commentary (david) — John 20:30-31

RETELL
The miracles of Jesus are not exhausted by this gospel rather the miracles (signs) recorded are presented to us that we might believe Jesus is the Christ and through believing have life in his name.

REFLECTION
Reads like a wrap up don’t it? But we have another chapter to go.

This passage is my justification for my way of reading scripture in general and miracle stories in particular. The meaning of the miracles are not that they happened but what they say about who Jesus is/was. They are signs of Christ’s messiahship and consequently mediums for communicating new life to us.

I’ll gently side step the question as to whether this is true to my experience.

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14 responses

  1. Seems like I remember hearing or reading somewhere that the last chapter of John was added on later. Have you heard that?

  2. David,I was just reflecting on the fact that this seems like an ending to the book of John, (I realize there is one more chapter to come), and in this little summary John says he has shared these events of Jesus’ life because they include everything we need to know to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” That being said, I wonder (maybe rhetorically) if this book alone, the retelling of these events alone, really is enough to bring us to understand all we need to know to begin to believe in Jesus enough to have new life in his name. I am guessing by your side-step that for you, right now at least, the answer is that these compelling events retold in this book have not exactly hit this mark. Perhaps for you, as was true for Thomas, direct experience is needed. I’m not certain one can derive direct spiritual experience from a book, from a poem, parable, or miracle story. Rather, as is true for me, short of actually seeing and touching the physical evidence as Thomas did, this experience comes through our own living, in our own silence, in our own communion with God.

  3. Can a person come to belief from the info gained second-hand in a book? I’m betting many have done so. I think we actually do it all the time, trusting the expertise and honesty of writers on various subjects from science to metsphysics. Perhaps if the info agrees with already held beliefs, one is more likely to accept it as true?

  4. Second hand experiene can be the mediators for first hand. As I said in an earlier posting — some experiences presuppose faith. We believ first and receive evidence second. Because by teh time we become adults any experience we have is liberally seasoned with our expectations and interpretations.There are approaches to scripture — well known amongst Catholics and growing in use amongst Protestants — which help us experience God through the act of faithful (faith-filled?) reading of scripture. Ignatian excersizes comes to mind (hi Crystal) and also lectio divina.

  5. Meredith–I am guessing by your side-step that for you, right now at least, the answer is that these compelling events retold in this book have not exactly hit this mark.For me at this time in my life belief is about the “thinking with assent” thing that Augustine talks about. I believe Jesus is messiah — son of God — second person of Triunity — all that good stuff (at least from an orthodoxy stand point).I’m not feeling that “new-life” part John is promising here. I felt it once. I know its possible. But it has been in my experience fleeting and sandwiched between other experiences less edifying.

  6. David,Pardon my ignorance, but what is the “thinking with assent” thing that Augustine talks about?I hope it is alright if I nudge you a little here. You say you felt that “new-life” part John is promising here, that you actually felt it once and therefore know its possible. What were the circumstances that nurtured this experience for you? Reading your and Crystal’s response here made me reflect on something, and I agree with both of you based on my experience. I remember reading a poem, actually I don’t think I shall ever forget this poem, by Thomas Merton, In Silence. For me, at the moment in time in which I read these searing words, a truly holy moment was created for me, in which I began to see and feel all things differently. It is strange how this works, because when I have shared this poem, I notice that it does not have this effect on others, and in fact, it may not touch them at all.In SilenceBe still. Listen to the stones of the wall. Be silent, they try to speak your name. Listen to the living walls. Who are you? Who are you? Whose silence are you? Who (be quiet) are you (as these stones are quiet). Do not think of what you are still less of what you may one day be. Rather be what you are (but who?) be the unthinkable one you do not know. O be still, while you are still alive, and all things live around you speaking (I do not hear) to your own being, speaking by the unknown that is in you and in themselves. “I will try, like them to be my own silence: and this is difficult. The whole world is secretly on fire. The stones burn, even the stones they burn me. How can a man be still or listen to all things burning? How can he dare to sit with them when all their silence is on fire?” Thomas Merton ***(Oh my, I feel it again!)

  7. “these are written so that you may come to believe”: that’s as far as I can go with John. These poems are written so that some may come to believe— what? Poetry, like John, says many things to many people. The ‘signs’ John spoke of are poems leaving an impression– many different impressions to many different people.Frankly the signs John reported impress me much more highly than the lengthy discourses that he reported, and what impresses me least of all is his telling us what we are to believe. Who says so? John said so; I don’t believe Jesus did.Well I didn’t mean to get into that diatribe. I only wanted to suggest that a poem, a snatch of music, a tree can lead many to Presence, the moment of Spirit, the joy. Others of course may be left cold.This is true of John like other poems. All the Bible is poetry, and poetry is the highest form of truth– not legalistic truth, but spiritual truth!!

  8. Twyla, you’re right about the last chapter (not proved of course). Quoting the Abingdon Bible Commentary re Chapter 21:”This chapter is commonly described as the Appendix, and even those who ascribe it to the same author as the rest of the Gospel regard it as an addition of a later date.”

  9. Meredith — thanks for the poem — didn’t know Merton wasa poet too!thinking with assent St Augustine defiend “belief” as “thinking with assent” — in other words if you think a thought and you agree to the thought you believe it.I’m a pragmatist not an Augustinian. If you act like a thought is true then you believe it. Feeling like “Jesus is Lord” is not as important to believing as doing what you believe Jesus is telling you to do.Sometimes though Jesus says, do not worry, I AM here — then feeling and doing are the same thing.

  10. meredith – I adore that poem. The first time I read it, I was lying in bed waiting for my husband to come in. The poem seared me with its heat and I wept. Tom came in, saw I was emotional. So I read the poem to him. Nothing. Hmm.Of course, I’ve noticed this quite often in reading. For instance, I picked up “Care for the Soul” about a year ago and just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again a few days ago and am enjoying it immensely. So, it may be that there is a seasoning that is needed for Spirit to breathe through written words, whether they be scripture or poem.

  11. Twyla,When learning that the same poem touches us both I feel an amazing kindredness with you. “…there is a seasoning that is needed for Spirit to breathe through written words…” Yes, it seems to be true for me, too. I was just considering that this seasoning time is truly ‘spirit-led’ for this cannot be pushed or ordered up or demanded upon by our egos. I have been learning to pay attention to little synchronicities. Finding the right Friend, poem, book, or scripture at the right time for us is nothing short of a small miracle – a moment of Grace.

  12. Meredith – The whole world is secretly on fire. . ….. wow! Thank you for posting that poem, it did touch me.David – I didn’t know about thinking with assent – thanks for mentioning it. Normally I despise Augustine 🙂 as you know. It’s interesting … if we believe something but don’t act on it, then are we fooling ourselves about believing it? If we act on something, even if our hearts are not convinced, does that mean we believe it? I think Socrates said something like this – that if a person knew “the good”, he would do it. But you can believe exercise is good for you, yet still not do it. And you might believe that smoking is bad for you, yet still continue to do it.

  13. The speaker in the poem is not having an experience that seems mediated in any way… believing… “having life in his name…”In the poem, I seem to find a taste of lived, first-hand experience of an identity greater than personal identity.Buddhists get that too…What does it mean to be a Christian? What might it mean?

  14. pragmatist doctrine of belief: one of my early kwoda thweek’s:kwakersaur.blogspot.com/2004/10

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