Matthew, Mark and Luke write like kayakers on a swiftly flowing river with occasional patches of white water.
But John is more like a canoe on a quiet lake, drifting unhurriedly, paddling leisurely to take in the sights along the shoreline, noticing rock formations, observing a blue heron fishing in the rushes, pausing and drifting to sketch cloud patterns reflected in the glassy water. (The Message: Introduction to John)
Last week we reflected on the fact that as John sits down to write his Gospel all of his fellow disciples are gone—long gone. John is an old man now. Even Jesus’ mother Mary, for whom John had been caring all those years, has been dead for thirty years. John is living in Ephesus, in Asia, far from his beloved Israel.
Perhaps John at times felt like my dear ninety-five year old mother when she smiles and says, “I look in the mirror and ask, ‘Who is that old woman looking back at me?’”
It has been sixty years since John last experienced Jesus’ presence. That is a long time to reflect, to ponder the essence of this man Jesus, who turned his world upside down, no … right side up!
John wants his original readers—and God wants you, you, my friend, reading this right now—to know the Jesus he knew. So he writes a different kind of story. John’s gospel has ninety percent new material. The first three Gospels include eighteen to twenty miracles. John includes eight.
John calls them signs, not miracles. Signs, we can imagine, because John wants you to see the Jesus they point to; this Jesus who is the Son of God, and yet this Jesus who is his closest friend. The Jesus who so flooded his life with love that John called himself, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.”
I do not think John is saying Jesus loved him more than the others. It seems impossible that Jesus could love anyone more than another. And yes, this would mean he loves you as much as he loved John. Can you imagine that?
I think by calling himself this John is conveying to us that over these last sixty years his overwhelming memory, what made an impression … an imprint … an indentation in his heart, was the way Jesus loved.
Deeply. Penetrating. Saturating. Soul soothing.
I hope you have and are experiencing this love.
And please do not miss this: Jesus not only loves you as much as he did John, he likes you as much. Yes, he likes you, despite you. Despite you with your pettiness and your selfishness—and all the other attributes I could apply about myself as well. He likes you because he understands you.
We will see this perfect understanding in the encounters John reveals. With Nicodemus, the up and in. With the Samaritan woman at the well, the down and out. And a host of others, just like you and me.
Remember John said, “In him was life …” —and I would add— “and that Life was the essence of overwhelming love.” Jesus had Life in him. Jesus had Life pulsating through him. Everyone who met him felt it. Some loved it. Some did not, because they either did not understand him, or they felt threatened by him.
As we read John’s Gospel we will encounter all three.
Which are you?
Next Week: Life to the Full