John wrote his Gospel later than the others, when the church was being fiercely persecuted. We know from the epistles (for example 2 Thessalonians) that believers expected the second coming of Jesus to be at hand. Their faith centred on Jesus, and they saw the time they were in as a brief waiting period. John’s Gospel is encouraging them to see things differently, answering their question, “Where is Jesus now? He rose from the dead – so where is he?”
Luke answers the question in one way, in telling us about the day of Pentecost, and the passing-on of the Holy Spirit. John answers in a different way, showing us that Christ is still present with us, but now to be found in the gathered people of God – the body of Christ. A clue to this theme is in the opening words Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel. “Where are you staying?” the two disciples ask him, and he answers, “Come and see” (John 1:37–39).
Notice how, in the story of Doubting Thomas, John shows us the believers in a rhythm of weekly meetings (compare Acts 2:42–47). When Thomas didn’t attend, he missed the risen Jesus. It was as he joined with the body of believers that he found the risen Christ.
Jesus’ teaching about the vine in John 15, and his prayer in John 17, when put together with John’s emphasis on Christ’s divinity, give us a picture of organic wholeness – the body of believers united with each other, in Christ, in God. It is in this unity that Christ’s presence is revealed.
How do you personally experience the presence of Jesus in the gathering of the people of God? In the preaching? In the Eucharist? In the songs of worship? In direct ministry – of healing, for example?
“Remain/abide in me,” Jesus said. What do you think we have to do to remain in him?
Do you think that ideally we should not have separate denominations but all belong to one group – or are they just different branches of one family?
God of love, indivisibly one, Father of mercy, blessed saviour, Holy Spirit, we give you thanks that you have called us into union with you and communion with one another – all believers in every time and place. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, and bring us at the last into the fullness of your eternal presence. In Jesus’ holy name we pray; Amen.