So That You May Believe

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31, NRSV) 

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John’s gospel was the last of the gospels written, and by the time it was completed, any witnesses to the resurrection were long gone—including the disciple, John. Scholars believe that there was a community that identified closely with John, and out of this community arose the writings that we know as the Gospel of John and possibly the three epistles attributed to John. The writing of these works did not occur until sometime between 90-110 AD. For convenience, scholars refer to the author as “John the Evangelist.”

The people to whom John the Evangelist is writing would have been in the same boat as we are—not having been eyewitnesses to the life, ministry, or resurrection of Jesus. With the Christian faith being a relatively new religion, finding ways to galvanize the faith was imperative. Every story, every event, and every character in John’s gospel is meant to convey John’s desire that his readers, including us, get a clearer picture of Jesus so that our faith in him will grow.

When I first became a serious follower of Jesus Christ as a teenager, it was through the gospel of John that I read to get a glimpse of this One who would be the object of my faith. The imagery and the metaphors of John’s gospel are vibrant with meaning—light, darkness, vines, branches, bread, sheep, shepherds, gates, doors, thieves, weddings, births, deaths, and even resurrection. John’s gospel is rich with insights and nuances about who Jesus was when he walked the earth and who God is.

It’s important to remember that John used all of this for one purpose—that we would come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that through believing, we might have life in his name. I don’t know if 60+ years out from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that his followers had lost their zeal. John makes it clear he wants to inspire us with his words so that whatever once burned in the hearts of Jesus’ original disciples is kept burning in our hearts. John wants us to “have life in Jesus’ name.”

How is the fire of God’s love burning in you? Are you tending the fire with perseverance and intention? Or has it begun to die out, and you’re cooling off to the experience you once had? Maybe reading through the Gospel of John might give you a boost. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

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Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church

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