There are times in our lives that we meet someone who completely changes us forever. It could be a spouse; a long lost family member, a life-long friend, or a stranger with words of wisdom. We hold on to these encounters, even retelling them in nostalgia. To say the least, they leave a mark on us.
John had one of these encounters. His retelling is the book of John. And the uniqueness of John’s encounter from any that we have ever had, is that he did not believe this meeting was only for him, but instead that the man he met was meant to be shared with whole world!
John tells us the purpose of his book at the end of the chapter 20.
“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.”
This gives us insight to what John experienced when he met Jesus. Two things are clear. Jesus was a man, not merely to be acquainted with, but to be believed in. Secondarily, by believing in Jesus, John was given life in his name.
This kind of language is unique to Christianity. In no other religion is there conversation about gaining life by “believing” in a person. Every major religion has a set of laws or codes by which you live in order to gain life or enlightenment. God or some sort of deity lays out these rules in expectation that his followers will obey. Even in the religion of the OT, Judaism, God through Moses gives laws in the expectation that the Israelites will obey God. Blessings are promised for obedience, and curses are promised for disobedience. We gain understanding in Christ that even here God is lining out his purposes of grace, but for those who have not met Christ, the law is the rule.
Then Jesus enters human history. He begins to claim that the answer to all of life’s greatest questions, the fulfillment of man’s deepest desires, and the solution to the world’s deepest problem is all wrapped up, not in a set of rules, but in one person; Himself.
The “I AM” statements of Jesus are famous in the book of John. In OT literature, Moses asked God to reveal to him his name in order for him to have something solidified to convince Pharaoh and the Israelites that his message was from God. God’s answer is emphatic and timely. “I am who I am.”
Jesus was such a controversial and powerful character that all of the religious elite and the impoverished masses wanted to know his true identity more than anything. Any man that raises the dead, heals the sick, opens blinded eyes, and teaches with such authority must not be an Average Joe.
He most definitely is not.
So Jesus responded to them in a way that was indirect, yet unmistakable to a first century Jew. He said “I AM.” After each I AM statement he would follow it with a title that shined light on a portion of his character. These partial revelations culminate in the book of John after Jesus dies on the cross for sin, and rises again on the third day. As the disciples wept and doubted, the risen Christ stood among them despite the locked door to the room. They were terrified. As the story climaxes, the disciple that doubted most deeply exclaims “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
Jesus is God in the flesh. When John met Jesus, his life was never the same. This man was not just a prophet whose teachings were to be applied. Jesus is God who’s name must be honored. Jesus is a King who demands allegiance from human beings that were created in His image.
The story of the Bible begins in Genesis 1:1 with:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
John begins in analogous form:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
No big deal right? John is just a good Jew who believes that Yahweh created everything. Then, John 1:14 changes everything,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”
Whoa. So God became flesh and lived with men?
Genesis 3 tells the story of Adam’s sin and that from that fall the schism of suffering has never stopped. God’s response to sin was to enter the suffering himself and live among it. Then, he finishes his life by drinking the cup of sin and suffering dry as he is murdered on a cross. Then he rises again and invites us into real life with him.
So how did John respond to this meeting with God in the flesh? He wrote it down. And he wrote it down for a reason. He wrote it down so that more people could meet him and have rich life in him.
So for the next 11 weeks we will be walking through the I AM statements of Christ and we want to be faithful to the goal of the writer. Our prayer is that many will believe in Christ for the first time in a real way. And for those of us who already believe, our prayer is that we would remember how to have LIFE in his name! Pray together with me Providence. May this season be marked by a rich love for Jesus and child-like joy in believing in him together. May we be marked by an encounter with Jesus.