner or he was at least banished there because of His Christian beliefs.

 

There is a monastery there today honoring John. 

There is also the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse marking the suggested site where John received his vision to write down the Book of Revelation.

 

John had a brother James, who was also an Apostle of Jesus. In fact, Peter, James and John were the three Apostles who were singled out many times by Jesus to be with Him for certain special occasions, such as the Mount of Transfiguration event, the raising of Jairus’ daughter and they were there in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ arrest.

 

James and John were in the boat fishing.  They were the sons of a man named Zebedee.  Jesus came by one day and called James and John to follow Him.  And they did.

 

There is a lot more that we could point to in John’s biography.

 

But we must turn to his writings.  His writings are what are given to us to contemplate.  We have for the Epistle, one of John’s three letters.  He also wrote the Gospel which is attributed to him and he is also the author of the Book of Revelation.

 

We also have an excerpt from the 21st chapter of his Gospel account today for our Gospel lesson.

 

Our collect for today is beautifully written speaking of John as Apostle and Evangelist who presents to us Jesus as the Light.

 

We prayed: “MERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it,

being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

John speaks of Jesus as The Light.  Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness.  Jesus is the Light that lightens every man that comes into the world.

 

Jesus Himself says that He is the Light of the World.  Whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.

 

We say that when someone begins to understand something that he has “seen the light.”  Not only is Jesus then light in the sense of brightness and guidance but also He is light in that He imparts knowledge. 

He is the Logos, the Word, the Logic, the Light of God.

 

John’s testimony, if received and believe on is light to us.

 

Let's hear again what John is saying in his 1st Epistle.  And notice the testimony here from John is not about himself by the way.

 

This is what our own testimony about the faith is to be about….Jesus Christ.

This is what sermons are to be about…Jesus Christ.

 

John did not give us a whole account of his own experience and conversion.  He gave us an account of what he saw and heard and touched with his own hands.

 

Our own lives are to be secondary when it comes to witnessing about our faith.  We can talk about how Christ has affected our lives, but people need to hear about that second.

 

People don't need to hear stories about ourselves.  The sermon is not about the pastor.  It is about Christ.

 

That's the one who has the interesting life…not us.

 

They need to hear about Christ first.  This is what John does here.  Listen to John’s testimony about Jesus.

 

He writes: “That which was from the beginning,

which we have heard,

which we have seen with our eyes,

which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,

concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…”

 

The THAT here is Jesus.  But it is interesting that John says That which was from the beginning.

 

John almost objectifies Jesus here.  He doesn't say, He, who was from the beginning, but THAT which was from the beginning.

 

He opens His Gospel by saying, In the beginning was the Word.  He doesn't say, In the beginning was He who is the word.

The language is in some ways difficult, but the meaning still comes through clear.

 

That which was from the beginning.  Jesus is there in the beginning.  He is the creator of all things, therefore He is before all things in the beginning of creation.

 

But then John says, “That which we have seen, and heard and touched.”  It almost sounds like he understands Jesus as a thing rather than a person…though of course he doesn't.   

But it is only because of the nature of Christ. Christ is the Word. 

He is the beginning. 

He is the Light and Life of men. 

 

 

But it is completely clear that John is speaking about Jesus…..he just sees deeper into the person and nature of Christ and is able to put that into writing for us.

 

Life is personified by John. 

Light is personified.

The Word of Life….we saw with our eyes….and looked upon… and heard and touched with our hands…and walked with…and talked with….  This is who John is proclaiming.

 

That which is true and eternal life was made manifest.  He was shown to us. 

 

We have seasons of Advent and Epiphany.  Both serve as terms to describe showing forth, or manifesting.

 

This is what John is saying they experienced.  He says, He, the Word, the Life, the Light…was with the Father was made manifest to us.

 

And we proclaim this message of what we have seen and heard and touched to you.

 

He is the Eternal Life, and we proclaim being in the presence of Him and we proclaim this so that you too may have fellowship with us.

 

John proclaims this, he says, so that we may have fellowship with them.  He is letting us in!  We MAY have fellowship with the Apostles through believing in this testimony.

 

We are allowed in. 

We ask the question: “May I have some more?”  “May I come in?”

We ask permission this way.

And the reply is, “Yes you may.”  “Granted.” 

 

John’s testimony is a great privilege for us.   We desire to be part of this inner circle of Christ’s followers and John says, ‘If you believe this testimony about this man, you also may be a partaker of what He offers.’

 

Why is this fellowship such a privilege for us?  He says it is because the Apostle’s fellowship was with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ….and he goes on to say….

 

“…we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

 

Some manuscripts, such as those used for the King James say:  “we are writing these things so that your joy may be full.”

Different wording…your joy or our joy.  Both make sense. Though different, the overall meaning is not altered.

 

If we believe in the testimony of John, our joy indeed will be full.

If we believe in the testimony of John, his joy will be full as well.

 

We gain if our joy is filled.

John and the others gain if their joy is filled.

 

Jesus says at one point: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-11 ESV)

 

Or He says in another place: “ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7 ESV)

 

Paul says in his letter to the Philippians: “…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2 ESV)

 

So there is a mutual joy when Christ is believed on and a sinner is saved.

 

The one saved is joyful.

The angels are joyful.

The One doing the saving is even joyful.

 

So here is what John says is his message.  This is the second part of what he writes today:

 

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you…” [and this is the message we here today are to receive, believe on, and proclaim to others]

 

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1 ESV)

 

Notice he is not here presenting to us the whole Gospel.  He knows the Gospel well, of course, but here he is emphasizing the light we are to carry, or show or manifest if we say that we are in Christ and desire to have fellowship with Him.

 

If we are in Christ, we are new creations.  We are also light, in fact.

 

Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: “     “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

     “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

 

John is telling us this morning that if we desire to enjoy Christ and His blessings, “…it is required of us to be conformed to God in righteousness and holiness.” [1]

 

God is light.  He is the Father of Lights.  Jesus is the Light that lightens every man that cometh into the world.

And we, if we are in fellowship with Him and with one another, are light as well.

 

“…since there is no union between light and darkness, there is a separation between us and God as long as we walk in darkness; and that the fellowship which he mentions, cannot exist except we also become pure and holy.” [2]

 

Let us give thanks to God this day for St. John.  He delivers to us a message of salvation in Christ in a unique way.

 

He testifies to being there…to touching and hearing and seeing Christ….giving us the Gospel.

 

And he testifies our part as well. 

 

Let us pray for God’s grace today in light of John’s testimony, that He may direct us in all our ways by the Light of His Son Jesus Christ and that we may show forth our salvation as ambassadors for Christ, being salt and light in the world.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 163). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 163). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.