One important rule of studying scripture is this: When the author steps into the narrative (makes an editorial comment), pay close attention because it is important. This is the case in today’s text from John’s Gospel account.
Jesus had risen from the dead and was making his resurrection appearances in this chapter, John 20. At the end of the chapter, John steps into his own Gospel. He tells his readers that even more evidence of Jesus’ resurrection exists.
John wrote this material so we may believe, first of all, that Jesus is the Messiah of whom Israel had been waiting. Old Testament prophesies spoke of an anointed king to come from the line of David who would save his people and restore them. John is telling the Jewish people in his audience that Jesus is that King, the Son of God in the flesh, despite what skeptics of the faith would have them believe.
¥ “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . The Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth” (1:1, 14).
¥ “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).
¥ “No one has ever seen God (the Father), but God (the Son) the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (1:18).
John told how Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God who would die on the cross to take away our sins and bridge the gap between God and sinful people like you and me. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.
Then John says that God would raise Jesus from the grave to purchase a place for you and for me. By believing in this, then, we may have life in his name. This “life” is a life to the full, an abundant life.
I read an article about Al Kaline, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers baseball team and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was at a dinner being held in his honor with 2,500 people in attendance. After he was introduced with a long litany of his achievements in baseball, Al came to the podium to a standing ovation. During his remarks, Al Kaline said, “There must be something more to life than chasing a lot of fly balls, getting a lot of base hits, and making more money than you can spend.”
Jesus would say to the likes of Al Kaline, Amen! There is more to life, and I’ve come to give it to you! I’ve come to give you meaning and purpose, wisdom and a joy-filled adventure as you follow me.
This abundant life we receive from Jesus includes a wonderful inheritance called eternal life.
¥ “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (3:16).
Jesus described life with him as our Shepherd.
¥ “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (10:27, 28). We belong to Jesus for eternity.
John’s words Ð “. . . you may have life in his name” Ð are the Bible’s way of saying, in his person. When you are in Jesus Christ, you have an abundant life, which God intended for you and has always wanted for you.
A key word in these passages is, believe. John wants us to believe in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is not merely an intellectual acceptance of a doctrine, it means to enter into a trusting, intimate, personal relationship with the Savior. It involves the whole person Ð mind, body, and emotions Ð everything involved in having a personal relationship with someone. To believe is to actually act, to do something,
The story is told of a man who planned to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls while pushing a wheelbarrel in front of him. As the crowd gathered on the day for the risky endeavor, the wind blew strongly and whipped the rope back and forth. The crowd began discouraging him: “Don’t try it! You’ll never make it!”
But one man jumped from the crowd, and said to the tight rope walker, “Go ahead; Make the walk. You can do it. I believe in you.”
To this encouragement, the tightrope walker replied with an invitation. “If you believe in me so strongly, you get in the wheelbarrel and come with me.”
This is what it means to believe in Jesus. We get into the wheelbarrel and entrust our whole being to his care and his guidance. This is not a detached, intellectual confidence, but a personal involvement with him as we follow him and trust him.
John does not use the noun faith or belief in his Gospel, but instead he always uses the verb believe, implying it is an active matter, something one does. Get in the wheelbarrel. I wrote so you may get in the wheelbarrel with Jesus. John wrote his Gospel so we might develop a personal allegiance to Jesus and develop a willingness to stand up for him, no matter what the circumstances.
John also wrote his Gospel so we might give credence to Jesus’ teachings and put them to work in our lives, so we can wholeheartedly believe Jesus really does know what makes life work best.
I am reminded of the story about a young man whose car had broken down on the side of the road. He was trying to get it started again, when, finally, he threw down his tools in disgust and said, “That dumb Ford. I’ve had it! I’ll never buy another one.”
A car soon came driving by, stopped, and a well-dressed gentleman walked up to him and asked what was the trouble. The kid replied, “This stupid old piece of junk stopped, and I can’t seem to get it started again.”
The man asked to look at it, then he took off his coat and began to tinker with the engine. A few moments later, he asked the young man to get in and try it again. Sure enough, as soon as the kid turned the key over, the car began to run nicely. The young man was so excited and surprised, he asked, “How did you do that?”
The man who fixed it said, “Son, my name is Henry Ford, and I invented that Ôstupid piece of junk’ you referred to as this car. I ought to know what makes it work.”
This is exactly what it is to live with Jesus. We discover that he invented us and he knows what makes life work! When we take the time to do what he says, we discover that he really does have the answers we need to live an abundant life. Then our lives give credence to his words.
Are you standing on the outside looking in at Jesus? Do you need to meet him? Do you need evidence before you consider him part of your life? John’s words in his Gospel are written to people like you and me.
Have you taken the step of faith to follow Jesus? Heaven knows our faith needs to be strengthened and renewed over and over again. Life has a way of bringing creeping doubts into our minds, just as it did in John’s congregation when they faced hard times. We face hardships of our own Ð worries and fears regarding health, finances, and relationships. John wrote this so we could be nurtured by these stories, come to believe them again and again, and receive the life that comes in Christ.
I thank God for this power-filled Gospel we have in our hands. John has written it for us, and we need to constantly put ourselves into it. We need to pray over it, read it reflectively, study it, ask questions of it, and review who Jesus is, what he did in this Gospel account, and what he promises to do in our lives.
When we do those things, we will be filled with peace, and our souls will be satisfied. We will be enabled to say, again and again, on this path with Jesus, “Lord, I believe in you.”