‘Why the Chronicles of Narnia?’ was the question asked again and again by C.S. Lewis’ colleagues at Magdalene College and friends in the pub. ‘Of all that you could give yourself and all your talents too, why devote such time to a Children’s fantasy novel?’ Such a question was not out of bounds for a man like Lewis. Gifted in very many ways and suited for a life in academic circles, Lewis excelled in teaching and tutoring young and eager minds about English literature, medieval thought, philosophy, and the classics. The more he taught the more his students grew to love him as a professor because Lewis didn’t just know ideas, think ideas, or teach ideas, he felt the ideas. This did nothing but expand when he became a Christian and it came out clearly in his Christian writing. So when asked ‘Why Narnia?’ you know what Lewis said? Desperately wanting to make it easier for children to accept Christianity when they met it later in life, hoping that they’d be reminded of similar stories they had read and enjoyed years before he said, “I am aiming at a sort of pre-baptism of the child’s imagination.”
This was the purpose of the Chronicles of Narnia, and from knowing its purpose one can not only understand the Chronicles more fully, one can enter into the Chronicles more completely.
But know, Lewis isn’t original in telling his readers the purpose behind why he did what he did. Many have done the same. One example is before us in our text today. Years before Lewis the beloved disciple John did the same thing with his gospel. And similarly, in finding out the purpose of his gospel we not only understand the Gospel of John more fully, we can enter into it more completely. And having entered it more completely, John tells us, brings wondrous results.
Listen to our text once again. John 20:30-31 says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
This morning I’d like to put before you:
-First, John’s Choice Selection (v30-31a)
-Second, John’s Compelling Selection (v31b)
But before we get to these, see something first. At first glance it might be easy to conclude that v30-31 is something of a stand alone passage that just states the gospel’s purpose. In one sense you’d be right to conclude this, because it does state the gospel’s purpose but in another sense you’d be wrong to conclude this because this passage isn’t a stand alone passage. It flows out of the scene with Thomas in v24-29. Recall it was there Jesus told Thomas, ‘Thomas you’ve believed because you’ve seen Me, and you are blessed indeed, but blessed also are those who haven’t seen Me and still believe.’ Three times in that scene Jesus has pronounced His peace to His disciples who’ve seen Him and believed. In saying this last word to Thomas, and no doubt the others listening in, Jesus means to teach that His peace isn’t restricted to only those who see Him. Rather, from this point forward all who come to Him in faith after hearing His gospel will be brought into true peace with God and will be filled with the very peace of God. This is the definition of blessed.Thomas and the others were blessed with His peace in their seeing and believing, we today are blessed with His peace by our not seeing and believing. We covered that last week. Here, this week, as we transition to v30-31 see the connection. Those who haven’t seen the risen Christ and have believed are blessed, therefore (John says) he wrote his gospel so that those who read it might arrive at such a belief.Which technically makes v30-31 John’s own version of Jesus’ statement in v29. “Blessed are those who have not seen, have read my gospel, and have yet believed.”
Now having seen the context I think we can examine the passage itself.
John’s Choice Selection (v30-31a)
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written…”
When we have the opportunity to do so, Holly and I enjoy watching a show or a movie together in the evenings. And over the past few months Holly and I have been watching ‘The British Baking Show.’ Being someone whose culinary skills are limited to warming up hot pockets in the microwave it’s fascinating for me to watch people take all kinds of ingredients, mix it together, stick it in the oven, and bake something that’s actually tasty. In watching all these aspiring bakers one thing has stood out to me as prominent. The whole bake depends on the choice and quality of the correct ingredients. If someone chooses the wrong kind of flour, the wrong kind of filling, or even the wrong toppings, the whole bake could be off and would taste as pleasant as a brick. So it is with John. He is a master baker and his choice selection of content is intended to showcase the masterpiece of the gospel.
In v30 John makes this known. That in his gospel he has been selective. That he has not by any means recorded all Jesus has done, nor told all that he knows about Jesus.There are many other ‘signs’ Jesus did in His earthly ministry and much about Jesus John chose not to include here in his account. Does this than give us license to speculate about these things John didn’t include? Some say so and have sadly been given much room in various media outlets to share their views and cast doubt on the biblical documents we do have. I couldn’t disagree more. John does say he didn’t include much in his account, and rather than giving ourselves to unending speculation about what he didn’t include think of it from John’s view. By the time John wrote his gospel the other gospels had already been written. He knows that, and he knows they’re authoritative. That he says this here in v30 is John’s way of giving a nod to the other gospels effectively saying, ‘Just because I’ve written my own gospel here doesn’t mean my gospel is the authoritative one that makes Matthew, Mark, and Luke void. Far from it.’
It is worth noting how John says this in v30. He could’ve said ‘Now Jesus did many other wonders…, or miracles…, or even things…but he chose to use the word signs. Why? I think he uses the word signs to remind us that signs exist to signify (or reveal or show) something greater. This is why Jesus did signs and wonders after all, to prove that He was who He said He was, to validate His teaching and give ample evidence of its truthfulness. But I think John also uses this word because it also carries with it the meaning of witness.Signs are a thing witnessed by people. Specifically here the signs Jesus did that John didn’t include are signs He did in the presence of the disciples, making the disciples witnesses of those signs. And that there are witnesses to these things means he isn’t making anything up anything – everything he writes and everything he doesn’t write that Jesus did belongs, not in the category of legend or myth, but in the category of ‘signs witnessed’ or ‘verifiable historical data.’
But it’s also worth noting that the last time John used the word ‘signs’ in his gospel prior to v30 here is 12:37, where he stated that the crowds who followed Him didn’t believe in Jesus even though He performed many signs to confirm and illustrate His saving mission.Just because signs abound in Jesus’ earthly ministry doesn’t always mean people will believe in Him. Jesus even stated that even the greatest of His signs, His miraculous resurrection from the tomb, wouldn’t be enough to convince someone dead in sin and blind to His beauty of the truth of the gospel. But see how v31 begins? “…but these are written…” Church learn anew who this beloved disciple is. John is no unbeliever, he believes his message! So he, in the strength of the Spirit, labors for language and works for words in the crafting of his gospel to present many signs of Jesus that will lead to many readers being born again and transformed by beholding Jesus as truly He is.
Like a wise and skilled baker John’s choice selection of what he did include is purposeful. What’s the purpose? That we as his readers would be compelled by his choice gospel content.
John’s Compelling Selection (v31b)
What does John purposefully want his readers, what does he want us, to be compelled by? “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Now we’ve come to it. The purpose statement of this gospel. The end he so desires to achieve. The reason why John wrote, ‘…that you may believe…’ This in and of itself is the shortest and most slammed packed summary of John’s entire gospel we have. Indeed to expound each word of the phrase ‘…that you may believe…’ is to expound the whole of John’s gospel.John writes that belief would be born in the hearts of his readers. But note John doesn’t desire his readers to come to vague or general belief, no, he desires his readers to come to a specific belief. There are two parts to v31b. The first part shows John’s purpose for his readers to believe in specific doctrines. Namely, the doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ, that He is both the Christ and the Son of God. On the surface you might conclude these two labels for Jesus are one in the same or even synonymous but they’re not. That John wants us to believe Jesus is the Christ means he wants us to believe Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed One, the long-awaited One the prophets of old spoke of. The One who would undo what Adam did and do what Adam couldn’t. The One who is Abraham’s true Descendant, blessing all the earth. The One who is a prophet like Moses but greater than Moses. The One who would prove to be true Israel by obeying the Law unlike Israel who disobeyed the Law. And the One whom the singer and Psalm writer of Israel, David, foreshadows. David desired to be architect of praise, building the temple where God’s praise would be sung. But he had to leave that to his heir. When Jesus came, He built a better temple than Solomon, for He constructed not a building that housessinging, but a building that ispeople singing praises to God!That Jesus is the Christ means He Himself is the yes and amen to all the promises God has made.
John doesn’t stop here. John desires we believe Jesus is the Christ and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This means John yearns for us to know that this Jesus is the eternal Son of God who has always been and never had a beginning, but who also came and dwelt among us, becoming like us that we would become like Him. That He is the Son of God means this Jesus carries all authority and power, that He as Daniel 7 says, holds dominion, has glory, has an everlasting kingdom that will never pass away, that will never be destroyed, and that is now drawing worshippers from all peoples and languages from all over the world!
So John has hand selected a choice content and used that content to fill out his gospel so that we would believe these things. That Jesus is both the Christ and the Son of God. But John doesn’t merely do this that we would only believe this correct doctrine and accurate content. John’s after more than our mere agreement or ascent to the truth. He truly does desire and write that we would believe this content but he also desires we would be compelled by this content, gripped by this content, enlivened by this content, and invigorated by this content. Where does he say this? Look at v31b again. He wrote what he did “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” This is the second part of 31b. John writes that we’d believe and have life in His name. John’s purpose is not academic, it’s salvific! John’s purpose isn’t only to have orthodox or sound doctrine, but that we’d have an abundant life flowing from such doctrine. Or to say it another way John’s purpose in writing and God’s purpose in carrying John along by His Spirit to write this gospel is not only that you’d know the truth but that your life would be so transformed by the truth that it would become a display of God’s infinite worth! Or to say it like Jesus said it, “I came that you would have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Church, many live but few are truly alive. Dead in sin, cold to heaven’s warmth, blind to the Lord’s beauty. But in the name of Jesus (name being a summary word for the whole of the Person of Jesus) there is full and vibrant life to be had!
Can I be pastorally honest with you for a moment? I go through seasons where I am discouraged in pastoral work. Seasons where it seems all people do is come in and out these doors and couldn’t really give a rip about any of it. Where all of this just seems to be a show, a kind of dance, or circus, where I and any others who lead are simply performing for you. I’m fairly certain these seasons come because we as elders have a front row view to a lot of sin and mess and pain, as well as the sin and mess and pain present in our own hearts. I wonder if you feel this way at times. That all of this is just a show to entertain those who come? In seasons of discouragement as these, I find passages like this a potent and powerful reminder of why we do what we do. This is no show or circus you’ve come to today, no. You’ve come to a place where God through His gospel and through our reflecting on His gospel week in and week out is after your hearts! God truly does desire you to find abundance in Him by believing in Him! This is why Paul in concluding his letter to the Romans, soaring in praise once again, says in 16:25, “Now to Him who is able (able to do what?) to strengthen us by my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…” Make no mistake about it Church, the abundance God offers and strengthens us with comes to us through His choice content, the content John’s given us here.
Church, let’s rehearse it once again. God made everything and commanded everything to do what He so desired them to do. All in God’s creation obeyed this command, except man. We rebelled and have earned death because of such rebellion. But He in His love sent His Son, Jesus the Christ, to live the life we couldn’t, die the death we’ve earned, and rise from death triumphantly to rule and reign for all eternity. God now makes a new command, that all should turn from sin and turn to the Savior, to Jesus, trusting in Him to save us. All those who believe in Him, who believe in this gospel enter the kingdom, live in the kingdom here and now, and find that this King is everything our souls have ever longed for.
Could there be a more wonderful summary statement of John’s gospel? The editorial note of v30-31 “…should remind us that the Bible is not an exhaustive account of all things, but a sufficient account of necessary things – the things that reveal Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of all who trust Him.”
John’s gospel account is therefore intended to bring those who don’t believe to faith, as well as establish those who already believe in the faith. If you’re unbelieving today, may you find these things compelling and come to Jesus! If you believe today, may you also find this to be compelling, be further established in knowing right doctrine and loving the God of that doctrine (!), and being led further up and further into Him who is Himself the very abundance our souls have been made for!
George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1988) page 318.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991) page 660-661.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) page 855.
Ibid., page 855.
Reformation Study Bible, notes on 20:30, page 1900.
Carson, page 661.
Reggie M. Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2005) page 105.
The Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes on 20:30-31, page 1446, emphasis mine.