Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
I’ve always loved this Norman Rockwell depiction of how gossip travels. It was true of human nature when he painted it. It was true of human nature when Jesus said, “IF he (John) lives until I return, what is that to you, Peter?”
It was from that simple comment that word began to spread that John would not die; that he would live until Jesus returned from wherever He was going. Since history tells us that John lived until he was at least 90, an unusually old age in that time, it may have seemed to some that it was true–John would not die.
This is what happens when we repeat something we had no business saying in the first place. Jesus’ remark was made to Peter. Those who followed along behind? Can’t you just see the expression of surprise and doubt they exchanged with each other? “What? John won’t die until Jesus returns? Well, then, it can’t be very long that we’ll have to wait for Him!”
Truth is, John outlived them all. But then he died.
In verse 24, John identifies himself clearly as the one who witnessed and wrote all that the gospel of John contains; he also affirms that his words are true.
Have you ever wondered why John gained that position of being “the disciple that Jesus loved”? I’ve done a very surface kind of study, and found that there are as many ideas and interpretations as there are purportedly theologians. Some even want to make the relationship between John and Jesus an erotic thing. We seem to be willing to go to any lengths to explain what is not always explainable.
I’ve said before that when the plain sense makes common sense, any other sense is nonsense.
Jesus had a special affection for John. Perhaps it was because of his youth. Perhaps John showed his own deep love for Jesus–brotherly love, self-sacrificing love–in a way that touched Jesus’ heart. We don’t know. We do know that every word of scripture is inspired of God, not to be disputed and distorted to make it more understandable in our own limited minds.
It is nonsensical to try to make more out of this relationship than there is recorded in God’s Word.
One more verse, and we’ll be finished with the Gospel of John.