John's Gospel-a new look no 33:Seeing with eyes of faith.
The story of Jesus comes to an end
The Lord has risen and appears to his disciples.
As Jesus begins to show himself to the disciples after his resurrection John describes several of these remarkable events. It is Mary who first sees him outside the empty tomb (John 20:16-18), then the group of the disciples who are locked in a room hiding from the Jews (vs. 19-23), then doubting Thomas (vs.24-28) who insists on touching Jesus. The Lord replies to Thomas’ declaration of belief with these words; “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(vs,29)
As Jesus appears to them they in fact begin to see with eyes of faith. Their fear and disbelief turns into amazement and a growing belief. Now all the things that he had spoken about previously start to make sense. It must have been during these confusing days between the resurrection and the ascension that their understanding develops. Paul explains this in Romans 10:17 ….”faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ”.
How faith develops.
Even today a realization of who Jesus is does not often come in a flash but usually in a growing understanding. It is however only after the day of Pentecost as recorded by Luke in Acts 2 that they fully understand, and then with the help of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was a difficult journey for them to make and at this stage them must had often stood in amazement at what they were seeing with their eyes and experiencing in their hearts.
It is the interaction with Peter that is particularly interesting as we come to the end of this study in John’s Gospel. Here it is useful to look at the text in the original Greek that John wrote it in. We only have one word for love in English but the Greeks have several. After eating with his disciples on the shore of Galilee Jesus asks Simon Peter; “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” and John records that Jesus used the word ‘agape’. (The NIV translation attempts to show this difference in the two Greek words by using truly love for ‘agape’ and just love for ‘fileo’.) Peter answers; “Yes Lord, you know that I love you,” and uses the word ‘fileo’. The same question is asked and answered again using the same words. Then the third time Jesus asks “Simon son of John do you love me ‘fileo’. John then records that Peter was hurt because on the third occasion Jesus asked him “do you love me” (‘fileo’).
Agape love is the love that God demonstrated to the world by sending his Son to die for us. (John 3:16) This is a love that means someone is prepared to die for another, even if you do not like them. This is the love that both God and the Son had when Jesus died on the cross for sinners. This is the love that Jesus spoke about in challenging his followers to love their enemies.(Luke 6:27) Peter cannot use that word because in his three denials of Jesus earlier after Jesus was arrested he showed only his fear and doubt. In his three denials Peter clearly demonstrated that he was not prepared to die for Jesus at that stage.
‘Fileo’ love is a friendship love that is based on mutual attraction and liking. When Jesus questions Peter whether he even has that type of love it hurts Peter deeply. It must have been a time of serious soul searching for Peter, and sometimes it is times like that that lead to a deeper faith.
Later on this same Peter, together with John, stands before the mighty Sanhedrin and says “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19/20) That courage perhaps had its beginning on the shores of Galilee where we find Peter challenged by Jesus to do some serious thinking about his faith.
A challenge for today.
John summarizes his great Gospel in Chapter 20:30/31 by saying “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”.(NIV)
Read and reread this great book and allow God to speak to you about his great love and then give your answer as you see Jesus through the eyes of faith. It could lead to the new life that Jesus died for and that John explains so beautifully in his account of the Good News.