People always give the disciples a hard time.
Picture with me the stereotypical bearded, skinny-jean clad pastor’s attempts at being relatable, “Can you believe it, church? Those boneheads didn’t get it again! Hahaha!”
I get these jokes are supposed to make us feel good about ourselves and make the disciples more relatable… but have you read John?
I read through the book of John recently. I was struggling with faith, honestly. Not faith that Jesus is Lord, but faith that He was… close, I guess? That He liked me?
In an attempt to get closer (or at least shift blame. ie., “I’m doing my part, God. Where are you?”), I started journaling and reading my Bible more consistently. Unfortunately, in the midst of this questionably motivated endeavor, I made the grave mistake of jumping right into Romans.
Now Romans is great, don’t get me wrong. But Paul can be so blunt. It’s like he doesn’t care about my feelings at all. As my heart was not in a place to deal with his attitude, I moved on to John. John, the sweet disciple. The one Jesus trusted to take care of His mother. The one who ran just quickly enough to beat Peter (BUT NOT THE WOMEN, HEYYO) to the empty tomb.
Surely John would make me feel better.
Except for halfway through John, I was not feeling better. In fact, I was feeling worse.
After <insert basically any miracle or sermon here> the disciples would ask a very simple question and Jesus would respond with something along the lines of, “Do you not believe yet?? Do you not understand yet??”
Uh, NO JESUS. YOU HAVE BEEN VERY VAGUE AND CONFUSING.
Read John. You’ll see.
The poor disciples didn’t have a chance and yet we treat them like they’re idiots.
Halfway through John, my journal entries started looking something like, “Uhhhh, so I’m trusting You’re the Son of God… but if You do not say something clearly SOON we are going to have to TALK. Please do not damn me in the meantime. Thank you. Love you. Amen.”
And then Holy Week.
My readings brought me to Holy Week circa 30AD right as Holy Week circa 2019AD kicked off. And in His perfect timing, (even 2000 years later) Jesus finally made Himself clear.
Spoiler Alert: He is the Son of God. He is Love. He is Goodness. He is the humble, understated, miraculous, glorious Messiah. There is no room for doubt. There is no reason for doubt. He is finally clear.
The epic entrance into Jerusalem. The Passover Meal. The prayer in the Garden. The conversation with Pilate. The cross. The resurrection. He makes Himself clear.
And then it gets good.
(Yes, it finally gets good after the resurrection. I can see how you think rising from the dead is a big deal but JUST WAIT.)
Because John writes, “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”
Okay, I’ll explain.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples, but sweet Thomas wasn’t around for some reason. And understandably, Thomas couldn’t believe Jesus was alive. He wanted to see and feel the risen Jesus with his own eyes and hands. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but up until this point, very few people had risen from the dead. Yes, sure, there had been a couple, but it wasn’t the norm for heaven’s sake. And can I remind you that Jesus had been irritatingly unclear until, like, RIGHT before His death?
Thomas gets a break in my book.
Anyway. Jesus did not need to show up for Thomas. He even says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did not need to show up for Thomas. But He did.
Jesus really wanted Thomas to believe. He wanted Thomas to have no doubt in his heart or mind that His friend Jesus was who He said He was: The Son of God.
Jesus, in His incredible kindness, goes out of His way to give Thomas his proof.
And after this, Jesus appears to His disciple Peter. The same Peter who had publicly denied knowing Jesus at the hour of His death. The same Peter who was dealing with the intensely conflicting feelings of joy at resurrection and shame at what he’d done.
After catching some fish and cooking up breakfast, Jesus takes the man who denied and deserted Him aside and offers him forgiveness, redemption, and a purpose: Take care of My church.
John writes, “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”
These words are written so that we can believe.
I think God has different uses for all the books and writers of Scripture. Some books are meant to challenge, some are meant to teach, some are meant to inspire – all are meant to point to the cross.
But John, specifically, is for the doubter. John is for the unsure and the shamed. John is for the excited new believer who doesn’t fully understand and the old believer who is completely jaded. John was written for the people who want to believe but need proof. John was written for the people who have screwed up so badly they’re not sure God can love them, let alone use them.
John was written for the broken.
John was written for the broken to remind us that Jesus came for the broken.
To remind us that Jesus is who He (sure, eventually at the last minute) claimed to be.
To remind us that Jesus is kindness and love and goodness and forgiveness and redemption.
To remind us that He is patient with us and He wants us and He likes us.
And once you are so sure of those things again… then maybe, maybe you can read some of Paul’s words without wanting to cry in a corner.
In the meantime… read John.
TLDR: Read John.
Happy Easter, everybody.