I hope you enjoyed our journey through the New Testament. I know I did. Very soon, we’re going to take a similar one through the Old Testament, but I wanted to take a break from our hectic race through the Bible and zoom in just a little on some topics from John’s Gospel. Full disclosure here: on some level, John was chosen at random. I wanted to focus on Jesus, so one of the 4 Gospels was a given. It could have been any of them, but I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel. My reasons are quite subjective and personal, but, hey, it’s my radio show.
Keep in mind, the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus. He is there in Genesis 1, the first promise of His incarnation in in Genesis 3. He is there in Revelation 22, when John pleads for His return. I like to say the Old Testament is Waiting for Jesus, The Gospels are Memories of Jesus, Acts is Following Jesus and Carrying Jesus, The letters are Living for Jesus, and Revelation is Victory in Jesus.
But for the next 4 weeks (at least), we’re going to dip our toes in the water of the Gospel of John. We’re going to go a bit deeper than during our fly over with our survey, but we’re not going deep enough that anyone is at risk of drowning.
This week, in this first lesson, we’re going to look at WHY John wrote his Gospel. And to do that, we have to start at the end. Just like Luke did in Chapter 1 of his memoir of Jesus, John explains he motives, but instead of being right up front, John waits until almost the very end of his Gospel, in Chapter 20
Joh 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
Joh 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
1 This passage begins, Now Jesus – I’ve already said that Jesus is the focus, the center, and at some level, the subject of the entire Bible. You will hear me repeat that over and over again as we survey the Old Testament beginning in just a few weeks. There have been many great teachers, outstanding philosophers, mighty prophets, excellent leaders and wise counselors down through the ages, but there has never been the like of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is unequivocal in it’s declarations about Him. The Apostles proclaimed, There is no other name under Heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. Paul
Php 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
Php 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Php 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I began (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 2 with these lines from the poem ‘One Solitary Live’, All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever set sale, All rulers that have ever ruled, and all the kings that have ever reigned on this earth, all put together, have not affected the life of man on earth, like this one, solitary live.
It’s true, there’s just something about that name. As we’ve established over and over in our weekly time together, while it makes no logical sense, it is possible to reject Jesus. It is also possible, and I would argue, reasonable, logical, and desirable to accept and follow Him. But it is not possible to remain intellectually and historically honest, and ignore Him. Sooner or later, we all have to deal with Him.
John continues his thought: Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
What are these other signs? He may be referring to miracles recorded in the other Gospels, or perhaps miracles we know nothing about. After all, John finishes his Gospel with these words, Joh 21:25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Please remember, the Gospels are not exhaustive biographies of the Life and Ministry of Jesus, but collections of memories of Jesus words and deeds. So there were undoubtedly many remarkable things we don’t know.
In this case, however, the context of John’s statement about many other signs, appears to be in context of post resurrection appearances and interactions. It is very similar to Luke’s beginning to Acts of the Apostles where he says, Act 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
We’ve said many times before, that the entire key to understanding Jesus specifically, and Christianity in General, is the resurrection. Jesus spent 40 days between His resurrection and ascension into heaven interaction with people. The Gospel and Acts accounts are limited to time He spent with the Apostles and a select few others including a group of women. 1 Corinthians 15, however, adds an appearance to James, and an occasion where He appeared to more than 500 people at one time.
The evidence is overwhelming that He was raised.
And John is clear that the purpose for Jesus’ resurrection and subsequences is to establish His identity first of all the Christ, the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the Son of God. This is borne out in the Gospel Sermons of Acts. Each sermon to a Jewish audience is built around the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. And each message to Gentiles it to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God and ultimate Judge of the human race.
He is not one of many, or one of a select few, He is the One.
John is quite specific in stating his purpose was to incite faith. He wants readers to Believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Many contrast faith as something in the heart, rather than merely intellectual acknowledgment. But that’s only part of the story. If we had the time to dig really deep into the scripture we’d see that faith implies much more than a belief that is both heartfelt and intellectually satisfying, it leads to change in behavior and allegiance. The Bible most frequently calls that repentance.
Interestingly, in Acts chapter 3, Peter commands the people to repent and believe, which is the inverse of how we usually talk. We normally ask people to believe and repent, but the conversion experience, at least our role in it, is so intimately interconnected, that we silly to talk about things like sequence. Again, in Acts, Faith, Repentance, Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are seen in every conceivable order. I perceive that’s not an accident. God would never want us to see conversion reduced to a formula. Salvation is His doing and His alone. Conversion, is our response to what He has done.
There are many places in the New Testament, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter, where the entire human response to Jesus is summarized by just one of those words, sometimes it is faith, sometimes, baptism, sometimes repentance, and once, confession. In each case, our complete response is assumed. The Bible knows nothing of unbaptized Believers. That’s a modern invention. At the same time, it knows nothing of unrepentant ones, or of unbelieving baptisms or faith that doesn’t produce repentance. Instinctively, we know that’s true, but we want to categorize our response or prioritize or create and order of response. But in our hearts, we know the ultimate truth of the old song, ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. ‘
John finishes his thought with, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is another passage that liberal and fundamental tribes of Christians have each claimed half rather than the whole.
For most of my life, liberals have emphasized how the life and teaching of Jesus will help us improve our lives here on this green ball we call earth. Those with a conservative bent, have emphasized eternal life and forgiveness of sin.
I am utterly convinced when we do that, we parse a word that was never intended to be parsed. He meant both. Watch as we look at John’s Gospel, we are going to discover a Jesus who comes to give eternal life, and life to the full, here. Jesus, the Christ, the son of God, is Lord over all, both time AND eternity.
The Bible tells me so.
Next week, we’re going to go back to Chapter 1, where John blows up the arguments of those who claim Jesus was never Human as well as those who claim He is ONLY human. Please, don’t miss it. Do send your thoughts and question to me by email or via the comments feature on the website with the show notes.
Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.