Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 51:17-52:12; Matthew 2:1-12
“Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following.” (John 21:20)
Today is John's day, his Feast. Like St. Stephen, he, too, will suffer mightily for confessing Jesus. But as today's gospel points out (John 21:20-25), John will not suffer martyrdom as the others. Rather than being killed, he will be exiled on the island of Patmos, from which he would complete the Scriptures by writing the book of Revelation — the book that was part of our Daily Lectionary for most of Advent. I know, you think Revelation is a scary book. Really, it tells you nothing new, nothing different than what God has already spoken to you from Genesis to Jude. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. If you come out of Revelation with something new, something different, ask your pastor about it. He'll be happy to show you why this book begins, “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). It's all about Jesus, not about some blueprint by which you might figure out the times, or decipher when Jesus is coming again — if you just read it right. It's all about the Lord Jesus, Who gives Himself for you.
That is what John marvels at. He's beside himself that Jesus would love him in this way. When, in John's Revelation, he saw Jesus, he “fell at His feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17). How unworthy he was! Jesus' response? He laid His hand on John and said, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He Who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-19).
Those words reminded John that Jesus had given the keys to the kingdom of heaven to His church on earth (John 20:22-23). John's sins locked him out of heaven. But Jesus made sure that His church on earth had the authority to unlock heaven for John, to forgive John his sins. And to forgive you all of yours! That's what amazed John so much — Jesus' love for him.
Have you ever wanted someone special to love you? Someone whose love you knew you didn't deserve and, left to yourself, would probably never have? But then it happened! How did that happen? By grace, right? Remember how you felt? As if your feet didn't touch the ground!
That's how John felt about Jesus. Sure, Jesus loved all the disciples. But even more, He loved John! That is why, when John writes his gospel, he refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He couldn't get over it. It was too good to be true. But, true it was. Just as it is for you! So says the Absolution your pastor speaks over you, unlocking heaven for you, forgiving sins — giving you Jesus' love, just like Baptism and the Supper!