That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.1 John 1:1-4
As I approach my forties, I’ve begun to realise that friendships come, and friendships go. For much of my life I have tried to cling to every friendship I have made but I have come to realise that this is not possible, even in the days of social media like Facebook. There are only so many friendships a person can keep up, and losing touch with friends is part of normal life. Despite this, one group of friendships has remained constant in my life; the friends I spent my school days with remain my closest friends to this day, even twenty years after leaving school. I suppose that one of the reason that these friendships in particular have endured is because of what we have in common; we’re all similar ages, with a similar outlook on life, and with shared interests. Perhaps most importantly, though, we have a shared history that holds us together. That might be why so much of our time when we meet up, much to the consternation of our significant others, is spent reminiscing about things we got up to at school.
At the beginning of his first letter, John, the writer of this letter, and also the Gospel that bears his name, speaks of a relationship that will endure, a relationship that he has and that he hopes others will find for themselves. He begins by stressing his desire that his readers “may also have fellowship” with him. He wants all those who read his letter to be united in friendship with him. Indeed, he says that this would make his “joy complete.” As he approaches the end of his life, he desires nothing more than for all of his readers to join together with him in fellowship.
The friendship that John refers though is more than simply an earthly relationship. He says this his fellowship is “with the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ,” and those who enter into the fellowship that John writes about will also enter into this eternal fellowship. John doesn’t just want us to be united with him, he wants to show us how it is possible for us to be united with Jesus Christ, God himself. The bond that John envisages will endure because it is built around shared interests, namely a belief in God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ. More importantly, though, this fellowship will endure because it is not simply a bond during this lifetime, but an eternal bond. Fellowship with Jesus is not something that starts and ends with our birth and death. John affirms, as he did famously at the beginning of his Gospel, that Jesus has existed “from the beginning,” before the creation of the universe, the earth, and of humanity. Similarly, this fellowship has no end point, since it brings eternal life.
How can John be so sure about this? He sets out his case here. He says that he has seen Jesus with his own, eyes, he has touched him. As one of Jesus’ closest disciples, one of the fishermen whom Jesus called right at the start of his ministry, he was privileged enough to spend a great deal of time with Jesus. He saw him, and he heard him. He marvelled at Jesus’ miracles, he listened to Jesus incredible teachings. He saw him die on the cross, and he saw him raised to life. At the same time he understands the eternal nature of Jesus and that when he touched his hands, he was touching the hands that quite literally created the earth, which gave life to all people, and now want to restore the life originally envisaged to all those who enter into his fellowship. It’s not surprising that John feels such excitement regarding his fellowship with Jesus, and not surprising that he wants to share his experiences with us now in the hope that we too will come to know Jesus, and desire to enter into his fellowship.
John was a witness to Christ’s ministry, and he testifies the truth of all that he saw to us. He wants us to share in his joy. Do we accept all that John tells us? Do we believe that he speaks the truth? Will we join him in fellowship with Jesus? Will we make John’s joy complete by joining in an eternal fellowship with God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ?