Category Archives: John

John 21: Choosing Details

For our final day in the gospel of John, I want to focus on the final two verses of chapter 21.

Joh 21:24  This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

Joh 21:25  And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

I think this is a very important point to remember that John did not write down everything that Jesus did. To be fair, what biographer does? It seems to me that it is important to remember that as the author, John made the editorial decisions of what to include under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe that John ever mentioned what Jesus had for breakfast on any day, but it seems reasonable that Jesus would have done that from time to time. I know that is kind of a funny example, but this is important to remember when we evaluate the Gospels. Just because John does not mention it does not mean that it never happened. He made choices about what facts were simply not very important.

Each author would have had a slightly different perspective on the events. They might have chosen to emphasize different events for different reasons. Certain details might have seemed particularly important to John, but they might not have seemed as important to the other writers.

That is okay. In fact, if all four Gospels were 100% identical, we would think that they were copies of each other. The fact that there are different emphases supports the fact that there were different writers. Naturally, four different people might have slightly different understandings of what happened, and that is what we get when we look at the Gospels. Some people will complain about contradictions, but these contradictions are generally speaking not theologically significant and often times easily reconcilable by looking at context.

As John said, there was no way to write everything Jesus ever did or said, but there is a reason why John chose to write what he did when he was divinely inspired.

John 20: Reasonable Doubt?

Thomas must have been disappointed in John 20. Jesus had just appeared to the rest of the disciples, but Thomas was not there. Thomas would not believe that they had seen Jesus himself he was able to experience it himself. Once Jesus did appear to him, he was told something that very well might have hurt quite a bit.

Joh 20:29  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Jesus had told them ahead of time that He was going to rise again. Thomas would have known that. Thomas would have also seen that Jesus had the power to raise the dead. He would have been around when Jesus raised Lazarus. He had both of the pieces necessary. He would have known that Jesus said he was going to come from the dead, and he would know that God the father had the power to do that.

However, he was still trapped in doubt.

I am not saying that doubt is not a natural. Most people have doubts of some nature at some point. Very few people are blessed with entirely unshakable faith that never wavers. However, in this case it seems that Thomas might have gone beyond reasonability. He had good reason to believe Jesus after living with Him for three years. Even though it seems crazy to believe that someone rose from the dead, when all of the available evidence seems reasonable and points in that direction, then it seems to me that that is where the conclusion needs to go.

I think we all have Thomas in our own minds, but reasonability is a good counterbalance for that. Given all of the available evidence, what is the most reasonable explanation about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I encourage you to read The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

John 19: Understanding Culture

It is interesting to look at the political atmosphere that surrounded the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as we see in John 19. As Jesus was being crucified, He had a sign placed over His head.

Joh 19:19  And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Joh 19:20  This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Joh 19:21  Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

Joh 19:22  Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

The Jewish priests did not want to identify with Jesus. They did not want people to read the sign and think that Jesus really was very their chosen King. I don’t know if that was because perhaps they were afraid of Roman retribution since earlier in the passage they affirmed that they had no king but Caesar. Maybe they were afraid it might be seen as a rebellion. I don’t know if the motivation was really just because obviously they had Jesus crucified for blasphemy, so they would not want a man they clearly did not approve of labeled a King.

Obviously, it is hard to psychologically analyze what was going on in the minds of these Jewish priests who did not want Jesus to be identified as the King of the Jews, but there was clearly some discomfort about what was happening here related to the culture of the time.

That is something we need to remember while reading the Bible. The Bible is not a record of everything that happened at every single point in history. There were thousands of other people in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. We don’t know what was going on with them. The Bible does tell us parts of history and it tells us what is really important, but it is also valuable as we look at history to see what we know about the culture at the time. Understanding the culture of the time can perhaps think about questions like this one. Why were the Jewish people so uncomfortable with the sign?

Again, the Bible contains all we need to know for salvation. I believe that entirely. However, I think that we can develop a more accurate understanding of certain parts of the Bible if we understand the audience the original books were written for.

John 18: What Is Truth?

In John 19, Jesus is brought for trial, and at the end of the chapter He is brought before Pontius Pilate as the acting Roman governor at the time. Jesus engages Him on the issue of truth.

Joh 18:37  Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Joh 18:38  Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Jesus spoke about truth as an actual entity. It was not some type of hypothetical. Jesus was there to bear witness to the one and only truth. Pilate then responds by asking what truth actually is. I think we find that same type of dilemma in the world today. Many people feel like truth is something undefined. They talk about it as something that is kind of wishy-washy or ambiguous. It is almost like some kind of giant gray area.

It does not seem like Jesus handled truth in this way. When He is talking about truth, He did not negotiate. He talks about truth is something that is actual. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth. That is a distinctly different message.

I think that is something we need to keep in mind. There is a difference between a world where truth is negotiable and where truth is actual. There is a difference between subjective and objective. One is where the world seems to move towards, and the other is what it seems Jesus was referring to. As a result, we need to figure out where we are.

John 17: Distinct yet Unified

In John 17, we read about Jesus praying before His imminent crucifixion. He spends most of the chapter praying for His followers, and He prayed for their unity.

Joh 17:11  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

I think it is particularly interesting that Jesus prays for His followers to be one as He and the Father are one. On one hand, they are distinct. At the same time, they are one. It is the mystery of the Trinity, but that is what Jesus is praying for His followers on earth.

What does that mean for us?

I think this means that we are distinct as Christians. There are different characteristics among different groups of Christians. There are no two churches that are the same even within denominations. That is where the distinct features seems to come out for me.

However, we’re still one body of Christian believers. Just because someone doesn’t go to “my” church doesn’t mean they are not part of the one universal family of believers.

I know that some people can get hung up on this one. However, it seems to me that there are certain things about Christianity that are nonnegotiable. Being a Christian requires a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an example. There is no way to avoid that for someone who is a member of the family of Jesus Christ. However, is it necessary to either allow music in a service or not allow music? There are some churches that don’t allow music, and there are some that allow music. It doesn’t seem to be one of those doctrines that is necessary for a Christian to rather affirm or deny. However, it gets back to that point of being distinct.

People will dispute over what exact things are negotiable and what things are essential, but this verse out to me as an illustration of how we relate to each other as fellow Christians.

John 16: Running Away

I think it is easy for us to be confident like the disciples in John 16. Because Jesus was explaining parts of the future to them, they were convinced that He was the Messiah. However, Jesus challenges them.

Joh 16:31  Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?

Joh 16:32  Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Joh 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jesus knew what would happen when He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that His disciples were going to run away in fear. It was easy for them to be confident while Jesus was sitting right there with them, and none of them were really under persecution. Sure, people did not necessarily agree with everything Jesus was teaching, but there were no Christian martyrs yet. Christians were a strange minority religion in Israel following a Rabbi who was different than any other.

I bring this up because Jesus asked them if they really believed. He seemed to imply that perhaps they do not believe as strongly as they thought they did because they were going to run away in the future. I guess that is the ultimate test of belief. Is it something you are willing to die for?

The disciples did run away in the garden, but it is worth mentioning that history teaches that all of them died as martyrs. They discovered the cost of discipleship.

This is definitely one of those stories that make you think as a Christian in America. It is a lot different to be a Christian around the world where your life could very well be in danger for the following Jesus Christ.

John 15: Depending on Jesus

In John 15, Jesus provides the imagery of Himself being the vine and the rest of us as the branches.

Joh 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Joh 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

I don’t know how comforting this is. I think that we have this internal desire to want to go it on our own. We want to be independent, and we want to be self-sufficient, but here is Jesus Christ telling us that we cannot do anything outside of Him. In context, we are talking about a bearing fruit as a follower of Christ, so we certainly can do evil without Christ, but if we want to see these positive fruits coming out of our lives and in to places in the lives of people around us, then Jesus is telling us that it needs to come from Him.

I sometimes think that we want Christianity on our own terms. We want to do what we want to do; we want to see fruit when we want to see fruit. We need to abide in Christ. Like a branch draws life from the vine, we need to draw our life from Jesus Christ. We cannot draw that life from ourselves; it needs to come from someone beyond us.

I still like the idea of independence. I still like the idea of wanting to the master of my own fate at times, but that is not what we are called to do. We depend on Christ for everything, and without Him, we can really do nothing.

John 14: Is Jesus the Only Way?

We live in a world of tolerance, and it seems to me that people are becoming less and less comfortable with affirming that certain views might be wrong. For Christians, this unpopular view comes with the territory. If Christianity is right, then if we take John 14 seriously, then other worldviews are wrong.

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

There are two possibilities here. Jesus is right, or Jesus is wrong. If Jesus is wrong, then Christianity is wrong. After all, it would be hard to sustain the belief that Jesus Christ is the perfect son of God if he was indeed not perfect. Therefore, in that perspective, Christianity would be wrong.

If Jesus is right, then a lot of other worldviews are bound to be wrong here. Jesus did not say He was one possible way. He explicitly says that no one is getting to God without Him. As a result, does the cycle of reincarnation and the positive acquisition of karma get you to God? Isn’t that just another path up the same mountain? If Jesus is right, then that simply is not true.

I think that this tells us something about the world today. We’re uncomfortable with commitment. We like to make decisions that have no potential consequences. Choosing a worldview is a decision that has consequences. If Christianity is right, there are implications that go along with that. The same applies to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism or any other belief system. They all make claims about the nature of reality as well as what we need to do. They all cannot be simultaneously true because some of those claims directly contradict each other. Don’t get me wrong, there are some moral values that overlap between the various religions. I’m not denying that, but I am saying that there are also substantial differences. We cannot broadbrush and simply say that all religions are the same. That would be blatantly false.

Therefore, we have to make a choice. If Jesus right, or is Jesus wrong? Is Jesus the only possible way to God?

John 13: Humbling Ourselves

John 13 really draws out the humility of Jesus Christ.

Joh 13:4  He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

Joh 13:5  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Jesus did what the servant would normally do. In an age and location where sandals were the preferred footwear, it is obvious that people would need this kind of washing. However, Jesus, the master, did what would be performed by the servant.

Later on in the passage, and Jesus expands on that point.

Joh 13:14  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

Joh 13:15  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Joh 13:16  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

Joh 13:17  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

Humility was to become a hallmark of the Christian community. If Jesus, the undisputed master, was willing to do this for His disciples, how much more should the disciples be willing to serve each other or by extension other Christians as a community of peers?

Of course, pride is a powerful thing. We don’t like to lower ourselves before other people, but that is what we are called to do. Jesus demonstrated that, and we ought to do that for each other. I know that foot washing is not nearly as popular now as it was in Jesus’ time, but that we need to take away here is definitely the lesson and apply it in our everyday lives.

John 12: Looking Back

I find it interesting in John 12 the people wanted proof of what Jesus had done. I think that we can sometimes put on chronological snobbery and assume that people in the past were incredibly gullible and willing to believe anything. However, I wrote about that two days ago, so I’m not going back there again other than to point out verse nine.

Rather, I want to focus today on the disciples regarding Palm Sunday. It stands out to me that John reports the fact that the disciples did not recognize the fulfillment of prophecy until later on. As they were experiencing the events that were going on, they apparently did not put the pieces together.

Joh 12:12  On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

Joh 12:13  Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Joh 12:14  And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,

Joh 12:15  Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

Joh 12:16  These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

I think that it shows us something about the value of memorizing Scripture as well as the value of reflection. The disciples clearly put the pieces together because they knew the prophecy. If they did not know the Bible, they would not have been able to figure that out. The obvious implication for us is that we need to know our Bible as well or we might miss something important.

Secondly, the disciples remembered this later. They were clearly thinking about their experience with Jesus, and they were then able to put together the Bible and the event. Do we actually consider our past and then reflect on where God is at work? Maybe we don’t have specific prophecies that relate to our individual lives like this one about Jesus’ life, but we do have things like the fruit of the Spirit. As we grow nearer to Christ, these qualities should become more evident. How are we doing? Are we growing? Are there things that we could be improving on?

The disciples were clearly human, and they were not perfect by any means, but I do think we can learn from their example.