Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20.30-31)
Harry Potter ran to seven books but J K Rowling had already been outdone by Enid Blyton who managed twenty-one Famous Five novels. I’m sure there is always more that a novelist can write and we have seen some intriguing sequels written in modern times to classics by those who thought they could complete an unfinished task – Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, even Winnie the Pooh have all been given the sequel treatment. Because we want to know what else happened. On many occasions I’ve closed a book and wished it could have gone on – ‘but what happened next?’ I’ve asked myself.
St John intrigues us by telling us that so many things happened ‘which are not written in this book’. And we want to know – what things? Tell us more. John concludes his gospel in this way
‘There are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’ (John 21.25)
Even more hints of how much could be said. Of course there is more in the post-resurrection accounts in the gospels than I have mentioned in this ‘on-line’ retreat. I thought I should end somewhere but the temptation is to mention more and more. The wonderful encounter by the Sea of Galilee, the third appearance of Jesus after the resurrection, (John 21.9-14) and what is known as ‘Peter’s Primacy’ which follows immediately on (John21.15-24) are a case in point. Luke mentions an appearance in the Upper Room following the arrival back of the travellers to Emmaus (Luke 24.36-49) and ends with the Ascension (Luke 24.50-53).
St Mark’s Gospel ends in a rather peculiar way. In Bibles you will find that the Gospel ends at Mark 16.8 with the disciples fleeing the tomb ‘for they were afraid’. Then you may find two other endings – the shorter and the longer. It would seem that the original ending was too abrupt for the early church and so people, helpfully and I’m sure, inspired by God, added the various endings. This is not to deny that they are part of the Canon of Scripture but it is interesting in that we want more.
Matthew’s Gospel includes just one appearance, an attempt to further discredit the Jewish authorities (Matthew 28.11-15) and then an account of the Ascension.
Of course, in the early church there were a great many attempts to get more books in the series and to write some sequels. The Gnostic Gospels, as they are called, are a series of 51 documents written from the 2nd to the 4th centuries and disputed by the church, so not included in the final Canon of Scripture which was settled and agreed probably around 393.
What John is clear about though is that what is written is there to lead us into faith, into belief in Jesus, Messiah, Son of God and that this belief will lead us into life, eternal life. The truth is that the story of Jesus is still being written in your life and mine, on the pages of your life and mine. The story is never complete, the Risen Lord is always present, and as the Lord says in the Book of Deuteronomy
‘You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul.’ (Deuteronomy 11.18)
write your Good News in my life
that I may be a living Gospel
as you are my Living Lord
and that your story may be told
in the lives of all your people.