google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 68

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 68 - John 5:26-27


Jesus selected his closest disciples from those who had ‘been with him from the beginning’. They, with the all important help of the Holy Spirit, will be those who are to tell the world what has happened and would shortly lead the infant church on its first steps.

There is a fundamental and important difference here between what we, in the Western world anyway, would do and what they did. We think it is important that our witnesses to an important event should be dispassionate, uninvolved observers able to provide an unbiased assessment of what is going on. That was not what they looked for in their recorders of events. They, Jewish and Roman alike, wanted their reporters to be those who had been deeply involved in the events recorded. That was probably because they considered the meaning of the events more important than the actual events themselves and wanted a guide to that meaning such as we would resist. Thus, the prime historian of the Roman-Jewish war of AD 68-71, basically the only one we have access to, was a man called Josephus who was first a commander of Jewish forces involved in the war and then an assistant to the Roman general. He was not unbiased but he had seen what was going on first hand.

It is easy to see the point of the way they thought in those days and we must accept its value and not criticise it.

We can see these ideas worked out in the four Gospel-writers. Not one of these four names himself within his writing. They took to heart the modesty and humility that Jesus asked of his followers. We only know who they were from reports from the early church. We cannot be absolutely certain of the accuracy of these but there is no good reason to doubt them. Matthew, also known as Levi, was with Jesus from very near the beginning of his ministry (Mark 2: 13,14). We are told that Mark wrote at the direction of Peter, so his Gospel is Peter’s testimony to the events of the ministry of Jesus that he had observed from close to all the way through. Luke, very aware that he was not an eyewitness himself, emphasises in the first few verses of his Gospel (1: 1 - 4) that he had been very careful to refer to eyewitnesses of the events and had checked what they told him very thoroughly. John was clearly an eyewitness although exactly who he was, which John, is a matter of much argument and disagreement. He was the ‘beloved disciple’ of John 13:23 etc. but we don’t know who that was either. John was a very common name in those days. He is usually taken to be John, son of Zebedee, but he was a Galilean fisherman while the writer of the fourth Gospel seems more likely to have been a sophisticated man from Jerusalem. But he certainly was an eyewitness of at least much of the life of Jesus.

The result is that we have four accounts of the life of Jesus, which the very early leaders of the Christian church wisely refused to have combined into one, leaving them as true eyewitness accounts of what happened. No event of ancient history is anything like as well documented as the life of Jesus. We can rely on its truth and accuracy even where it seems to defy all natural possibilities, as in the resurrection. To believe in Jesus and all the events of his life is not one step down from knowledge, as many would say. We believe because we know.

We cannot testify because we are not eyewitnesses in a literal visible sense. We can testify because of our experiences of the Spirit and his work in our lives. Go! Testify!

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