Each time one of my children departed for college, I had this burning sense that I had not told them everything they would need to know to navigate the world on their own. I am sure that in the last weeks before leaving, they were annoyed by my incessant instructions about their budget, time management, where to make friends, how to find a church, and on and on. Somewhat similarly, before my dad’s passing, he kept reminding my sister and me to care for my mother, including how to help with her finances, their house and his legacy of World War II photographs. He wanted the assurance that he had told us everything we would need to know before he left this world. I wonder if the apostle John felt this way as he was writing his Gospel message. He was one of the few individuals who was still alive and had walked with Christ, talked with Him, and been present at the cross. He witnessed the empty grave and interacted with the resurrected Christ before His Ascension. Did he experience an urgency to make sure he had reported everything we would need to know to make a decision to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah?
By the time of John’s writing the world was already forgetting. False teaching had begun to permeate the early church. People began to question how and why God would become man. John was living and pastoring in a sophisticated and intellectual city—Ephesus. At the end of the 1st century Ephesus was home to some of the most renowned philosophers and thinkers, along with a medical school and an elaborate Greek library. Ephesus also boasted of a theater that could hold 25,000 people, and a stadium with the best gladiators. In addition, Ephesus was home to the Artemis Temple (one of the seven wonders of the world), and the worship of many gods and emperors had not been replaced by the belief in Christ, but for many had become an add-on—in others words, Jesus plus pagan god worship. John was a wise sage with something important to say, earnest to set the record straight: Did I tell you?
John’s Gospel, inspired by God Himself, provides for us everything we need to know to prayerfully make the decision to believe—not just an intellectual assent to who Jesus is—but a true and personal knowledge of the Son of God, the Messiah of the World.
Last week during my teaching of John, I quoted Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (1721), The Introduction to the Gospel according to St. John. Several asked me for a copy:
“John gives us more of the mystery of that which the other evangelists give us only the history of. It was necessary that the matters of fact should be first settled, which was done in their declarations of those things which Jesus began both to do and teach. (Luke 1:1) John goes on to perfection, not laying again the foundation, but building upon it; leading us more within the vail. Some of the ancients observe that the other evangelists wrote more of the bodily things of Christ; but John writes of the spiritual things of the gospel, the life and soul of it; therefore some have called this gospel the key of the evangelists. Here it is that a door is opened in heaven, and the first voice we hear is, Come up hither; come up higher.”
As I think about all the seemingly important things to communicate to those here in this world (a world not so different than ancient Ephesus), shouldn’t I share the same urgency that John had. We have the key to heaven—God’s Word contained in John’s gospel, a most important message well worth sharing.
Did I tell you?