We read in verses 29-31 the reason for this account of Jesus by John. “Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
It is hard to believe in a physical resurrection and death really defeated. Our hope is more comfortable with good memories, a memorial, or the feeling that the person is present. The best we can hope for is some kind of ghost.
John wants to help us. Yes, it is difficult to believe in a physical resurrection but the story of Jesus finally proves it. John wants us to believe two things about Jesus that the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates. They are words with a Jewish meaning but they also make sense to us.
The first word is about Jesus being appointed the Messiah. The word means the chosen one. For the Jews it also means the victor over their enemies, whom they thought were the Romans. The concept is that God wants so much for his people that he would rescue them. We can understand this hope of being rescued from the mess we are in.
The second word is about Jesus being recognised as the Son of God. The concept speaks of an intimate relationship with God. In addition, for the Jews, the meaning was about inheritance, that is, the future and purpose of life. The concept is that God wants everything for his own beloved. We can understand this hope of being recognised by our creator in an intimate way, leading us to the future we have with him.
And what results from these beliefs is life in him. The word for life means the source of being. A life that overcomes death.
The words may seem exotic but deep down we look for the same: the real rescue, to be known, the future safe, the real sustainer, because we are looking for meaning, we are looking for certainty about our value.
Before declaring this reason for the book, John gives us four accounts that help us see how Jesus fulfils the reason. Let’s think about them from different perspectives:
The emphasis he places on the physical resurrection
The emphasis on what they are looking for
The words of Jesus
The emphasis on physical resurrection
It is not worth dealing with Jesus if we do not resolve the question about the type of resurrection we are talking about. Jesus does not offer us more than other wise men without deciding on this.
Look at verses 8-9, 15, 25.
Vv 8-9: Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
V 15: Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’
V 25: But he said to them, ‘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.’
Do you see that the disposition of those closest to Jesus was still against the idea of physical resurrection? Why? Because there were no proofs. If you fight with the idea of a physical resurrection, they did also.
But the problem now is the proofs:
The first account and verse 7: “He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.” If you carry away a corpse, don’t unwrap it before-hand. What a disaster you would leave on the ground, and also a clue to follow.
The second account and verse 17: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” The word to let go is strong in Greek. You cannot grab a ghost.
As an aside, the fact that women appear in the accounts as witnesses is interesting. In the Jewish world women were not allowed to give testimony to a judge. Even so, the accounts of the resurrection give first testimony to women.
The third and fourth accounts and verse 20: “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” When we think of a dead loved one, the vision is of the person at their best, right? That Jesus wears scars is weird. Remember that the disciples did not expect to see Jesus. Why would you imagine him scarred?
Do not badly treat our ancestors. They understood death and what it meant. The truth is they responded scientifically to the situation. The evidence overcomes their a-priori argument (that is, their theory about the possibility of physical resurrection).
You? Jesus does not offer us more than other wise men without deciding on this. Unlike not accepting the evidence, the physical resurrection would really be life, right?
The emphasis on what they seek
John encourages us to see and believe how Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. They are ways of saying that he is the rescuer and known by God. They are important topics for everyone. Who will rescue me? Who can be known by God?
The disciples worry about the first title. Look at verses 9, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” V 19: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders”
The Resurrection has no meaning for those who see their enemy in the Romans. And look how they respond, hiding with the doors closed. They think that their pressing problem is the Romans and the Jews. And they wanted a Messiah who can win over these enemies.
But Jesus loves them more and he wants them to learn something more important. What do they learn?
Verse 28: “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Thomas is the first disciple to speak in chapter 20. In the that way the Jews wrote, this is a way of giving emphasis. Thomas speaks for all the disciples. And his recognition is incredible. He gives Jesus the names that only belong to the Creator. That is to say, he recognises that Jesus is more than man. And from this moment, the disciples stop living in fear of the Jews and the Romans. At last they understand what the physical resurrection of Jesus means: death has been defeated. So, who cares about the Romans and the Jews? They are flies in comparison to the threat of death.
Do you have a solution to your real enemy? The enemy is really death.
The second idea is about Jesus as the Son of God, and it is dealt with in the account with Mary Magdalene and verse 16: “She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).” Mary calls Jesus Teacher. Mary had found in Jesus the person who taught her how to live.
But Jesus loves her more and wants her to learn something more important. What does she learns? Verse 17: “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.””
Jesus wants to guide us, wants to be our teacher. But Jesus has a greater purpose, that is, guiding us to a personal relationship with God, as much as he has. And again, the physical resurrection is important from the perspective of Jesus. It is what allows Jesus to present us to God as his children.
Are you more like the disciples or Mary? What are you looking for in life, a way out of problems or a guide for life? Both?
The resurrection of Jesus gives you more than you expect.
The words of Jesus
We make sense of all this if we focus on what Jesus says.
We return to the disciples and verses 19, 21: “Peace to you!” The answer of Jesus to the disciples is peace.
The word peace means being complete. It is the concept of Sabbath in the Old Testament when there is no work to fulfil.
Jesus wants to give a peace that overcomes the threat of our “Romans” and that can be our consolation despite what surrounds us. That is really peace.
And his words to Mary? Again verse 17: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father.” Jesus’ response to Mary Magdalene is that she can be really known by her Creator.
No other religion allows God to be called Father with this intimacy. Jesus is more than a life coach. Jesus wants us to be known intimately by God.
Jesus speaks another important thing, and it is in the middle of the accounts to underscore its importance. Look at verses 22-23: “‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” According to Jesus’ words, restored relationship is the goal. Not only until death but beyond.
To believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (what we have considered), we will find the true source of life. The words may seem exotic but deep down we look for the same: a real rescue, to be known, the future safe, the real sustainer, because we are looking for meaning, we are looking for certainty about our value.
Jesus speaks to us, verse 29: :Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
John says we can see, verse 31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Consider at the evidence, be serious about what you are looking for and listen to the answer of Jesus.