I have been spending a lot of time in John’s Gospel recently. It’s a wonderful book to come back to from time to time. It reminds me a bit of snorkelling – crystal clear shallows revealing the life of Christ in bright detail; and yet all the while knowing that there are mysterious depths of profound beauty to be plunged into on every page. John was led to be very selective about what he included in his account. He chose to build his Gospel around seven signs that validate the fact that Jesus was who He claimed to be – the Son of the Father. In John’s mind this sevenfold demonstration of God at work in Christ, coupled with seven main conversations or sermons, was more than enough to convince his readers of the truth in which they should believe:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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 (John 20:30-31, ESV).
For this reason it’s often a good idea to introduce people to Jesus by inviting them to read John’s Gospel. But be ready to answer some great questions if you do: “Wasn’t Jesus a bit rude to His mother at the wedding in Cana?” or “He cleared the temple with a whip?! Whatever happened to gentle Jesus meek and mild?”
The Jesus we meet through John’s eyes can certainly be a puzzle sometimes. He teases Nicodemus for being a bit slow on the uptake concerning the Spirit of God; He talks in half-riddles to a Samaritan woman with a tragic history, and then has more riddles for His disciples when they come to find Him at the well. He purposefully commands a man to carry his bed on a Sabbath, knowing full well it will get the man in trouble and bring on a quarrel with the Pharisees; He challenges a curious crowd to eat His flesh and drink His blood – this one even baffled his closest disciples! Jesus firmly resists his family’s urging to go to the Feast of Tabernacles, and then goes anyway. He loves Lazarus and his sisters, but lingers for two long days before attending to his dying friend.
What an enigma is presented to us in John’s portrait of the Christ! But isn’t that what makes Him so intriguing? Like a best friend who never ceases to surprise us, Jesus is at once approachable and trustworthy, but never so predictable as to become commonplace or mundane. I am sure this is exactly how John knew Him. A royal official travelled a day’s walk and approached Jesus to plead for his son’s life. Although Jesus offered the crowd a rebuke about the shallow nature of a faith that demands signs and wonders, nevertheless He delivered the man’s son with a miracle that no-one could see, a behind-the-scenes. There were no witnesses to connect Jesus to the boy’s recovery, only the divine coincidence that he started to get better at the moment Jesus said the words from more than fifteen miles away. The official had to walk home in faith, not seeing the proof until he returned home the next day. In this small episode alone, Jesus showed Himself to be both approachable and trustworthy. His rebuke didn’t send the man running away in shame, it brought him in closer. And the word of Jesus was enough, He said it was so, and it was so – even though there was nothing to see at the time. What a friend we have in Jesus; an approachable, trustworthy friend who never ceases to surprise us, never.
Copyright © 2014 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.