John invites us to take a step into Jesus’ world. If we step through that door we enter a land that challenges deep convictions and perceptions. It can call into question our identity and reorient life.
To appreciate the difference, consider the perspective of educated Americans who have embraced all classroom content. Physics alone has driven, is driving and will drive the universe.
At the center of this American landscape are people whose identities are built around separate autonomous selves seeking their own paths. Society is fundamentally perceived to be an assemblage of separate entities and objects, not relationships. Furthermore, social forces can explain whatever happens in society.
In this worldview to rightly navigate life requires doing no harm, be fair and make sure that whoever is involved consents. Thus what someone does in private is nobody else’s business. This landscape could be further developed, but this is sufficient.
Now consider John’s invitation to enter another world. Many verses could serve as our introduction. Consider the statement, “They tried to seize Jesus, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come” (John 7:30).
Throughout John’s account of Jesus’ ministry, we discover a power at work that trumps all societal forces. Jesus’ ministry will play out on God’s time schedule. No human desire or force would alter it. Jesus’ opponents prove to be incapable and are prevented from forcing their will upon the Christ.
In Jesus’ own words, “I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).
When the Gentiles began to search for him, Jesus knew his time had come and so he began to teach about the purpose of his impending death (John 12:20-24). However when the soldiers were dispatched to arrest Jesus and Jesus would allow them to arrest him, even then they retreated and fell to the ground when Jesus spoke (John 18:3-6).
John’s Gospel ushers us into a world created by the Word and ruled by God. People have not been abandoned as autonomous selves to pursue their own self-directed paths. Rather God worked through Jesus Christ to enable a relationship with himself more valuable than anything within this world.
Furthermore the word of God, not our human constructed principles, determines what is right. To live life well cannot be found in following our own intuitions or societally approved ways. These are not sufficient because we are all accountable before God.
Our only hope for life is found in the Son. Thus we had better love the praise of God over that of men.
For those who have ears to hear, John’s Gospel reveals all of us need a new identity. An identity forged in relationship with God. Without this, we will not enter the kingdom of God.
To accept the Gospel of John’s invitation thus stepping through the door by believing in Jesus profoundly changes our perception of our world, our life, our needs and their solutions. We become children of God.