We close out our gospel series with a look at Jesus according to his closest follower, John. The Beloved Disciple uncovers a number of unique sayings and actions by The Messiah. Each of these actions and words points back to a single theme, and it is the culmination of making ourselves available to be loved by God.
The God of Life
Throughout the Gospel of John, Christ is depicted as a life giver. In John 1, he is known as The Word made flesh. The Word of God spoke life into the universe, the earth and man. He's even categorized as being the life that is light to us all (John 1:4). After healing a lame man, Jesus talked about having the will to raise anyone to new life (John 5:21). In the following chapter, Jesus proclaimed that he was the bread, or sustenance, from God that brings new life (6:33, 51, 57). He promises that if we keep his sayings, we'll be free from the fear of death (8:51). This is because he gives us eternal life (10:28). This is affirmed the next chapter by Jesus stating that he is resurrection from death into life (11:25-26). Christ lays it out plainly that He is the one way, truth and life for all men (John 14:6). Finally, he explains the true meaning of eternal life as truly knowing God and Jesus Christ in the fullness of His identity (17:3)
With so many examples of Christ as life and life giving, it's clear that this gospel hinges around the concept of life. And yet, we've been looking at it the last few weeks as a story of God's love for us. Is there something we're missing or are these two things connected?
Life From Love's Sacrifice
In order to discern if life and love are truly connected, we must look into some interactions Christ had. The first was with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and respected man in the religious community. In John 3, the two have a secret meeting. Nicodemus was most likely intrigued by the words and actions of Christ and wanted to discover truly who this man of mystery and power really was. What he got was far greater than he expected. Barely into the pleasantries of their conversation, Christ got right to the heart of the matter: eternal life.
John 3:3 - Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus was confused for sure. How could someone be reborn. It's a term we know all too well today, but back then it was an unknown concept. Jesus explained it plainly for him.
John 3:5 - Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
In this we have the method of salvation God demands of all people of understanding. There must be a birthing in water and a birthing in Spirit. only then can new life come. That water birth is baptism, which is the symbolic act of Christ cleansing us of our sins, a fact reiterated by Christ in Mark 16, Peter in Acts 2 and 10 and Paul in Acts 16. The Spirit birth is the infilling of us with the Spirit of God (i.e. the Holy Ghost and fire). That occurs in Acts 2, 8, and 10 as well as other points in the Bible.
So, those are the elements Christ demands of all men to find salvation. Why even give us a path to salvation and freedom from sin?
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God gave us the only Son, His Spirit robed in flesh, the very Word that emanates from Him so that we could have everlasting life. He did it all out of love for his favored creation. That's an amazing sacrifice to both give something so precious for our sins but to also establish a pathway to salvation that anyone can pursue.
Life Springs From Love
Not long after this encounter, Christ comes across a Samaritan woman. Unlike Nicodemus, who had all the access to the Temple and the scriptures he could want, she was forced to pray in the hillside and get scriptures secondhand because of her heritage. Yet, Christ doesn't withhold from her the secret to life eternal. He asked her for a drink and then the two got into a back and forth about living water and the aforementioned lack of access she had to God. Jesus responded directly just as he did with Nicodemus.
John 4:14 - whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
This sparked the woman's interest and the two continued to talk back and forth. Christ revealed things about her that he himself couldn't have known aside from who he was and is. The woman believed him to be a prophet and talked about the coming Messiah and what He would accomplish, but Christ revealed to her his true nature:
John 4:26 - Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
This woman would go forth and tell the story of her encounter with the Messiah and it would lead to many having their own encounter and believed (v. 41). Life was offered to people who seemed to live in a perpetual state of near death and lack spiritually. Why did Christ do this? He recognized a woman and a people who desperately wanted to connect to God. The wanted to love on God and be loved by God. God reacts to our desire to love Him with revelations of His life giving abilities and authorities. Moreover, it will be something we can carry to all others who are hurting as well.
Life Renewed From Friendship's Love
Finally, we come to the story that many identify with John, the resurrection of Lazarus. It is amazing that this story only occurs in this Gospel, but for whatever reason, God reserved it for John. As he neared the end of his ministry, Jesus heard that his best friend was near death. Christ delayed going so that Lazarus could die and the miracle that would be performed would give God all the more glory (side note: sometimes God delays to allow the greater glory to occur).
Jesus gets to his friends house and finds that he is already dead. We talked about the lead up to this in our devotion on Mary of Bethany, but their was more to the story than just conversations and tears. Jesus walked to the tomb of Lazarus, stretched his hand out and said:
John 11:43 - Lazarus, come forth.
And Lazarus, who had laid dead for more than 4 days came forth. That was a longer death period than any other resurrection in recorded history. This resurrection even dispelled popular myths about the lingering of souls on people for up to 3 days. Jesus had brought his friend forth. A friend that he loved. Because he loved him.
God grants friendship to those who will follow and love him (John 15:15, James 2:23). When we love God as our close friend and companion, God will love us back and bring life into us when it seems we are fading in our spiritual walk, purpose or life's journey. It may seem that we are at death's doorstep or beyond, but God will not leave his friends to die. Especially when we call on Him (John 11:3). He will answer in His time and we will see a miracle done in us that gives true glory unto God in the Highest!
We hope you enjoyed this look into the gospels. We will be back next week with a quick recap of the series and a huge announcement for what's to come next at TWTL Ministries! See you soon.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.