St John’s Gospel is a Christmas favourite. The climax of the Carol Service readings is usually John 1:1-18. It is well said that John’s Gospel is “a pool where children may paddle and elephants may wade”. For some years now I have been wrestling with this marvellous Gospel. Is there a central theme, or key which unlocks the book? Clearly John’s own explanation is in John 20:30-31 – “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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.” Some have seen 7 signs and 7 discourses which John has collected in order to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God. I am sure that this makes a lot of sense of the first 12 chapters of the Gospel.
Many have also pointed out that John overlaps numerous themes – such as his demonstration that Jesus is greater than Jacob, Moses and Abraham; that he is the “I am”, everchanging eternal God; that he comes to fulfil the Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacle festivals. I am sure that John is “layered” in this way, often having more than one theme going on at a time.
However, I have also become convinced that John collects together stories of highly colourful individuals, and groups of people, who themselves have come to have life in the Son of God by believing in his name. We have Nicodemus in John 3 – a respected Jewish teacher; the Samaritan woman and outcast in John 4; the healing of a paralysed man in John 5; and the healing of a man born blind in John 9. In each of these encounters the individuals emerge (to a greater or lesser degree) from darkness to light as it dawns on them that Jesus is more than a prophet or a healer, and none other than the Son of God who is worthy of worship. John interwiews collective encounters with crowds of people who are largely fascinated by Jesus, but more as a celebrity than as Divine; and a hostile and plotting religious establishment.
But, for all the complexity of this Gospel, I commend it again as a series of testimonies to the true identity of Jesus, the Son of God. Yes, John is a record of Jesus’ words and deeds during his time as “Word Made Flesh” on earth. But I wonder whether sometimes we have overlooked the human drama played out in the lives Jesus changed, as they mirror back for us something of the true identity of Jesus. They invite us to examine him afresh so that we along with Thomas might say “My Lord and My God” (see 20:28).
I wonder, is that your testimony? Have you come to worship the Son of God we meet in John, and have Him change your life for good?!