“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
Three words from John’s Gospel are today’s focus. Those words are ‘sign’ and ‘believe’ and ‘life’.
You can find any number of books, sermons, etc, that point to the healing\miracle stories in the Gospels as illustrations of the compassion of Jesus and how we should be compassionate also. No doubt that element is there but it is not primary. The miracles of Jesus were not ends in themselves. Neither were they magic or proof or simply examples of being nice. They were signs, arrows pointing to Jesus. Some got it and some didn’t.
The Gospel of John, for example, tells us of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. One can definitely not conclude that because Jesus raised the dead, we should hang around in graveyards praying for the ground to open up. Don’t try this at home! Jesus raised Lazarus as a sign to bring the focus on Himself. “I am the resurrection and life”, he said, ” The words and works of Jesus, taken together, are a tapestry that spells out His name. The signs are given that you “may believe” in Jesus.
John’s Gospel likes the phrase “believe in” where Jesus is concerned. By all accounts this phrase appears nowhere else in classical Greek. It is, apparently, unique to John. That’s different than believing Jesus. I may believe what you say but that sort of belief implies no necessary relationship or commitment of trust or faith. It may mean nothing more than intellectual assent. If I believe in the one who speaks, that’s different.
The identity of Jesus was never obvious. That has not changed. The Church at times may speak as if His identity as “true God and true man” should be obvious but this is nothing more than triumphalism.
The outcome of trust, of faith, is life; “…that you may have life in His name”, is the way John states it. But we make a mistake if we think this means only eternal life, if we assume we already have life and the life Jesus gives is just icing on the cake. We may want to talk that way but John does not. He is saying if you don’t have Jesus, you are dead. You may be walking and talking, putting a day together and so forth, but that is not life.
Read John’s Gospel as we begin Holy Week. For among the four great witnesses to Jesus – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, none speak with more clarity, simplicity and urgency than John. And the urgency with which he writes points us to Jesus and to the fact that trusting, believing in him is a matter, in every sense, of life and death.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”