CCE Corner – Lessons from St. John

June 6th, 2024

I begin this CCE Corner with a shameless plug for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). * Participation in this group has blessed my family for more than two decades. This year, we’ve been studying the Gospel of John. When I re-read the final chapter this morning, I thought about Trinitas. Our school was founded in 2006 “to partner with Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox families to guide students toward the wonder, knowledge, and love of God and his world, cultivating lives of faith, reason, and virtue.” What can we learn from John about how to do this?  

Before reading the rest of this post, I encourage you to read or listen to John’s prologue (John 1:1-18) and his final chapter (John 21). 


John 1 begins with the well-known words, “In the beginning was the Word.” Stop there. Read those words again. “In the beginning was the Word.” Return in your mind to Genesis 1: “In the beginning…” Stop again. Think about the revelation John is making. Familiarity with the story can make us miss the wonder of it all. Imagine you’re reading the account for the first time. After more than 1500 pages, the identity of the creator of the universe is fully revealed. The identity of Jesus is fully revealed. They’re one and the same! The same man whose feet got dirty walking around the Middle East was there, all the way back in the beginning, with the Father and the Spirit in the formless, empty, dark void. Sit for a minute, even just fifteen seconds, in quiet and imagine that instant when, with a word, with the Word, everything seen and unseen springs into existence. I love C.S. Lewis’s image in The Magician’s Nephew of that word being sung. Imagine the universe being sung into existence by Jesus and wonder at it all.  

Know that our teachers strive to increase that sense of wonder in your child. An obvious goal of education is to make strange things familiar—to introduce and explain and experiment so that what was previously not understood is grasped. But an equally important goal should be to make familiar things strange. A classical education is particularly good at this. By studying world history, salvation history, classic works of literature, and classical languages, students are better equipped to see that “how things are right now for me and people like me” are not how they always have been or always need to be. In other words, a classical education expands narrow worlds. It cultivates wonder.  

Knowledge and Love 

John goes on to tell us that, though the Word was in the world and the world was made through him, the world did not recognize or receive him (John 1:10-11). Trinitas exists to partner with you “to guide students toward the knowledge and love of God,” that is, to guide students to recognize and receive him. In the final chapter of John’s gospel, a group of disciples has gone out to fish. They aren’t catching anything. Jesus appears to them, but they do not recognize him—so typical of the disciples. So typical of us. How often does Jesus reveal himself and we miss it? In this case, most of the disciples still fail to recognize Jesus even in the context of the sudden miraculous abundance of fish. It takes one of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, to point out what should have been obvious— “It is the Lord!” One of the beautiful things about the Trinitas community is the way in which we can be this disciple for each other. We all, not just our students, are learning how to see and to say, “It is the Lord!” 

The different reactions of the disciples make me smile. In this situation, it is philosophical, theological John who identifies the Lord. Passionate, impulsive Peter jumps into the water. The other faithful disciples are left to do the work of rowing the boat and towing the heavy net to shore. The scene is a good reminder that while our goal is for all to receive Jesus, how we receive him and how we live that out will look different for each of us. As an ecumenical community, we should already have a heightened awareness of and appreciation for the beautiful diversity of responses to God. This diversity includes not only our worship but also our vocations. As a classical school, we may need to correct any misconceptions that we are preparing all our students for PhD’s in classics. A classical education prepares our students well for any work, and it brings us joy to see how different personalities and passions lead our students to become teachers, nurses, lawyers, engineers, farmers, builders, missionaries, musicians, homemakers, volunteers, or to faithfully follow Jesus in any other way.  

After the fish are caught, Peter is reinstated. Jesus elicits three confessions of love (mercifully redeeming the three betrayals) and gives three commands to feed and care for his flock. Peter is then told of his future martyrdom. The entire conversation culminates in the simple (though not easy) command to “Follow me!” After noticing John, Peter asks “Lord, what about him?” To which Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” In other words, don’t compare yourself or your situation, just take the next step on the path I have for you. 

Faith, Reason, and Virtue 

While our paths will vary, the larger journey toward lives of faith, reason, and virtue is shared. It’s a journey that may include miraculous events and occasionally require heroic efforts, but more often it involves mundane moments and requires simple, faithful acts. The miracle of the fish is rightfully a focus of the final chapter of John. The part of the account that may go unnoticed is Jesus’s tender words, “Come and have breakfast.” When I read about this meal on the beach, I was reminded of people I know who are suffering (so many people)—I can’t produce fish where there is nothing. I can’t turn dark empty nights into mornings with nets nearly bursting for the people I love. Only Jesus can do that. I know he can. And I can pray for that. But I can also feed them. I can feed them with food. I can feed them with words. I can feed them by listening. I can feed them by showing up to help or to just be together.  

I am concerned by the message universities and other parts of culture are giving students: “You can change the world!” It seems like an impossible anxiety-inducing task associated with large impassable systems. It seems to demean much of what most of us do every day. Perhaps a better message is “Be faithful.” John’s gospel ends with these words: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” His gospel began by showing that the whole world would not have room for the God who created it, except that God made himself small, so small that he fit in a womb. Trinitas exists to help us all wonder at that and respond faithfully to Jesus’s “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”  

*BSF began in California in 1959 with a small group of women led by a former missionary to China. God took this small, faithful act and has grown the group to over 400,000 members spread across six continents and more than 120 countries.