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Church attendance is in decline. We hear a lot about faith, yet it can often be faith without no outward focus, faith in some unknown force or faith in ourselves. Sometimes it can be faith in a philosophy or in a set of beliefs. Sadly, many who take the name of Christian only have some vague things, with no focus or reality about it. Many seem to think that as long as they have faith, everything will be well. John gives us the answer to where true faith needs to find its focus.
“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).
John begins his gospel with a great declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). John then unfolds for us all that it means. Although John has 21 chapters, and chapter 21 is full of Resurrection appearances, he almost seems to come to a climax in the final verses of chapter 20. Thomas wasn’t present when the disciples saw the risen Jesus in the upper room, so refused to believe it and because of that he is known as ‘doubting Thomas.’ Yet that is not where John ends the passage. Thomas is no different from the other disciples when they heard the Resurrection news. Yet John points us to one of the greatest confessions of faith in the New Testament, from Thomas, an assertive statement of Thomas’ faith, ‘My Lord and My God.’
After this, John writes, “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).
John tells us here what is to be the great foundation of our faith; faith is to be that which is based on this foundation alone – that Jesus is the Christ, and He is the Son of God. The One whose life John has set out in his gospel is no other than the Messiah – the One who would fulfil all His Father’s purposes. He is the One who has been appointed to fill the plan of salvation. This anointed One was the perfect man, the Son of God, equal with the Father. This is John’s great conclusion he wants us to come to. He declares the claims are true. The evidence is overwhelming, even though it’s impossible to write everything Jesus said and did. In spite of that, John is saying, ‘All I have written gives clear evidence that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.’
What signs have been written? John uses the word ‘sign’ more than any other gospel writer. A sign is a miracle of divine majesty, a declaration of who Jesus is, a signpost to look beyond the miracle to the One who stood before them.
Peter wrote, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know,” (Acts 2:22).
As Jesus performs these miracles, He pointed the crowds to the truth beyond the miracle. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the people simply wanted their bellies full. But Jesus pointed out it was Him they needed to feed upon.
John 9:35-41, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
Jesus here is pointing out to the man and the Jewish leaders that there was a spiritual sight that was needed. The man worships Him. Here is a silent declaration that He is the Son of God.
As Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).
There are many prophecies that John and other gospel writers record to point us to this great truth – that Jesus is the anointed One. John, more than any other writer, points to Jesus as the Messiah. In John 4 we read of Jesus’ meeting with the woman of Samaria, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26).
The Lord Jesus Christ, again and again, as He interacted with the Jewish authorities, they saw the realities of His claims, even though they opposed Him and refused to accept Him. In John 5 we have the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, after he is healed the Jews challenged the Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. “But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) John writes, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)
The Jews saw what Jesus was claiming, yet they rejected Him. In these two verses John seems to sum up, the facts speak for themselves, ““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). There is no greater fact than the fact of the Resurrection. What mere man would make this claim – put me to death and in three days I will rise again. Here is a claim that would make Him or break Him. As we read the gospels, we find the truth shines out from the page, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’
The gospel writers and the apostle Paul made this great claim. A man like Paul was writing when multitudes were still alive who had witnessed these things. Remember what Paul could write, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
John says the evidence is clear. So why does John write in this way? “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). John is writing first of all to believers. How often we feel the pressures that come upon us as believers, which challenge our faith. We have to wrestle with our own doubting and unbelieving hearts. We have to confront Satan’s lies and insinuations. We live in a day and age where there is rampant unbelief around us. The pressure is to conform, to fit in with the world’s views, and our faith can be shaken at times. Satan, just as he did in the garden, he whispers in our ear, ‘Did God really say that? Is the gospel really true? Do you really need to make such a stand?’
When we face such problems, when we face such challenges, John’s exhortation to us is to come back to the gospel, come back and read of the life of your Lord and Saviour, consider again the evidence, read the gospel, gaze into the Saviour’s face, and go on believing. See Him again in all His glory and all His majesty. Follow the signs once more which will take you back to the foundation of your faith. It will remind you of the great truth that Paul declared that there is no other foundation than that which has been laid, Jesus Christ. Here is the foundation which will support you through all the different trials and challenges of life. Here is a foundation to rest upon.
Like the disciples, we can be slow to believe at times. But just as the Lord dealt gently with Thomas and the disciples, so He promises to deal gently with us and raise us up again. Why is it so important that we should consider John’s gospel? “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).
When we meet with unbelievers, they want to know, ‘Why do you make so much of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is He so important? Why do you go on about Him?’ Well, it is for this reason: that it is only in Jesus Christ, it is only in this foundation, it is only in His Name – which means all that He is and all that he has done – that you can find peace with God and life everlasting. Here is the source of true love, life everlasting, life with God, life which brings peace with God, life which brings forgiveness of sin and the prospect of heaven rather than hell. So, that’s why we preach the gospel, that’s why we beseech men and women and boys and girls, to come back to this gospel, to this foundation, to consider the evidence.
We pray that God will open blind eyes, as the Saviour opened blind eyes, that we may see the truth of His words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” For those of us who are believers, those of us who are in local churches, this is an exhortation to the whole church. Do you want to go on knowing God’s blessing? Do you want to know what it is to continue with a living witness to the Saviour? Then, we must listen to these words written in one of the commentaries I was reading. “When the church continues to accept Jesus as the divinely appointed and qualified one, that is, as the Christ, the fulfilment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises, when it continues to recognise Him as the Son of God, in the most exalted sense of the term, it will then continue to have life, everlasting life in His name.”
History tells us when churches gave up this truth, they died. Here is the reason for so many empty chapels – people cease to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His Name. God grant that we may be a people who go on believing, who go on proclaiming the greatness of our Saviour and of His word. Amen.