Everything in the Christian faith depends on this one simple fact. We need to come to Jesus in faith, believing in him and trusting him with our whole being. John writes with the aim that we may understand just who Jesus is, so that we can believe in him and commit ourselves to him. As we believe in him, we can trust him entirely because he is utterly trustworthy and true. In order to encourage such committed faith, John has written his account of some of Jesus’ miraculous signs – although he points out that Jesus did many other such signs that he has not described (20.30). Jesus performed so many marvellous miracles of healing, exorcism, feeding of crowds, stilling storms, helping fishermen catch fish etc. that it would be impossible to describe all his miracles in one short book. But the signs John does include in his Gospel fully suffice to induce our faith.
“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”
In order to believe in Jesus and follow him, we all need to learn who Jesus really is. He is not just a great man, an outstanding teacher, a miracle worker, a prophet, a poet and a man of love and humility. He is God incarnate (John 1) and he is Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, the one who would come from God to liberate and save his people. His very name ‘Jesus/Yeshua’ was God-given and signifies that through him ‘Yhwh/the Lord saves’. As Messiah Jesus follows on from God’s great act of liberation in Israel’s exodus from Egypt. God delivered his people from slavery and oppression, giving them a new Law and covenant, bringing them into the promised land of milk and honey. So Jesus has come to deliver us from slavery to evil and sin; he has revealed to us a new Law of love and introduced a new covenant with us through his cross and resurrection; and he offers us a new life with him which is abundant and eternal.
Jesus comes to us also as the very Son of God. In our notes we have seen how this title ‘Son of God’ signifies his calling to be like his Father in holiness and moral righteousness. It also means that he was called to bring honour to his Father, so that the people around him might come to believe in his Father and praise him. John also makes it abundantly clear through his Gospel that Jesus was actually himself God, living with the Father in glory from all eternity. He was sent by the Father to this world with the purpose of imparting life to his people. And he was raised from the dead and then he ascended back to the Father in glory. Having fulfilled his God-given task on earth, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to be with his followers and lead them into all truth.
So Jesus really is more than worthy of our faith and believing trust!
“You may have life in his name”
Beginning already in John 1.4, we have noted how John’s Gospel strongly emphasizes ‘life’. Jesus came in order that those who believe in him may have life, life abundant and life eternal. His gift of the fullness of life both here in this world through his resurrection, and then also everlasting life in eternity, occupies a central place in John’s Gospel.
I believe that in this 21st century we shall be wise to adjust the content of our ‘gospel’ in our witness and evangelistic preaching. As we have suggested in previous blogs, Paul’s emphasis on sin and redemption will find its place after people have become believers and so begin to relate to the all-holy God. Then they will feel the fearful reality of their sin and their desperate need of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. As we move on to John’s letters, we shall see this change. Writing now for believers, John will begin to emphasize the message of the cross. But in his Gospel John is writing in order to generate belief in Jesus with the highly relevant ‘good news’ of new life. Until people come to faith the message of sin and redemption usually fails to scratch where they itch.
John underlines the fact that we can only have true life ‘in Jesus’ name’. True life and the gift of eternal life stem from the Father. We can only approach the glory and burning purity of the Father through Jesus as his Son. Jesus is the way to the Father (14.6) and no-one can come to the Father except through him. He reveals the Father to us and introduces us to the Father. As believers in Jesus we are joined in unity to Jesus and we come to the Father with his righteousness covering us. In ourselves we have no right to come into the presence of the Father, but in Jesus’ name we are wonderfully accepted.
In biblical thought people’s name was thought to reflect their character and nature. So Jesus’ ‘name’ means his total holiness, power, love and obedient meekness. Of course the Father knows us through and through, so he knows just how sinful we are, but he chooses to look on us only in the light of Jesus’ perfection. As Psalm 32.1 and Romans 4.7 point out, “Blessed are they . . . whose sins are covered” – blessed indeed! In Jesus’ name our sin is covered and we can have life. Although John’s Gospel does not talk about our sin as a hindrance to gaining true life, as people who are already believing in Jesus we know something of what it means to have life “in his name”. And we rejoice!
Noting John’s aim in his Gospel that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”, we face the challenge that our witness and evangelism should follow in the footsteps outlined in John’s Gospel. Let us constantly check our message in the light of this wonderful Gospel!