Earlier, I raised the somewhat wild possibility that the fact that John is the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is the key to his Gospel. While I did not elaborate because my students were discussing the book (giving too much info away is bad as a discussion leader) I am interested in conveying in this forum some of the thoughts about John that I have had the last two weeks.
The Gospel of John is usually the part of Scripture that we will point new Christians or unbelievers to. Why we do this is no longer clear to me–my hunch is that we think John is a simple and clear text, when the reality is that it is one of the most difficult texts to interpret in the New Testament (see, for instance, my brother’s clear rejection of Jesus’s rationality because of his apparent contradictions in John 5 and 8).
It will be my basic supposition throughout these reflections, however, that John knows what he’s doing in his writing–that where an apparent contradiction occurs, it is not because John (or Jesus) isn’t smart enough to figure out that sill law of non-contradiction, but rather that John is inviting us to examine the text more closely, to attempt to discern whether the apparent contradiction is a real contradiction (it’s not).
But rather than begin with the unknown, I’ll start with the known (or at least the less confusing): John’s purpose in the gospel is clear: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31). In 20:30, ‘many other signs’ implies that he has just completed a sign. While Jesus has just miraculously appeared to the Disciples in a locked room (20:24-29), it is most likely that this ‘sign’ covers the whole of the resurrection as indicated by Jesus’s minor rebuke of Thomas’s disbelief.
The concept of ‘signs’ in the Gospel of John is clear: they are intentional and miraculous acts by Jesus to build belief in people. In my next post (which probably won’t happen until Sunday), I will examine the various places throughout the Gospel where the concept of signs is employed.