A Witness to Be Believed John 20:30-31
Easter Sunday Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
Almost everyone has heard of Mr. Heinz whose US7 varieties" of pickles have distinguished his name. One day after an evangelistic service the speaker turned to him and said, "You are a believer, but with all your energy why aren't you up and at it for the Lord?" Heinz went home in anger. That night he couldn't sleep, however, and at 4 o'clock in the morning he prayed that God would use him to lead others to the Savior. A day or so later at a meeting of bank presidents, he turned to the man next to him and told him of his joy in knowing Jesus. His friend looked at him in surprise and said, "Because I knew you were a Christian, I've wondered many times why you never spoke to me about salvation. That gentleman became the first of 267 converts, people of different varieties, from all walks of life, that Mr. Heinz eventually saw won to Christ!
There may have been many people who have wondered the same of us. People will always listen to a man with the facts. This is especially true in the spiritual realm. A man with the facts is a better witness than a man with a theory. The Apostle John was such a man. He gave a witness to the identity of Jesus of Nazareth in the twenty-one chapters of the gospel that bears his name.
Take Your Bibles, Please…
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 ESV).
John was uniquely in a position to be acquainted with the facts. He was one of the first to become a follower of Jesus Christ. He had first been a disciple of John the Baptist, but responded to the proclamation of John concerning Jesus. He had committed his life to the one the Baptist declared to be "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (cf. John 1:29). This had finally resulted in his leaving his fishing business which he shared with his father Zebedee and his brother James. For more than three years he had been constantly beside the lord Jesus. He had listened to all of His lessons and watched with wonder at His mighty deeds.
Years had passed since these wonderful events in his life and John is led by the Holy Spirit to write these things as a witness to that life. It is surely a witness to be believed. If you are considering the place Jesus Christ should have in your life, you should give careful attention to the witness of this man who knew Jesus more than any other human being. We can see three distinct truths revealed about this witness of the apostle.
First, this witness to Christ was a selective witness.
The heart of John was literally full of the memories of his experiences with Jesus during those three years of life and work with Him. That which he shares with his readers, by his own acknowledgment is a selective witness. Just the sheer number of experiences made this a necessity. This is at the heart of John's declaration: Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 ESV).
No one witness could ever write all of their experiences with Christ. This is true of all of the Gospel records. When we combine what all four of the Gospels tell us about Jesus, we still have a very selective witness. There are actually only a few days of His more than thirty years of life covered! There is not a word about more than eighteen years of His life. A major part of the Gospel record is concerned with the last week of His life. To record the teachings and the deeds of the whole life of Jesus would fill the world with books. This selectivity is indicative of several things.
First, it indicates that John's purpose was not to detail a history of Jesus' life. With this in mind, John selects seven miracles performed by the Lord before His death. He adds some of the more significant discourses which grew out of these miracles and calls the miracles “signs.” In fact, to John, everything Jesus did was a sign. It was a sign pointing to something more significant about the Lord. The seven John chose set forth what he felt we needed to know about the identity of Jesus Christ. But there are other reasons for this selectivity.
Second, it also indicates the presence of a lifelong relationship. There were so many other experiences because John knew Jesus every day. It was not merely an experience of initial redemption, but one of life. And last, it indicates the progressive nature of John's relationship with Jesus. The more he experienced Jesus, the more he came to know of Him. It built in a spiral fashion, his knowledge and experience of the Lord multiplying with each passing day of devotion.
Second, the witness to Christ is a purposeful witness.
An artist, seeking to depict on canvas the meaning of evangelism, painted a storm at sea. Black clouds filled the sky. Illuminated by a flash of lightning, a little boat could be seen disintegrating under the pounding of the ocean. Men were struggling in the swirling waters, their anguished faces crying out for help. The only glimmer of hope appeared in the foreground of the painting, where a large rock protruded out of the water. There, clutching desperately with both hands was one lone seaman. It was a moving scene. Looking at the painting, one could see in the tempest a symbol of mankind's hopeless condition. And, true to the Gospel, the only hope of salvation was "the Rock of Ages", a shelter in the time of storm. But as the artist reflected upon his work, he realized that the painting did not accurately portray his subject. So he discarded the canvas, and painted another. It was very similar to the first: the black clouds, the flashing lightning, the angry waters, the little boat crushed by the pounding waves, and the crew vainly struggling in the water. In the foreground the seaman was clutching the large rock for salvation. But the artist made one change: the survivor was holding on with only one hand, and with the other hand he was reaching down to pull up a drowning friend.
That is the New Testament picture of evangelism. Once we have the security of the Rock, we are set free to reach out to others who are in the storm. It is to this end that John writes, to inform his readers that God does indeed extend His hand in grace to those who have fallen through sin. Listen again: But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 ESV). This was the conviction that had gripped John's heart as he walked with Jesus.
Further, John wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. We should note that this title is uniquely related to the history of Israel. The Old Testament form of this word was "Messiah." "Christ" is the Greek translation of that Hebrew word. John wants us to believe that Jesus the One who has been and is the Anointed of God. Israel had been anticipating the coming of such a One for centuries. The prophets had repeatedly promised that one would come from God to be their deliverer and savior. He would be the one like Moses, a great prophet and deliverer; like David, a great king; and like Melchizedek, a great priest. He would bring great spiritual blessings to the waiting people of God and to all nations. As John watched Jesus, he came to an unshakable conviction that Jesus was that very Christ. The reasons for this conviction are set forth throughout the Gospel.
However, John does not want his readers to be deceived. His record is very honest. The greatest names in the nation of Israel did not acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. John was careful to note that they actually rejected Jesus' claims and finally crucified Him. John wants his readers to believe what the nation of Israel refused to believe.
Before you follow that example, however, you should consider the witness of one who did believe. In the construction of the sentence, "Son of God" (v. 31) is actually in apposition with "Christ." These are different titles for the same reality. This title certainly had deep meaning for John. It meant that Jesus was something more than another man. John does not intend to bear witness to even the best of men. While there are many evidences of the humanity of Christ in the Gospel of John, the Christ presented can never be fully explained in human terms. Bluntly, for John, this title means that Jesus is God. John is making a bold assertion of the full deity of Jesus Christ. This is what he wants us to believe. This is the fact we must remember as we listen to the Gospel. When you see Jesus turning water into wine, this is a sign that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. When His words bring health to the sick, sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and life to the dead, it is a sign that He is the Christ, the Son of God!
John does not want us to admire Jesus, or even respect Jesus. He wants us to believe! He does not want us to express empty words of appreciation, but rather, to commit our lives to Him in faith. Further, note that John uses a present tense verb. He wants this faith to be the very center of our life now and forever
Third, the witness to Christ is a powerful witness.
Listen again: "...and that believing, ye might have life through his name" (v. 31b). He knows that if you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, this faith will result in life.
A few years ago, a friend of ours visited with hotel entrepreneur Conrad Hilton. As they separated, an exchange of calling cards took place. Our friend shares Mr. Hilton's quote, "Food for Thought," which appears on the card:
In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were nine of the world's most successful financiers. Those present were the president of the largest independent steel company; the president of the largest utility company; the president of the largest gas company; the greatest wheat speculator; the president of the New York Stock Exchange' a member of the president's cabinet; the greatest "bear" in Wall Street; head of the world's' greatest monopoly; and the president of the Bank of International Settlements. Certainly we must admit that here were gathered a group of the world's most successful men. At least, they must be seen as men who had found the secret of "making money." Nearly thirty years later let's see where these men are:
The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, died bankrupt and lived on borrowed money for five years before his death;
The president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died a fugitive from justice and penniless in a foreign land;
The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hopson, is now insane and living in a long-term secure facility for those who have been deemed a danger to themselves and others;
The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad being insolvent at the time;
The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was recently released from a one of the most infamous state penitentiaries, Sing Sing Prison in New York;
The member of the president's cabinet, Albert Fall, committed suicide;
The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, also committed suicide.
All of these men learned well the art of making money but not one of them learned how to live.
"Life" is a key word throughout the Gospel of John. He bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the "life". He records a statement that Jesus made in which He claimed to be "the life."(cf. John 14:61). He records the signs in which Jesus manifested both His ability to give life and His victory over death. His final record is that Jesus died and was buried, and on the third day was raised from the dead. So he wants us to believe that we may receive this life.
This life John makes reference to is the life of God, eternal life, or everlasting life. The life men receive from their physical, biological parents is only physical existence. There is another life, a life that comes from God. It is the life that continues after our physical existence. It is life that abides even in physical death. It is the life that only God can give. And he will only give to those who have faith in Jesus Christ! The witness John gives leads us to that kind of life. It is a very powerful witness indeed!
A Final Word
Do you believe the witness of John? Before you answer, let me make sure you understand what John means by "believe.” It is the understanding and testimony of John that to believe is to trust, or rely upon Christ and Christ alone for acceptance before God. To believe is to exercise the faith God has given to you in accepting Jesus Christ as the absolute Ruler of your life. You cannot really believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God without this forever making a profound difference in your life. Has it made such a difference in your life? Do you believe the witness of John?