Rumor Mill


Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:23)

We humans have to know everything. We’re so snoopy that when we don’t know something we make it up. In science this is called a theory. In politics it’s known as a campaign. In education it’s referred to as a dissertation. In economics it’s dubbed a bailout. In religion it’s called a sermon. Lack of knowledge has never stopped us from assuming expertise and charging for it. (This site is altruistic only because I haven’t figured out how to make money off it yet.) We build empires upon ignorance; in fact, some of our very coolest stuff is based on it: Chia Pets, for instance.

But apparently Jesus thinks that there are things that are simply none of our business, or at least beside the point. On this specific occasion, he tells Peter to follow him (it’s not clear where Jesus is going; maybe to the 7-11 for some fish sticks). Peter sees John tagging along behind. Now, John was a bit of a suck up; he always referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved as if Jesus only liked the other guys. So it’s understandable that Peter would be a bit territorial about his mono e mono with da man. So Peter asks Jesus what the deal with John is and Jesus tells Peter that it’s none of his freaking business. Bonk.

And that’s when the rumor mill cranks up to capacity. If Jesus won’t come clean then the boys will have to scrub out the details themselves. The jump from “If I want him to stay until I get back, what’s that to you?” to “That brown-noser will never croak” is a big one, but the small corp of rumor engineers builds a tinker toy bridge between fact and doctrine faster than you can say Biblical exegesis.

I know how easy it is. I went to a conference once. It featured a posse of “prophetic” types and I was anxious to have my tea leaves read. The first night they invited all the “pastoral” types to the front to be prayed for. I rushed the stage with great anticipation. These dudes were A-list spiritual titans and I wanted the power to fall on me, baby. I maneuvered myself into the front row of a large crowd of like-minded groupies. As the big guns moved down the row, person after person collapsed to the carpet in a spiritual ecstasy. I was pumped; this is what I came for and the Holy Ghost tsunami was heading my way.

Bam, bam, bam they fell, every one. Then the prophet guy got to me. I closed my eyes in anticipation. There was silence. I waited. More silence. Then I cracked open my eyes just a tiny bit and saw the prophet guy, his arms crossed, squinting at me. I quickly closed my eyes again, not wanting to break the spell. Then he mumbled, “Just bless him Lord,” and moved to the next person. Bam, bam, bam, they went down on my other side. I opened my eyes now. I was the only one left standing in a long line of prostrate pilgrims.

I couldn’t believe it. This sucked totally. I sheepishly slunk to the side and told God in no uncertain terms that I was royally miffed. I told him that if he didn’t explain himself, if he didn’t explain why I was so pointedly left out of the swoon fest, if he didn’t tell me what the hell was going on I was going to write the script myself and make myself look positively canonized. Well, it turned out to be a divine joke. Seriously. And it was a pretty good one too—once he clued me in. (The punch line was Psalm 91:7.) I’m glad he did. His account was probably funnier than mine. Well, maybe.

So go ahead and fill in the blanks. There are a lot of them out there. Be creative. You’ll mostly likely be wrong, but that doesn’t mean you can’t believe it with all your heart.


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