JOHN 20: 30-31
ENCOUNTERING GOD'S PURPOSE
For many scholars these last two verses of chapter 20 constitute the conclusion of John's Gospel with chapter 21 being John's personal appendix. These verses summarize the Book's strategy, subject, and purpose. The strategy was to use selected works or "signs" of His subject, Jesus, which illustrate Jesus' character, demonstrate His power, and relate Him as the answer to man's great needs.
John's purpose was a doctrinal one, and he tells us that in carrying out God's purpose he omitted many things that he could have put in had he chosen. For John's teaching aim was subordinate to advance a still further purpose. His objective was not only to present the truth that Jesus was the Christ, the One and Only Son of God, but to present it in such a way as to induce his readers to believe in Jesus Christ (CIT). The reason He wanted them to believe in Jesus was so that they might have eternal life.
This purpose of John may be applied much more widely than to his Gospel. We may use it to point our thoughts to the strange silences and subjects of the whole of Revelation of God because of this overarching purpose which God had in view. For Scripture was written according to the purpose of God, its ultimate Author, to bring about the salvation and sanctification of man.
I. THE INCOMPLETENESS OF SCRIPTURE, 30.
II. THE SELECTIVE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE, 31a.
III. THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE SCRIPTURES, 31b.
FIRST, THE INCOMPLETENESS OF SCRIPTURE, 30.
In verse 30 John makes it clear that he took selections of Jesus' life by intent or for a purpose. Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
John acknowledges that Jesus furnished "many other signs" (semeia) to His disciples. Only seven of these were narrated, not including the final sign, Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Each sign involved a person and showed how the power of Jesus can be applied to human life. The disciples witnessed Jesus performing them as did the others present, be they friend or foe. The magnitude, type of individuals, situations, and effect of these recorded signs varied widely.
So the selection of signs offered here in John's Gospel is a small collection of those Jesus performed. This means that John was witness to a wealth of material about Jesus and that he, as a writer, had to make a careful selection to suit the burden God had placed upon him.
There is nothing in John's Gospel about Christ's birth, nothing in it about His baptism, nor about His selection of His Apostles. There is scarcely anything about the facts of Jesus' outward life at all. There is scarcely a word about the whole of His ministry in Galilee. There is not one of His parables, there are only seven of His miracles before the Resurrection, and two of these also occur in the other Evangelists. There is scarcely any of Jesus' moral teaching and no word about the Lord's supper.
I could go on delineating the many gaps in this Gospel. Nearly half of it is taken up with the occurrences of the last week of Jesus' life, and the incidents of and after His Resurrection. The largest portion of the remainder of the book consists of several conversations which are based upon miracles that He performed principally for the sake of the conversations.
When we turn to the other three gospels, the same thing is true, though less strikingly so. Was that why, outside of the Scriptural canon, there sprang up a whole host of Apocryphal Gospels and stories, full of childish stories of events which people felt had been passed over in strange silence, by the teachings of the four Evangelists: stories of His childhood, for instance, and stories about what happened between His death and His resurrection? A great many miracles were added to those that have been told us in Scripture. The condensed hints of the canonical Gospels received a great expansion, which indicated how much their silence about certain points had been felt and left to conjecture.
Is it not unusual that the events about the greatest life in the world's history should be told in such brief detail. Put the four Gospels down beside the thick volumes of today's biographies and you will see their brevity. They are but a bare outline or pencil drawing of God's Son. And yet, although they are so brief that you might sit down and read them all in an evening by the fire, is it not strange that they have stamped upon the mind of the world an image so deep and so sharp, of such a character that the world can never see elsewhere? "They are fragments, but they have left" an immeasurable "and an unique impression on the consciousness of the whole world." [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Baker, 1978, 329]
"Then, if you turn to the whole Book, the same thing is true, though in an even more modified sense. I have no time to dwell upon" the fact but the silence of Scripture is as astounding as what it does say. How many things the Bible simply takes "for granted which one would not expect to be taken for granted in a book of religious instruction. It takes for granted the being of a God. It takes for granted our relations to Him. It takes for granted our moral nature." It even takes for granted the future life as it says so little about what it is like. "Look at how the Bible, as a whole, passes by, without one word of explanation or alleviation," on a great many of the difficulties which are caused by some of its teaching. "For instance, we find little attempt to explain the divine nature of our Lord; or the existence of the three Persons in the Godhead. It has" little "to say in explanation of the mystery of prayer; or of the difficulty of reconciling the Omnipotent will of God on the one hand, with our own free will on the other. It" says little "to explain, though many a word to proclaim and enforce, the fact of Christ's death as the atonement for the sins of the whole world." How scant the information on points on which the heart craves for more light. How closely, for instance, the veil is kept drawn over our future life! "How many questions our sorrow and our love ask in vain!" [Maclaren, 329-330, adapted]
The incompleteness of Scripture as a history book is also easily observed. Nations and men appear on its pages abruptly, walking out of oblivion, and striding to the front of the stage for a moment, and then they disappear, swallowed up again in obscurity. "It has no care to tell the stories of any of its heroes, except where they were the instruments of that divine breath, which, breathed through the weakest reed, makes glory happen. The self-revelation of God, not the acts and fortunes of even His noblest servants, is the theme of the Book. It is full of gaps about matters that a philosopher or theologian would have filled up. There it stands, a Book unique in the world's history, unique in what it says, and no less unique in what it does not say. [Ibid, 331].
Yes, ‘Many other things' did God do that His Divine Spirit did not write in His book; but their were many things written. Why was God's Spirit so selective?
II. THE SELECTIVE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE, 31.
The reason for the selections and silences of Scripture is how explained. In 20:31 John discloses his purpose for writing the Gospel. "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; [and that believing you may have life in His name. ]
The signs however, are not of primary importance. The chief subject of the Gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the author desires to present as "the Christ" (Messiah), "the Son of God." Christ (Gr. Christos; Heb. M siah) means "Anointed One" and refers primarily to the long expected Deliverer appointed by God, who would come to free the nation from bondage and restore the Davidic kingdom. "Messiah" means the Deliverer from sin promised in the Old Testament as the fulfillment of the covenants [with the patriarchs and David] and who would consummate God's purpose for His people and the world.
The title "Son of God" (1:34, 49; 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4) would appeal to the Gentile world rather than to the Jew, for the Gentiles did not have the same reservations about monotheism as the Jews did. [The title does not, of course, imply biological descent like that of the Greco-Roman demigods but] the metaphor of sonship expresses the unity of nature, close relationship, and unique intimacy between Jesus and the Father. Human fatherhood and sonship though are only a faint copy of the relation between God the Father and God the Son. [Tenney, Expositor's Bible Com. Zondervan, 196] Together the terms indict the very highest view of Jesus possible, the very incarnation of God Himself [Morris, 857].
John wanted people to contemplate and perceive the theological significance of Jesus' miracles (smeia, "signs"). Many people today ignore, deny, or rationalize Jesus' miracles. Even in Jesus' day some people attributed them to God whereas others attributed them to Satan (3:2; 9:33; Mt. 12:24). To ignore, deny, or rationalize them in that day should have been impossible because the miracles were many and visually impacting. John said: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs." In fact, 35 different miracles are recorded in the four Gospels. John selected 7 for special consideration in order that people might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, and the Son of God. (The NIV reading, "may continue to believe," is probably not the correct textual reading; the niv text correctly renders the by the words may believe.) [Burge, Gary. NIV Application Commentary, John: 568. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000.] This evangelistic, this making of true disciples of Jesus Christ is the purpose of John and, in fact, the whole book of God. This purpose shapes all the revelation of God as it shapes all the occurrences of this Gospel from the first words to it conclusion.
If the purpose of Scripture, in the Gospels, and all its parts, is that we should believe ‘that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,' that purpose is not accomplished when we simply undertake to understanding the truth and accept it as a great many people do. The intent of Scripture is far more that simply establishing the fact that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. Scripture is to convince us to individually rest our sinful soul upon Jesus Christ as one's personal God and Savior. Scripture doesn't simply want us to know about Christ, it wants us awaken us so that we transfer our trust for life and salvation to Him.
Though Christianity can never give up the doctrine of the nature and office of Jesus Christ as taught by His Apostles, the purpose of this knowledge is to lead persons to place their personal faith for salvation and life in Him. If you do not, then Scripture has not performed the work on you for which it is designed, the salvation and sanctification of your life and soul.
Is God's Word accomplishing it's intended purpose in your life? Have you entrusted your eternal soul and life to Jesus?
III. THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE SCRIPTURES, 31b.
Verse 31 and chapter 20 concludes with the most magnificent promise ever offered mankind. "and that believing you may have life in His name."
Scripture is not given to us merely to let us know something about God in Christ, nor only in order that we may have faith in the Christ thus revealed to us, but for a further end, blessed be His Name! It was written so that those who continuously believe may have life, a great, glorious life! ‘Life' is deep, mystical, inexplicable by any other words than itself. It includes pardon, holiness, well-being, immortality, Heaven; but it is even more.
This life is not only a distant life in the heavenly, but life and life abundant here and now. This Life is connected to the person of Jesus. This life is in His name, in His being and character. This life comes into our dead hearts and quickens them by union with the Living God. It is life that flows like an abundant river into the lives of Jesus' disciples who stay in vital active relationship (abide) with Him. For Jesus through His written Word not only gives life, He gives the growth which is part of life.
That which is joined to God lives. That which is separated from God dies. You can separate your wills and your spiritual nature from Him, but separated from Him you are ‘dead in trespasses and in sins.'
Dear friend, the message now comes to you. There is life in this great Christ, ‘in His name'; that is to say, in that revealed character of His by which He is made known to us as the Christ and the Son of God.
Union with Him through belief in His death and resurrection will bring life into dead hearts. He is the true life who has come down from Heaven with the gift of divine Life, and He imparts it to us; if we will call upon Him, if we will yield allegiance to Him, if we will believe in His revelation of Himself, if we will believe in His revealed character and purpose.
The condition on which that great Name will bring to us life is simply our faith. Do you believe in Him, and trust yourself to Him, as He who came to fulfil all that prophet, priest, and king, and the sacrifice, altar, and Temple of old times prophesied and looked for? Do you trust in Him as the Son of God who comes down to earth that we in Him might find the immortal life which He is ready to give? If you do, then, dear brethren, the end that God has in view in all His revelation, that Christ had in view in His bitter suffering, has been accomplished for you. If you do not believe, you have not life. You may admire Him, you may think loftily of Him, you may be ready to call Him by many great and appreciative names, but unless you have learned to call on Him as the divine Savior of your soul, you have not seen what God means you to see. When you do He lays Himself upon us, as the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 4:34ff) laid himself on the little child in the upper chamber; and breezes breath into our lips, and a beating heart into our dead heart, life touches our death, and we are quickened, activated, animated, awakened, energized, vitalized into life, and that life is everlasting.
When you do believe, then all other questions about this Book, important as they are in their places, will settle themselves. When you find The Eternal Word who is the theme of all the written Word you have found the pearl of great price. Is Jesus to you the Son of the Living God? Has your believing on Him brought you new life? Do you share His life, and therefore have become a ‘son of God' by being change by His Character? Can you say out of your thankful heart out loud with your lips that triumphant and rapturous confession of Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God'? If you can, then you will receive the blessing which Christ promised to all of us standing beyond the limits of that little group, ‘who have not seen and yet have believed' — even that eternal life which flows into our dead spirits from the Christ, the Son of God, who is the Light of the world, and the Life of men.