I always wanted to be on a jury, but the few times I ever made it into the pool, I never got selected. My husband was able to serve a few times, though, and one of the things he was instructed to do was to weigh the evidence put before the jury, then come up with a verdict on just the reasonable testimony of eyewitnesses plus whatever physical evidence was brought in.
This idea of bringing in eyewitnesses and physical evidence is something of the way the apostle John approached his gospel, as well. John was asking his audience to hear testimony, examine evidence, and come to a conclusion about Jesus of Nazareth—is He the Christ, the Son of God? If He is, will you respond by believing in Him and receiving Him into your heart and your life?
The Gospel of John had two big things to say about Jesus. The first was that Jesus was the promised Messiah all the prophets had written about in the Hebrew Testament. He was the deliverer, the “anointed one” or “holy one of God” who Israel had been longing to come and free them from bondage.
But, Jesus did not come in the form of the conquering hero they were expecting. That part of His deliverance is still in the future. What He had come to accomplish was the greatest part of His work, to deliver them from the bondage of sin and death, and to consummate God’s purposes for the whole world.
Which brought John to the other big thing the Gospel wanted to say about Jesus, which was far bigger than Jesus being the Messiah. It was an astounding secret that had been guarded all throughout the Hebrew Testament’s history, yet hinted at again and again.
The Messiah would be none other than God Himself, Yahweh, the Great I Am, the very person of God in human form, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
And because these things are true, John claimed, by believing in and receiving Jesus you will have eternal life.
In order to show us the truth of both of these titles: that Jesus is Messiah, or “Christ,” in the Greek, and that Jesus is God, the Gospel of John carefully selected witnesses, and the words and works of Jesus which John called signs.
John Called Seven Witnesses
- The first witness John presented was himself as an eyewitness, and his testimony:
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.John 1:2-4, 18 (NRSV)
Jesus is God, creator, the eternal word through whom all things were made, the only Son, who has made the Father known to people, beginning with His disciples, and John himself.
- John the Baptist’s testimony: Jesus is the Son of God, and the Lamb of God, a phrase that was rich and heavy with meaning for a Jewish audience.
- Nathanael’s testimony when he first met Jesus: Jesus is the Son of God, the promised King of Israel
- Peter’s testimony when Jesus’ other followers were leaving Him: Jesus is the Holy One of God, Messiah, holding eternal life
- Martha’s testimony even before Jesus raised her brother from the dead: Jesus is Messiah, Christ, the Son of God
- Thomas’ testimony after Jesus rose from the dead: Jesus is the Lord, and Jesus is God
- John’s seventh witness was Jesus Himself, Who made seven claims about Himself based on the name that was so holy, no Jewish person ever uttered it out loud, the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush, “I Am That I Am,” or Yahweh.
Jesus Presented Seven “I AM” statements
- I AM the Bread of Life. What do you think nourishes our souls? Is it the satisfaction of a career, or of raising children, or a wonderful love life? Truly, Jesus is the only One Who nourishes our souls with what will give us authentic life.
- I AM the Light of the World. What gives spiritual insight? Is it spiritual experiences? Thinking about philosophy? Drawing from the teachings of various religious? Jesus proclaims He is the One Who illuminates the spirit with true light.
- Before Abraham was, I AM, Eternal God. Have you ever wondered Who God is really? What God is like? Jesus proclaims He is the personification of God. We want to know God, then know Jesus.
- I AM the Good Shepherd. Think about the people who have taken care of you over the years. Maybe you feel no one has ever really cared for you or taken care of you. Yet, you reading this right now might be from Jesus, Who does care for us and is always ready to take care of us, no matter what life has thrown at us.
- I AM the Resurrection and the Life. Have you ever wondered what happens after the grave? Maybe you are facing a serious health issue, or are close to someone who is facing death right now. Jesus proclaims He has authority over even death itself.
- I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. Why are there so many religions? Which ones lead to knowing God? Jesus proclaims He is the path that leads to God.
He is the way: With and through Jesus is the path that leads to God.
He is the truth: Jesus embodies in His person the supreme revelation of God.
He is the life: Through Jesus eternal life can be given and received.
- I AM the True Vine. How does a person have an abundant and fruitful life? By being in intimate union with Jesus.
John’s gospel is like this all the way through, layers of meaning, layers of symbology, written poetically, drawing the reader into the sense of the spiritual realm, ancient secrets being unveiled, ancient mysteries revealed, runes whose meaning has long been hidden now made manifest.
I picture John by candlelight, yet his papyrus glows with an otherworldly illumination. The ink in its well is like a pool of phosphorescence, and the tip of his quill lambent with supernatural light. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world,” he writes, then pauses as he thinks about those long ago days of sunshine. No one really knew Who You were, he whispers, in his inner being. . .
[Mural painting from the catacomb of Commodilla. This is one of first bearded images of Christ. Earlier Christian art in Rome portrayed Jesus most often as the Good Shepherd, disguised as Orpheus, young, beardless and in a short tunic. During the 4th century Jesus was beginning to be depicted as a man of identifiably Jewish appearance, with a full beard and long hair, a style not usually worn by Romans. The symbols on either side are Alpha and Omega signifying “I am the beginning and the end”.
- Date: Late 4th century
- Commodilla catacombs Christ
Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]