A Look at the Cross: John

Sometimes colors run together.  Like a damp water color, John paints the crucifixion with many colors that converge to make one.  His point is “life” and how to gain it, but his colors are numerous.

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

Thirty six times in his book, will John use the word zoe, or “life”.  For John, life wasn’t just a few more sunsets and it wasn’t just eternal, but a manner of life that can be lived today.  In John’s many years and many experiences, he found that life was to be lived all out on this earth.  The point of his gospel was to communicate that with his readers.  It is fitting that life for us can only come through the death of him (Jesus).  So how do we attain “life”?

The formula for John is fairly simple and can be summed up in one word “believe”.  Belief and life are inextricably linked.  You can’t have one without the other.  Within John’s gospel, it is easy to see that with simple glance at the places where “life” and “believe” occur in tandem.

  • “…everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (3.15-16)
  • “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (5.24)
  • “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” (6.40)
  • “he who believes has eternal life” (6.47)
  • “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (11.25-26)
  • “…by believing you might have life in his name.” (20.31)

The end result of belief, as attested to by John, is life.  Only through belief in Jesus does one find life.  What is fascinating about John’s book is how he lays out the case for belief.  At every major encounter, through all the 7 signs, and the 7 “I am statements” found in the words of Jesus, John is laying out a case for belief.  In the purpose statement of the book, found in John 20.30-31, John writes: “I have written these things so that you might believe…”  That is not the first time John used that phrase though.

Back one chapter, in John 19, John’s case for belief is solidified.  Sure the resurrection was the final argument for Jesus being the Son of God, but what he did for us was proved on that Friday.  A resurrection is only a resurrection if he was really dead so John writes:

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

Believe in the testimony.  Over half the times this word [martureo] is used in the New Testament it is from the pen of John (47 times out of 76 total).  Thirty three times it is used in his gospel.  Jesus is doing what God sent him today and that work testifies his identity (John 5.36).  The miracles he performed (10.25) and the Scriptures (5.39) testify or give witness to who Jesus really is.  Do you believe?

Believe in the Truth.  At the end of their meeting, Jesus told Pilate: “I testify to the truth.” (18.37).  Pilate responded by asking: “what is truth?”  Truth is a big word for John.  Just over half of the time in the New Testament, when “truth” [alethia] or one of its cognates occur, it is in one of John’s writings (92/183).  John is awful preoccupied with truth, what is real, and what is “solid”.  Truth, first and foremost, comes from God (John 8.40).  Secondly, Jesus is full of it (John 1.14,17; 14.6; 17.3, 17).  Truth is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, which is what John is trying to get through to his readers.  Twice in our text, John uses the word.  The first time it is of his words (“the testimony is true”) and the second is of the actions of Jesus (“he tells the truth”).  One is a nod to the account, the other a nod to the event.

Believe the water.  The spear thrust into Jesus side let forth a mixture of blood and water.  Nicodemus was told that he needed to be born of the water (3.5).  The woman at the well needed living water (4.7-14).  In both instances, Jesus was clear, through John’s words, that water was directly connected to life.  Belief, testimony, truth, and now water…all seem to connect back to the life John wants us to have.  Jesus says it in John 7.38: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  But when Jesus says “water” he doesn’t just mean “water”…sure he means “water” but this is other “water”.  The Spirit, who is also connected to truth, will reside within them.  This life giving Spirit, also sent from God, and also testifying to Jesus, will well up inside.  O how we need more water.

Believe in the Blood.  In all of John’s word-smithing, with his deep view of truth, his detailed testimony, his dual-meaning water, and the sheer volume of belief, when he says “blood”, he means it, kind of.  John 6 recalls Jesus talking to the crowds beside the lake.  He connects himself with the bread that the Lord sent down from heaven.  He is the bread of life.  The Jews began to argue because they didn’t understand how they could eat his flesh.  Understandable.  But Jesus replies that the only way to life is by drinking his blood. (6.54)  His flesh is “real” [alethia] and his blood is [alethia].  This is the same word for “truth”.  Life and truth is found in the blood of Jesus Christ…John did some work on this.

The question remains: Do you believe?  Jesus has been talking about belief since the beginning, but here, for the first time, John steps back from the narrative, and interjects the question.  It is implied but present.

…one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’s side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19.34-35)

 

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About Travis Long

I am a cowboy saved by the grace of God.

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