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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Tarry Till I Come.

20, 21. Peter, turning about, saw the disciple, etc. Three years before on the banks of the same sea, Jesus had called Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee to become fishers of men by the very same words that he had now just addressed to Peter. The latter, not unnaturally, thinks of his companions, and turning to look at John, asks: |Lord, what shall this man do?| It is probable that during the conference, Peter had been drawn apart, and that John, so intimate with Peter, and who had |leaned his head on the Savior's breast at supper,| had drawn near to them. By omitting the words in Italics the reader can catch the laconic form of the Greek: |Lord, this man, what?| Peter understands the prophecy with regard to himself, but what shall become of his friend? (Joh 21:22)

22. If I will that he tarry till I come. Observe (1) that each one must work in the place where the Lord wills; |If I will.| (2) that as Peter's duty was restless activity in following Christ, it is indicated that John's work in part at least, is calm, trustful and patient waiting; tarry till I come. These words of the Savior here give rise to much discussion. It has been held 1. That they have no special signification but to rebuke Peter and to assure him that John's future was the Lord's business, not his. Such a view is disproved by the deep significance that always inheres in the Savior's words.2. That these words refer to a second coming at the destruction of Jerusalem. But all the weight of authority is to the end that John wrote his Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem; yet his language in the next verse shows that, while he pondered the Savior's words, he did not understand their meaning. The prophecy was, therefore, yet unfulfilled, as far as he was concerned.3. That the coming referred to was death. That would deprive the Savior's words of any significance whatever, as they would be as true of every man as of John.4. That they refer to the promised second coming of Christ, and that John did not die a natural death. Even Godet suggests that the primitive epoch of humanity had its Enoch; the theocratic epoch its Elijah and that the Christian epoch may have had its John who was translated without seeing death. In the face of the fact that the grave of John was pointed out at Ephesus until the chaos of Mahometan invasion swept over the East, such a view is absurd. Discarding all these hypotheses as inadequate, I may be allowed to express my surprise that the commentators have not perceived that John did literally tarry until the Savior came, until he saw him, heard him speak, and recorded the last revelation of the Lord to the world. About sixty years from the time that Christ spoke these words, according to the testimony of the early Church, the aged John was an exile in, Patmos. There, upon the Lord's day, he |heard a great voice,| and turning, he says, |I saw one like the Son of Man| blazing with such glory that he fell, |fell at his feet as dead, and then he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not.| Then follow the Seven Letters to the Church dictated to John by our Lord, and the sublime prophecies of Revelation. It is, therefore, a historical fact that John did |tarry| on the earth long after the other apostles were wearing crowns of martyrdom, and until the Lord came to him visibly to make the last inspired revelation of his will to man. This view, which is the only one in which the Savior's words and the historical facts are in exact harmony, incidently shows that Revelation was not written when John penned this chapter. Had that been the case he would not have been at loss to understand just what the Savior's words could mean, but would have referred at once to the wonderful |coming| he witnessed on Patmos. All the testimony of the ancient Church agrees that Revelation was the last book of the Bible written, but a class of modern expositors, solely in the interest of a preconceived interpretation, have dated its composition before the fall of Jerusalem. (Joh 21:23)

23. This saying went abroad among the brethren. John corrects the mistake that had gone abroad. Christ had not said that he should not die, but simply, |If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee.| His language shows that he was uncertain what the Savior might mean. The scenes of Patmos finally made all clear. (Joh 21:24)

24. This is the disciple which testifieth these things. The one named just before, concerning whom Peter asked the question. Most of the critics hold that this verse and probably the next were added by another hand. The plural, |we know,| seems to be a kind of attestation and the hypothesis is offered that they were added by the Elders of Ephesus to whom John committed his gospel. They are found in all the manuscripts and, if not written by John, were appended to the original copy before it was published. (Joh 21:25)

25. Also many other things which Jesus did. |Many other things| are recorded by the three preceding gospels which John does not record. The ministry of Christ was so busy, his teaching so voluminous and his deeds of mercy so numerous, that the verse states that it would be impossible to make a minute record, and in order to convey this idea forcibly an oriental hyperbole is employed.

I will close this comment by an extract from Godet which treats of the authorship of this chapter, as well as the whole gospel. |1. The narrative in chapter 21:1-23, is from the hand of John.2. Verse 24 is from the friends of John, who had called forth the composition of this gospel, and to whom he committed it after composition.3. Verse 25 was written by one of them, with whom the work was deposited, and who thought himself bound to close it thus in honor, not of the author, but of the subject of the history. By these last words the entire work becomes a whole. Accordingly we are shut up to hold either that John is the author of our gospel, or that the author is a forger, who, 1, palmed himself off on the world with all the characteristics of the Apostle; who, 2, carried his shamelessness so far that he got made out for him, by an accomplice in the fraud, a certificate of identity with the person of John; or who, more simply still, to save falsehood, made out this certificate for himself, in the name of another, or of several others. And he who had recourse to such ways was the author of a writing in which lying is treated as the work of the devil (8:44) and truth glorified as one of the two essential features of the divine character. If any one will believe such a story . . . let him believe it.| (1 Cor.14:38).

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