John wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience, adding many references to Jewish feasts, and passages in the Hebrew scriptures they would understand. John was writing to convince the Jewish audience that Jesus really was the longed-for Messiah and Son of God, as was expressed towards the end of his gospel,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

But these are written so that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:30-31 (NRSV)

You and I are what we believe.

People almost always act according to what they really believe. It does not matter much what you and I say we believe or what we want others to think we believe. When it really matters, in our real lives, we act out what we really believe most of the time.

There are five aspects that shape a belief, all of which John addressed in his gospel[1]

  1. The content of a belief—What we believe matters. The facts. John presented the facts of Jesus’ deity through Jesus’ own claims about Himself, through the other witnesses of Jesus’ authenticity, and through the miracles themselves, acting as signs.
  1. The strength of a belief—When a person says they believe something, that doesn’t mean they are certain that it is true, it just means that they are at least more than fifty percent convinced the belief is true

So, a belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced that the belief is true. As you gain evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you. It may start off as plausible and later become fairly likely, then quite likely, then beyond reasonable doubt, and finally, completely certain. The more certain you are of a belief, the more it becomes a part of your inner being and the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

John provided irrefutable evidence, backed up by eyewitnesses and miracles, that added strength and support to Jesus’ claim of being Messiah, Son of God

  1. The centrality of a belief—The more central a belief is, the greater the impact it will have on your worldview, the way you see things. For John, belief in Christ was so central that Jesus was the very source of life for him, and he saw Jesus as the source of life, light, and love for all people.
  1. The way to change a belief—You start on a course of study with an open mind, one of inquiry. Place yourself in a position to undergo a change in the content, strength, and centrality of the beliefs you already have—what John was asking of his Jewish audience.

This is what the Bible means when it says you and I need to constantly renew our minds. This is why studying the Bible is so important, because it is the antidote to the constant immersion our minds already have in our culture’s belief systems, and our culture’s values.

As you and I study John’s gospel, we have the potential to gain much if we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable and yielding to what these God-breathed words have to say about Messiah Jesus.

  1. The plausibility of a belief—Because what the culture you and I are a part of will, to a very great extent, determine what beliefs we are willing to entertain. If the culture says something is plausible, it will be easy to believe. But, if the culture says it is not plausible, we will find ourselves pretty skeptical. John recorded some stupendous claims Jesus makes in this gospel. Will we accept it? It depends on how deep the nonbelieving culture around us has gotten inside us.

John included God’s “I AM” identification at least nine times because Jesus shared both divine and human natures as the unique God-Man.

Jesus claimed to be what only God is:

  • The Bread of Life, the living bread from heaven that nourishes and sustains us
  • The light of the world that guides people
  • The gate for the sheep, the way to life is through Jesus and only Jesus; and He cares for and protects His own
  • The Good Shepherd, Who is intrinsically good, Who protects His sheep to the point of laying His life down for us
  • The Resurrection and the Life, Resurrection, so death is no obstacle and Life, which begins now and continues into eternity
  • The Way, the Truth and the Life, He is the way, meaning only through His death are sinners reconciled to God. He is the truth in that all He said, all He claimed and did can be trusted. He embodies the ultimate revelation of God, He is God’s expression of Himself. He is the life in that His own life is self-existent as God, and He is the source of life to all others.
  • The true vine, abundant life and fruitful service depends on vital union with Jesus.

To the Jewish mind and culture, these claims were totally implausible, and many refused to entertain the possibility. We know from the apostle Paul that more and more, Jesus’ claim to be God was rejected by the people of their native land and faith, even as more and more from surrounding cultures and religions had their eyes opened and came to faith.

For you and me today, the question is the same as it was in John’s day:

Who is Jesus and what is His significance to me?

John wrote his gospel to answer that question in such a convincing way, those who read it would put their faith in Jesus as Messiah.

[1] This foundational concept about belief and faith is laid out in one of those kind of Important Books that has shaped the way I think: “Love God With All Your Mind”

[Fragment of the Gospel of St. John 2:11-22 | Metropolitan Museum of Art / CC0]

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