THE PASSION OF OUR LORD:
DETAILING THE EVENTS OF OUR LORD’S SUFFERING AND DEATH
Session #31 (Most quotes are NIV)
Gospel of John: THOSE WHO “GET IT”; THOSE WHO DON’T
The Doobie Brothers had a #1 hit song in 1979 called “What a Fool Believes.” The song includes this line: “What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away!”
If John had written his Gospel in today’s world, he would have that song playing in the background as he wrote, and probably have had a big smile on his face. In his Gospel, we have stories about all kinds of people. But most of these stories center around what these people think of Jesus. And John, in every chapter, is asking “What do you think of Jesus?”
What is very interesting is this: those who are supposed to understand who Jesus is actually do not, and those who are supposed to be clueless are the ones who at least SEEM to understand His Divinity. Here are a few examples:
- Chapter 3, Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Council, A LEADER of the people and a Bible expert. John 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?” (He is supposed to “get it.” He doesn’t)
- Chapter 4, the Samaritan woman who is not a Jew and hated for the “stupidity” of her religion. John 4:42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (A little bonus: The woman says “I know the Messiah is coming.” Jesus’ response to her in 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” There’s no “he” at the end. Jesus said “It is I AM who is speaking to you!” Or did he?)
- Chapter 8, the Pharisees—the teachers of the Law, and the so-called experts in the Bible. John 8:24 “if you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins.” Did they believe it? No, they tried to stone him for blasphemy.
- Chapter 9, the man born blind—proof in the Jewish mind that the man was a hated sinner who had no place in God’s Kingdom. John 9:38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (Another little bonus: 9:40-41Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” Sounds like the Doobie Brothers, doesn’t it? “What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away!”)
WHAT ABOUT “DOUBTING THOMAS?”
This poor guy has had more sermons preached about his failure as a disciple than just about anyone. John 20:25 “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Yes, that’s what he said. And maybe he deserves some scolding.
Let’s put Thomas into that category of “Those who don’t get it!” He has all the advantages, doesn’t he? His is a close disciple of Jesus and witnessed Jesus’ entire ministry—all the sermons, all the miracles, all the subtle hints, etc. But in the end, he “gets it!” John 20:28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” WOW! Three questions, however, need to be asked:
1) Where did he get his statement of faith? This one is simple to answer. Jesus says to Thomas “You have believed because you have seen me.” His faith is based on empirical evidence. He could see and touch Jesus, so it must be true that He is Risen!
2) What does his statement mean? This is a little tougher because Thomas is saying something that even those who “get it” didn’t really understand. That he is calling Jesus “God” is undeniable. But there is something MORE here. Why call him “My LORD and my GOD?” Remember the Old Testament phrase for God’s personal name? Yahweh Elohim which in Hebrew means Yahweh (God’s personal name) coupled with the word the Hebrew language generally uses for “the real God as opposed to the false gods”). So, the Old Testament countless times calls God “the Lord God.” What does Thomas say? “My Lord and my God.” Thomas really gets it, and he’s the ONLY one who does! God’s personal name in Hebrew means “I AM.”
Is Thomas REALLY saying “The man who stands before me with holes in his body is the God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush, who thundered on the top of Mount Sinai, and who blew into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life?” Is “I AM the life” literally true? You have to decide! You can write it off as nonsense, coincidence, wishful thinking, etc. There are “signs” everywhere in John, clues to help us answer the question: WHO is Jesus? John practically hits us over the head in chapter 8:24 “If you don’t believe that I AM, you will die in your sins!” NO—it can’t mean that, can it? The Pharisees certainly said “Blasphemy!”
3) Why is this the last story in the Gospel of John? John tells us the answer to this one, but it requires a little lesson in Greek grammar, specifically about “hina clauses.”
JOHN’S LAST HINT: WHY I WROTE THIS!
For the moment, disregard chapter 21. Pretty much everyone agrees that John added that chapter some years later to clear up a couple of misconceptions about things Jesus said.
The original ending is John 20:31 “But these things are written sothat you may believethat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, sothat by believing you may have life in his name.” Notice those two “SO THATs” in the verse? In Greek, the word behind these is “hina.” “Hina” is a word which can be used either to state a purpose or a result. We have two of them in this verse. Let’s take them one at a time.
The first one is “so that you believe.” The purpose of John’s Gospel is to create faith in the Messiah, in Christ, who is the “Son of God.” Faith must always have a content. Everyone believes in something. It’s what you believe which is critical. John has, from the first verse, tried to tell us that belief in Jesus means “believing he is God!” 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God…” 1:14 “the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us and we saw with our own eyes the glory…” 1:18 “No one has seen God—ever! But the only God who is in the bosom of the Father has shown him to us.”
What is Jesus? Some “kind” of god? Or is he the real thing? 1:4 “In him was life!” Is John being subtle, or is he playing a game with us? Why doesn’t he speak clearly?
Look at the second “so that”: “so that by believing you might have life in his name.” Is this phrase the subtle reason for John’s Gospel and intended to be the focus of our faith? Why do we need to have a faith that centers “in his name?” “Jesus”—is that his name? Or is his name something more?
He is called all kinds of names: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of David, etc. But there’s ONLY ONE MAN who calls him “God” and that’s “doubting” Thomas. It would be easy to say that John wrote his Gospel SO THAT we would believe that Jesus is God. But John doesn’t leave it at that; he has been dropping hints all over the place that something more is afoot, and the second “so that” is where we need to look.
“These are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that believing, you might have life IN HIS NAME!“ (Remember 1:4 “in Him was life!”)
What is his name? Thomas didn’t just call Jesus “God. He said “my Lord and my God” It is his last hint! Jesus is “The Lord God”—the I AM! Jesus’ real name is “I AM.“
It is my contention that John’s Gospel is saying “Jesus is I AM in the flesh—THAT is his name; and if you don’t understand that, then you don’t know who Jesus is at all.”
(There are those who will argue with every sentence I wrote. Draw your own conclusions!)