What Truly Loving Someone Looks Like

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John 13:31-38

31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” 37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

                                

This short passage is packed with tremendously powerful truths.  I pray that I will do justice to them in this short article.  There are three key concepts that I will try to unearth here for you who are reading this.  I see Loyalty, Glory and Covenant-Love.  Each of these could take many pages to explore as a topic in and of themselves, but let us here try to understand at least the core of each of these concepts.

I find it interesting in these few verses that we start with Judas, the one who will betray Jesus, and end with Peter, the one who will deny Jesus.  Judas, as we know from a previous article, was willing to sell out his friendship and loyalty to Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver.  Later, when Judas finds out that Jesus will be crucified to death, his remorse and guilt overpower him so that he threw back the silver and went out to hang himself.

Peter, who so often was the bold spokesman for the group of disciples, is once more also very brash when he so arrogantly declares that he would be willing to die for Jesus.  We find out later that Peter is not really even half the man he bragged he was, as he does in fact deny knowing Jesus three times.  From these two men, we see that Loyalty is a tough attribute to demonstrate when life presses in and our egos get in the way.  How can we avoid these pit falls?  Let’s look at the next important concept.

    

There is no doubt that a key word in this passage is “Glory”.  Jesus used it four times in just two sentences.  So it must be an important concept.  But what exactly is “glory”?  I have to say as a Bible translator, that this word “glory” has given me more trouble than any other biblical term in trying to really understand first what it means in the Greek sentence, and then try to translate it into tribal languages.

“Glory” could refer to the brilliance that exudes out from a Heavenly Being, i.e. “His glory shone around Him.”  It could refer to our act of reverence, as in “We will give him glory”, and so could be translated as “honor”.  It could also refer to character, saying just how wonderful He is, such as, “Isn’t he glorious.”  And there could be even more nuances to this key word.

I could write many pages then about the deep spiritual meaning contained within verses 31-32.  Instead, I would like to try to simply expand the sentences, with some added explanation.  There could be other ways I’m sure to interpret these verses, but this will be my attempt:

“The time has come for the Son of Man [Jesus] to enter into his glory [to show His true nature as the Son of God], and God will be glorified [will be praised and honored] because of him. 32 And since God receives glory [praise and honor] because of the Son [how He was obedient to His Father’s will], he will soon give glory to [will magnify, will exalt] the Son [by raising Him up from the dead and placing Him at His own right hand up in Heaven]. 

    

Can you see now just how much spiritual and theological truth is packed into those two sentences?  And the application of these truths, that the Father and the Son exist to glorify each other, leads us to the most significant application of this truth.  The main reason why Jesus came to earth, to live among men, to die on a cross, and then to conquer death by being raised again to life was so that the Covenant-Love of God could still be experienced by us, who by nature are sinful and unholy people.

John 3:16 tells us quite plainly that God so loves every man, woman and child, that He sent Jesus to die on behalf of all men, and so the love which God has always wanted to share with people can once again be fully experienced, since Jesus removed our sin and thus the barrier that separated us from God.  That’s what truly loving someone else really looks like: being willing to die in order to save the other.

And that is now the last and the greatest commandment that Jesus brings down to mankind, firstly to his disciples.  We who would love God, and accept Jesus as the one who can save us from sin and death, must also demonstrate Covenant Loyalty-Love to our Christian brothers and sisters.  Only this kind of supernatural love, acceptance and forgiveness among Christians will have any attraction and impact on those who are still spiritually lost in this world.  So go ahead now and do as Jesus said, “Love one another!”

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Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice

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John 12: 20 – 28

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

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The passage right before the verses above described for us the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem.  The crowds proclaimed that their Messiah, their King, who had come from the royal line of King David, had just entered into Jerusalem.  They were all ready to proclaim Jesus as their Royal King of Israel.

No doubt this caused a great stir among the people, for the local residents of Jerusalem as well as those who were visiting there to celebrate the Great Feast of Passover.  Our passage here starts out then with some foreigners, some Greek-speaking men who had come in from some outlying area or some distant land and they hear reports about Jesus.

They wanted to meet Jesus, but notice who they approached first?  They went to Philip, who probably came from a Greek culture background himself since he had a Greek name.  So these men took the path that made the most sense to be able to gain an audience with Jesus – they approached Philip who would be sympathetic to their request to meet this very famous man – the Man who could do the miraculous.

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Jesus’ response though did not line up with this desire of the people who wanted Him to become their new King on earth.  He does declare in verse 23 that it is finally the time for people to know who He is exactly.  His favorite term for Himself “The Son of Man” contains both the idea that He is God’s Son, and also the idea that He is truly a man who had come to live among us.

And now He says that the time had come for Him “to be glorified”.  It is always hard to translate the word “glory”, but each time we do, we learn more about what it means.  Within this context, Jesus was saying that it was going to be revealed just how “wonderful” and “glorious” the true nature of Jesus really was.

The surprise comes is in the next sentence.  We should expect that someone who is the Majestic Son of God, who had just been publicly acclaimed to be the King of Israel, and who will now at this point reveal the true identity of Himself to the people, we would expect Him to ascend the throne in Jerusalem.

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Instead, we see Jesus speaking out one more time in metaphorical language.  He states that a seed by itself is nothing.  To be something of great value, it must be dropped into the ground where the seed will figuratively “die” as it breaks into small pieces.  But from these broken pieces, many roots can shoot out of this one seed and actually bear much food for the people.

You see, Jesus’ path forward required Him not to go forth in a victory march towards a throne, but to walk the road of shame and suffering, and to die on the Cross, in order to win people back to God.  Jesus recognized that those who would follow Him, must be ready to fully give up their lives and souls to God, and count the things of this life as being of such low worth compared to the promise of eternal life with God.

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This is not to say that it was an easy thing for Jesus to make the decision to give up His life on our behalf.  We see Him in verse 27 wrestling with this decision.  If it was possible to fulfill the will of God without having to actually die on the cross, I believe Jesus would have chosen that path.  But He has barely asked this question of God when He also states the answer – He knows that this was the path that He must walk.

And so Jesus asked God for something else: He asked for God to reveal His true and glorious nature.  And God’s voice answered back that He already had and will again do just that.  What was He referring to?  I believe it refers to how God showed His awesome power in resurrecting Lazarus (from John 11) and how He would raise Jesus from the dead (John 20).

The promise and the challenge for us are in verse 26.  If we truly want to serve Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we are to follow in His footsteps.  So we must also be ready to lay down our lives for God.  That is the challenge.  The promise is that we will be with Him where He goes.  And where will that be?  By the side of God in Heaven for all eternity.  Praise God!  Praise the Lord!

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Jesus Strips Away The Power Of Death

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John 11: 38 – 44

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

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41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 

44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

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This passage starts out with the words that Jesus was “once more deeply moved.”  There is no doubt that this would have been a time that Jesus would have been moved to feel the great loss at the death of His friend Lazurus.  But perhaps there is something else here tucked away within our passage that caused Jesus to be “deeply moved” with emotion.

The verse just before our current passage states, “But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’”  Is it possible that this statement was heard by Jesus, and caused Him to be deeply moved within His spirit?  Consider the situation from a divine perspective.

When God created Man, He declared, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)  God created mankind to share in the qualities of personality, conscience, morality, and to have an eternal soul or spirit.  God saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and He enjoyed being in the company of mankind as is implied in Genesis 3:8.

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When Adam and Eve sinned against God by choosing to disobey the will of God, the consequences of that action resulted in death coming upon them, and every succeeding generation.  The death that is in focus there was primarily spiritual death, the idea of being separated from God eternally because of the corrupting power of sin which a pure and holy God cannot allow in His presence.

There was another death though that came about as a result of sin.  This is “the first death”, the time when a person dies physically at the end of one’s life here on earth.  And if that person is not in a right relationship with God, the first death (of the body), will lead to “the second death”, which would come at the Day of Judgment when the unrighteous are excluded from entrance into Heaven and depart into the fires of Hell.

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Perhaps Jesus had all of this in mind when He was “deeply moved”, when he heard the people wondering if He might have been able to save Lazurus from death.  The grave has has such a powerful hold on people since the beginning of time, and Satan has had such a powerful hold over the souls of people.  Jesus had come to break the power of both the grave and of Satan.  But it wasn’t quite time yet.  Jesus had not yet died upon the Cross to break these powers over mankind.

And so Jesus went to the tomb to raise Lazurus from the dead.  It was an act of compassion for sure as He saw the grief of Mary and Martha.  But it was also an opportunity for Jesus to display the awesome power of God who holds the power over life and death.  Martha was limited in her belief when she reminded Jesus that her brother’s body would be rotting in the grave by this time.

Jesus though, reminded Martha that just as He would have the power to spiritually raise people to life with God on that final day when He was revealed to be the One appointed by God to save people (see verses 25-27 above), He was also able to call upon the glory of God to strip away the power of physical death in the present.

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Now the term “glory” can be translated along the lines of “brightness” or “wonderful” or “awesome power”.  This last meaning is the one that fits here.  And what is most interesting is how Jesus prays and is thankful that God had already heard His prayer to have the Father reveal His power through Jesus to raise Lazurus.

But Jesus spoke this out loud so that no one could miss the important truth that Jesus had been sent to earth to represent the Father and to display His “awesome power” among people.  And what greater power could He display, than to strip away the power of death.  Once this great miracle occurred, and Lazurus came out of the grave, then the people were told to strip away the linen burial clothes that were no longer needed.

As I close here, let me ask this: have you placed your trust in Jesus to forgive you of your sin?  If you have, then you will not need to fear the “first death”, for you will be raised to eternal life with God at the end of all Time.  But if you have not placed your trust in Jesus, then death (both physical and spiritual) is awaiting you.  Why not let Jesus strip away the power of death that still clings to you, just like the funeral clothes that clung to Lazurus.

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God’s Timing Can Be Confusing

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John 7:1 – 13

7 1 After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. 8 You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.

10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

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As we read the opening verses of chapter seven, we can see that things are just about to come to a head between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews.  We see clearly in verse one that the Jewish authorities have made up their minds to kill Jesus.  They just need a good reason to arrest him to make it possible to lay the grounds for Jesus to be executed.  But the Jewish leaders are not the only ones who are not too pleased with him.

Consider how Jesus’ brothers speak to him.  They basically challenge Jesus to get himself seen publicly and display his “miraculous” powers and so become famous and popular with the people.  It is very possible as we read their words, that they said this to Jesus in a condescending and sarcastic way, seeing as “even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

And then there are the general population within Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee who have critical opinions about Jesus.  There were some though who wondered if Jesus was the man whom God had sent to help the nation, or simply that he was a “good man”.  But it would appear from our passage that many more people were now considering that Jesus was just some religious freak, “a fraud who deceives the people.

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And so we see that nearly everyone was upset at Jesus for all kinds of reasons.  His brothers believed that Jesus should take the situation forcefully into his hands and make people believe in him.  The crowds of people simply wanted some kind of sign or confirmation that all their waiting and hopes for a promised Saviour was not in vain.  But could Jesus be this Man?  And the Pharisees wanted Jesus to play by their rules, or not at all.  And since Jesus didn’t follow all their traditions, then killing him was their answer.

What was not understood by anyone of all these participants in this event, was that no one could make Jesus fit into their mold, not could they push him into doing any action if it had not been first ordained and directed by God the Father.  That is what it means when Jesus said, “my time has not yet come.”  Jesus had not come to make himself known, nor to gain glory for himself.  Jesus came to teach people the truth concerning God and His Kingdom.

Pretty much everyone then went up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of their greatest Festivals.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” had become a reminder of when the Jewish people had wandered the desert and had to live in tents (also called tabernacles).  It was a reminder of how God had taken care of His people during a very difficult time.  And when Jesus did come later, after first avoiding public appearance, He would late in the week of the Feast talk out about how He was the source of living water to people who believed in Him.

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So what can we learn from this passage?  It’s clear that almost everyone is upset with Jesus, and yet He does not seem to let this bother him.  Actually, his delay in coming and revealing himself to people primed the people so that they would truly take note of him and what he said when he finally did stand up publicly.  You see, as he said, his time “had not come yet”.

How often do we have the similar thoughts in our heads, when things are getting tense and life is full of challenges and unknowns.  We know that God exists, and that the Son (Jesus) is there at the throne of God asking for help on our behalf.  But God’s hand of help or healing seems to be delayed.  What do we think about that?

Don’t we challenge God at times to “show Himself” to us, and resolve the situation we are in?  But God’s understanding of the big picture and His sense of timing of things is so much greater and wiser than our own ways and thoughts.  So then, even though we may not fully or ever understand God and His ways, we must learn (from Scripture and experience in life) that God is never early when He does something, but He is also never late.  Let us allow Him to do all things “when the time is right”.

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Jesus: Giver of Grace & Truth

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John 1:14 – 18

The Word Became Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.1

Stop!  Listen!  God’s Word is speaking powerfully here.  What we know to be true, and have heard many times, is a very profound truth.  Nine short words that say so much.  In fact, a large part of the Christian message is contained within these words.  What are these words you say?  They are the first nine words of this new section we are studying, brief and succinct but very powerful:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

As we learned from our first study (John 1:1-5), the “Word” was, and is, one of the eternal Persons of the Godhead.  This Person, the Word, was the Agent through whom all of the created universe came into existence and became real in time and space.  And now we find out that this Eternal Word stepped into our time and space to become a real human being and to live among us.

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Theologically, this is known as the “Incarnation”, where God emptied Himself of His own divine nature so that He could take on the form of man and share in the specific culture and language of a first century Jewish person.  He came and “dwelt among us”, which literally means that He “put up his tent for the purpose of living with us.”  He wanted to become one of us so that as a Man, He would be able to help save all men.  Only as an Insider could He do this, not as an Outsider.

This is one of the most important goals we aspire to as missionaries.  Though we could never really compare ourselves to Jesus, who left Heaven to become a human, we too must be willing to leave all that is wonderful and comfortable back in our home countries to go and live among some of the poorest and most neglected peoples of the world.  This is called “Incarnational Ministry”, where we go live among the people as one of them, just as Jesus modelled for us.

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As we look at our Scripture passage above, we see that Jesus modelled much more for us as well.  John writes “we have seen His glory”, which is another way of saying, “we have seen how marvelous and wonderful He is.”  And what had those early followers of Jesus seen?  That Jesus was full of “grace and truth”.  Along with the word “glory”, we have in this short passage three of the most complex and theologically loaded words of this Gospel, and of the Bible.

According to Newman & Nida, in Section III of Apendix II, “the word ‘truth’  in this Gospel refers primarily to God himself, though it may be extended to include the revelation of God or a description of persons who respond to that revelation.”2  In other words, our passage above is telling us that Jesus had complete knowledge regarding the very nature of God the Father.  For anyone who wants to truly know God, that knowledge comes through Jesus.  And verse 18 says that in fact that is one of Jesus’ great ministry tasks here on earth, to help us come to know who God the Father really is.

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Not only did Jesus come to earth full of the knowledge of the nature of God, but it says He also came “full of grace”.  One way of translating “grace” is “loving kindness”.  Using this definition, we see that Jesus came not just to teach us the truth about God (which we so often compartmentalize on just the intellectual level), but Jesus came to demonstrate God’s loving kindness towards us.  This I think is even more important.  As they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

God wants to lavish His love upon us.  He sent His only Son (who would ultimately die for our sins) as His greatest act of love towards mankind.  So it is not surprising that in this short Scripture passage that speaks about Jesus coming to earth, and why He came to earth, that we find the words, “From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Putting that another way, when Jesus came to earth, He came to shower “loving kindness upon loving kindness” on us.  Another Christian term is “blessings”, and so we can read this as “we have received blessings upon blessings.”  Isn’t that truly amazing?  Jesus, the unique Son of God, loved us enough to want to leave his glorious home in Heaven to live among us, to reveal God the Father to us, and to shower wonderful blessings upon us.

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My questions, dear friend, as you read this article are these: Do you know Jesus? Have you experienced His amazing love and forgiveness of your sins?  Do you want to know Jesus and invite Him into your life?  Write back to me if this is what you want and need to do in your life.  God bless you.

1  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:14–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2  A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John. 1980, New York: United Bible Societies

Introducing The Gospel of John

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The Gospel According to John

In the last article, I mentioned that because it was the start of a new year, I would start on some new ideas for what I want to do with my article series this year.  Tuesdays will be the day that I share interesting and exciting stories from the mission field written by my colleagues within Pioneer Bible Translators.  Now I want to tell you my idea for the Thursday articles.

I realized last month that I will be doing a lot of preparation to do the consultant check on the Gospel of John for two completely different language groups in Papua New Guinea.  So then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be neat to do a number of articles on the Gospel of John?”  So far, I have worked on both translating and checking the translations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  Now is my opportunity to study more deeply the Fourth Gospel.

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Most people agree that the Synoptic Gospels are easier to read and to translate.  There is so much more narrative material in these books which gives us more action and fewer extended  passages of deep and difficult theology to try to unravel in the translation.  But that does not mean that there are not difficult sections to understand and translate in the Synoptic Gospels.

Certainly the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chs 5 – 7 is full of complexities.  And the many parables throughout all the gospels contain every day words on the surface, but also carry some deep spiritual truths below the surface form which must be handled very carefully.

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Let’s take a quick tour then of the Gospel of John to see what spiritual treasures we will encounter as we go through this book:

The Prologue

Chapter 1 gives us not so much a historical setting as a theological setting for this man, Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Jewish mother who was able to become pregnant through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  That tells us that Jesus was no ordinary child.  He in fact was God who came down from Heaven and took on the form of a man.  John’s Gospel will give us more insight into the divine nature of Jesus even from his opening words of his prologue.

The Book of Signs

Chapters 2 – 12 cover the entire ministry of Jesus up until the last week before his death.  We see Jesus traveling extensively, starting with his baptism by John east of the Jordan River, and then moving back and forth between the province of Galilee in the north to the city of Jerusalem in the south.

Everywhere Jesus went though, he astounded the people by his insightful and authoritative teachings and amazed them by his miraculous deeds.  Jesus demonstrated that he was from God by exercising supernatural power over nature (turning water into wine and multiplying bread) and over any sickness or disease (healing a crippled man and also a man who had been blind since birth).  Jesus even had power over death itself as he was able to bring Lazarus back to life after being dead for four days.

The Book of Glory

Chapters 13 – 20 have been called “The Book of Glory”.  They reveal the true depth of Jesus’ love for his disciples, and let us hear his heartfelt prayer to God on their behalf.  Then Jesus demonstrated his magnificent love and his power by being crucified on a cross, followed by his resurrection from death.  There is no way that you can read these chapters and not get caught up in the deep emotions (“pathos”) of those few days in Jerusalem.

But all of the book of John up to this point was not written just so that we would have an emotional response.  Certainly we do feel awe when we read about the amazing miracles he performed.  And we feel despair when Jesus died but then we rejoice when he rose to live again.  No, this book was written for a much more important reason.  John himself states in chapter 20 verse 31 the purpose for recording the life of Jesus.  He wrote:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Epilogue

Many scholars think that John finished writing his book at the end of chapter 20, and then later added chapter 21.  We will never know that for sure.  Most likely, there was some later concern among the early believers with regards to Peter who had denied his faith in Christ before the crucifixion, but afterwards was reinstated as an apostle and leader of the church by Jesus himself.

This gives us a very rough outline of John’s gospel.  I do hope that this is helpful to those who read this.  Now what I would like to do is to go back and start at the beginning and work through the book slowly, one passage or section at a time.  My desire is to try to have a balance between what the text is saying (interpretation) and how its truths can still impact us in our lives today (application).

Please be praying along with me that I will be able to write very good, meaningful and helpful articles.  I invite everyone who reads these to feel free to respond and interact with me as we go through the book.  May God bless you as we go on this journey together.

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