20 Having turned round Peter saw following them the disciple Jesus loved, the one who had reclined on His chest during supper, and who said: “Lord who is the one betraying You?”
21 Then Peter, seeing him, said (says) to Jesus: “Lord, but what about him?”
22 Jesus said (says) to him: “If I want him to remain here until I come, what is that to you? You must follow Me.”
23 Then this report spread among the brothers that that disciples would not die, but Jesus did not say that he would not die, but: “if I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”
We need to remember that it is John who is writing this account, and that he is referring to himself in these verses. It would seem that he has inserted these few verses in order to correct a rumour that had spread among the brothers.
John gives us the details of the circumstances and the context. A rumour had spread that John would remain alive to be a part of the return of Jesus. This rumour had sprung out of the conversation that Jesus had with Peter, and His saying:
“If I want him to remain here until I come, what is that to you?
This is not the same as saying that John would definitely remain alive until the return of Jesus.
We all know that it is quite easy to misrepresent what somebody else has said; we are quite capable of saying that someone has definitely said something, when they have only suggested something.
It would seem as though this is what happened amongst the disciples, causing this rumour about John to get spread around.
This rumour may have got stronger as the years passed by and John got older and older. We can imagine that with his increasing age there may well have been an increasing anticipation of the return of Jesus.
John must have been aware of this increasing speculation, therefore, he includes at the end of his gospel a statement to deny the false rumours about his staying alive until the return of Jesus.
I guess that every generation has those who are convinced that the return of Jesus is imminent, and it may well be. However, some of this speculation will be based on the Scriptures and the reading of the signs given to us by Jesus in the gospels. Yet, at the same time some of the speculation about the return of Jesus is nothing more that wishful thinking.
In truth we all must know the scriptures so that we are not deceived, and keep looking and living as though the last days are upon us.