I write books. I read books. And of course, I buy books. Lots of them. Hundreds and hundreds.
These days, I buy more e-books than regular ones for one major reason: I’m out of shelf space. There’s only so many books you can cram into a bookcase; some of mine are laid crosswise on top of the others that were lucky enough to get on the shelf first.
And the list of things I want to read just keeps getting longer and longer.
As I suggested in the previous post, we should be particularly grateful to have the gospel of John, for the stories he tells of Jesus are compelling, and help round out the portrait we get from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Anyone reading only the latter three, with all their similarities, might be lulled into thinking we pretty much have the whole story, albeit from different angles. And then we read John, and are left wondering what else we haven’t been told.
John himself seems to recognize the issue:
This is the disciple who testifies concerning these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If all of them were recorded, I imagine the world itself wouldn’t have enough room for the scrolls that would be written. (John 21:24-25, CEB)
In some ways, the point should be obvious: not everything that could have been said has been said. We don’t have a record of everything Jesus said or did.
If we did, I’d need a lot more bookshelves.
John has had to make choices: choices about which stories to tell, which words of Jesus to repeat, how to translate them from Aramaic into Greek. He is neither a biographer nor a historian in the modern-day sense. He is a storyteller, and storytellers have to make choices.
Moreover, he is a special kind of storyteller. He is a witness who tells what he has seen and heard, not for entertainment’s sake, but to make a point, to make a demand on the listener: I’ve told you the story; do you now believe?
It’s the story about the eternal Word becoming a flesh-and-blood human being named Jesus.
It’s about Jesus doing signs to testify that he did in fact come from the Father to do his will.
It’s about a world of darkness where only some are willing to see and welcome the Light.
It’s about Jesus bringing not only the light of truth but the life of healing and the promise of resurrection, demonstrating God’s love for a lost people and a broken world.
It’s about the ultimate demonstration of that love on the cross and the vindication of that sacrifice through resurrection.
And it points forward to the next chapter in the story: of the ragtag group of followers who will carry on the ministry of testimony through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s quite a story, really. But it’s not finished yet, as we’ll begin exploring in Sunday’s post.