That you Might Believe
Today we are finishing up our long study of the Gospel of John. We will include a text from the 20th chapter that we skipped over because it goes well with the last two verses of the 21st chapter. John almost seems to end the Gospel at 20:30-31 which is the purpose of the entire book. But then he goes on in the same way Paul seems to end Romans, and then proceeds to go on further. The fishing trip looks in this view like John having concluded at the 20th chapter is reminded of this one final incident he feels compelled to add. For this we are eternally thankful.
But after the fishing trip, John realizes that he could write forever about what Jesus had done or said. He supposes the things he could have recorded would have more than filled all of earth itself. So John, having added one more important incident in the life of Jesus, brings the entire gospel to a close.
I would like to zero in more on the first ending of the Gospel of John. Logically, this needs to be discussed at the end of John.
Exposition of the Text
The first ending is similar to the second. In 20:30, John tells us that there were many other signs which Jesus did in the presence of His disciples that he did not include in his Gospel. This does not mean that the other signs were not important. Indeed, many of them were written in the other gospels. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the author of all Scripture, even though He uses human agents like John. This means that the Spirit inspired which seven signs would be included in this Gospel to stand for the rest. This postscript is just to remind us that the signs are representative and not nearly exhaustive. The selection of these particular signs are sufficient for us to get an understanding of the person, teaching, and work of Jesus Christ.
The same Holy Spirit also inspired the other gospel writers as to what material they should include in their gospels. There is no reason to speculate which gospel might have been a source of the other. Even if this was done as Luke suggests, it is still the work of the Holy Spirit. The other three gospels are more similar. They are three witnesses required by law to establish testimony. However, lest someone say that one copied from the other, the Spirit inspired John to write the fourth gospel, including some similar material as well as much that is not included. This acts as an independent witness to the facts.
Remember when we discussed valid courtroom testimony several chapters back. There I suggested that valid testimony is not word for word identical. If all the events were identically described, it would be the opposite. The opposition could claim that the testimony was rehearsed and copied. This type of testimony would certainly be thrown out in court. Valid testimony comes from different perspectives. What makes it valid is precisely that the testimony is not identical but that it agrees in the major premise. In the case of the resurrection, we see some confusion as to how many women there were and when and other such detail. What makes the testimony valid is that they all testify that Jesus had risen from the dead and proved it on several occasions. The tomb was empty. And so forth.
John states the reason he wrote the Gospel was that all who read it might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing he or she might have (eternal) life in His name or authority. This answers the verse at the beginning of the Gospel in 1:12 which is the central statement in the prologue that to the believers He gave authority to become the children of God. Everything between that verse and this one is a testimony and sign to the truth of the assertion.
John introduced many people to us in this Gospel. The most prominent of course is the witness of Jesus Christ Himself. He by these signs witnessed to Israel and by extension to all who have read the Gospel of John to the Fact He came from the Father to do and teach what He was sent to. But John vividly uses the other people in the gospel to show how the word of Christ worked in them. Some like Nathaniel and the Samaritan woman seemed to have come to faith by a single act of witness to Jesus. We have also followed others whose journey to faith developed over time such as Simon Peter, Thomas, and Nicodemus. We have seen the witness of John the Baptist which was a faithful to Jesus in every respect from the beginning of the Gospel to his death, being a faithful witness even after he was dead. We have seen the testimony of the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was seen through the eyes of Jesus, not for what others would see of him, but in Christ himself who transforms our past and rewrites our lives.
We have seen Jesus’ witness to people as individuals. No other gospel gives so much time to the interactions between Jesus and them. We see Jesus taking time with His disciples as the other gospels also show. But He also has extended dialogues with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and so on. Jesus is presented as desiring a personal relationship with individuals rather than with a group as a whole. This of course means that He takes personal interest in you and me as individuals also. This is impossible for us as humans, seeing we have limitations. It is hard for us to develop close relationships with many separate persons. But this is not problem today, especially seeing that Jesus has a Heavenly view, seated at the right hand of God where He can intercede personally with the “whosoever will”.
The fact we are different means that Jesus tailors his witness individually. His approach to Nicodemus was different than that of The Samaritan Woman. Mary Magdalene responded to Jesus’ voice at the tomb. John responded when he saw the net full of fish. Thomas responded to Jesus’ offer to touch Him. This should tell us that there is no mass method of evangelism, or a tried and true method that works for all people. Witness is person to person.
We have seen in the Gospel that not all responded favorably. We still are unsure about the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus personal confronted him later in the Temple. We would like to know how that ended. The same is true for Pilate. We can remember that when Pilate was trying to save Jesus that Jesus was more concerned about witnessing to Pilate than saving Himself from crucifixion. Did Pilate ever become a Christian?
We do know about Judas whom Jesus gave several occasions to repent. We also know that Jesus witnessed personally to Annas and then Caiaphas. He witnessed to the Sanhedrin, to the Pharisees, to the Temple Police, and to the people of Israel. So we know that the witness Jesus bore to these was not successful, although some who belonged to the groups just mentioned like Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea did come to faith. John 3:16 states that God is not willing that any perish, and that this motivation of love for the lost was the reason He sent Jesus. Yet there were many who refused this offer.
What do we take away from the Gospel of John? We should be able to take away more from it that I could write in all the books ever written. My problem is the same as John’s. But the stated purpose was that the reader might believe that Jesus is the Christ and by believing, he or she might have life through the name. We certainly should take this from our long exposition of John. From this, we also should see that if this was John’s purpose for writing the witness from to and about Jesus, then all that we do in the church should reflect this. How do we bear authentic witness to Jesus Christ in such a way that the world might read the epistle of Christ which we are and come to faith in Jesus Christ to the end that he or she might have eternal life.
John has shown us one way by his Gospel. We need to tell people the story of Jesus, not just from the Gospel of John or even the other gospels, but from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus reminds us in John 5:39-40 that eternal life is to be found in the Scriptures in that they testify of Him. So it behooves us to know God’s story and to be able to share it to the unbeliever. This is the first witness.
The second confirming witness is love. This love which Jesus showed to His disciples was a love unto death. This was a demonstration of perfect love. We saw by the use of “telos” throughout the gospel ending with “It is finished” is a marker of the quality of love that the believer should have and does have by the Holy Spirit. This love unto even death was commanded by Jesus to his disciples as well. Jesus showed the example. He tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends. He also reminds us that we are to love one another, even unto death. If he loved to the end (telos), then we must also. The disciple is one who wants to be what the Master already is. We are to be imitators of Christ as his dear children.
In the mouth of these two witnesses, the truth of one’s witness is established. These witnesses must agree, however. The talk about Jesus must be confirmed by the walk of love on the part of His disciples. The witness of the Word must be first, because it is by the Word’s speaking that creation happens. The statement “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words is well-intended but dead wrong. The witness of the Word verbally is absolutely necessary. Love demonstrated in love for God, each other, and even the world is only a confirming witness.
Are we doing all that we can to present a credible witness to the world to the end that people might come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. I hope that this study has inspired you to do so. I can only pray for God’s strength and wisdom, for a double portion of the Spirit that I might glorify God in my witness. And this is my prayer for you also. Amen.