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Sermon: So That You May Have Life In His Name: John 20:30-31


Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 31:1–14

“Then Moses answered, ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’’ The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ And he said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put out your hand and catch it by the tail’—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— ‘that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’ Again, the Lord said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, ‘Put your hand back inside your cloak.’ So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. ‘If they will not believe you,’ God said, ‘or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’” (Exodus 4:1–9, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 20:30-31

“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.” (John 20:30–31, ESV)

Introduction

I think I have made reference to this passage more than any other in John’s Gospel throughout the course of this series. In fact the introductory sermon to the series came to focus upon this text. It was strange to begin near the end, but it was helpful, I think. For it is here at the end of his Gospel that John states with clarity his reason for writing. So we began with this text, and I also made mention of it over and over again as the series progressed. I did this to help us keep our bearings. John has a lot to say in his Gospel. It would be easy to get lost in it. This purpose statement helps the reader to stay on track as he or she progresses through the Gospel. We might wonder, why did John choose to tell this story or that? The answer is given here in 20:30-31. He wrote this and that “so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing… have life in his name.”

I’ve made reference to this passage so often that the thought occurred to me, should I even devote a sermon to it now that we are here? The temptation was to move past it quickly, or to skip over it completely. But I thought that unwise for two reasons. One, we really have not devoted an adequate amount of time to this important text. It has been referenced many times, but often in passing. And two, this text takes on a new level of significance as we come to it in order, as the author intended, having now studied all that precedes it in John’s Gospel.

So let us now carefully consider John 20:30-31.

John Has Not Told Us Everything

The first thing to notice is that John admits he has not told us everything. Look at verse 20 where John writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book…” Later we will read these words which make the same point: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25, ESV)

The point is that John carefully selected only a few things from the life of Christ to highlight. He presented some of Jesus’ teachings, and some of his deeds, but not all. I find this to be fascinating. It gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of the Apostle as he wrote. His objective was not to set before us an exhaustive and thorough history of Jesus of Nazareth. His motive was something other than to give us all of the details. He wrote for another purpose, which we will come to in a moment.

Notice that John refers to the miracles that Jesus preformed as “signs”. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book…” This is significant in that it helps us to understand the purpose of the miracles that Jesus preformed. They functioned as “signs”. The ultimate purpose of a sign is not to draw attention to itself, but to direct one’s attention  elsewhere. When you are driving down the freeway and you see an In-N-Out sign shining brightly in the night the purpose is to draw you, not to the sign, but to the thing signified – namely the double-double with regular unions and chopped chillies.

The miracles that Jesus preformed in his earthly ministry – the turning of water to wine; the healing of the officials son; the healing of the invalid on the Sabbath; the feeding of the five thousand; Jesus’ walking on water; the healing of the blind man; the raising of Lazarus from the dead – these are called “signs”. Their purpose, then, was to direct out attention away from the miraculous event itself and to  point to some other thing – some other reality or truth.

I read the passage from Exodus 4 in order to illustrate this principle. Moses was called by God to go to Pharaoh and to demand the release of the Hebrews. He was also to go to the Hebrews and announce the coming deliverance. “Then Moses answered, ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1) It was a legitimate fear. Why would the Hebrews believe Moses’ word? Why would they accept his claim that God had sent him? It was then that God gave Moses the ability to preform “signs”. His staff would turn into a snake; his hand would turn leprous and then be healed when as he took it in and out of his cloak; water would turn to blood. These things were signs. And what were they signs of? Well, among other things, of the fact that God was with Moses – that Moses was indeed sent by God Almighty.

The same is true of the miracles that Christ preformed. The same can also be said of the miracles that were preformed by the Apostles of Christ – those who were eyewitness to his life and ministry, his death and resurrection. These would be sent out into the world to testify concerning the Christ. Some of them, it is reported, preformed miracles.

But these miracles were not the norm from the days of Moses onward. They were present in the days when that great act of redemption from Egypt was accomplished, and shortly thereafter, as a testimony to the fact that God was on the move, accomplishing redemption.

The same can be said about the miracles in the days of Christ, and shortly thereafter. Miracles were not the norm in the days after the Apostles. They are not the norm today, nor should they be expected. They were present in the life of Christ and in the ministry of the Apostles – those directly commissioned by Christ – as a testimony to the fact that God had accomplishing redemption, this time, not from Egypt, but from the evil one himself. He brought defeat, not to Pharaoh, but to sin, sickness, and the serpent himself. The miracles that Jesus preformed were “signs” which pointed to this reality.

I will not take the time here to show how each of the miracles in John signify something specific about the redemption accomplished by Christ – I’ve done that in the past and I don’t have time to repeat it here – but the principle is important. When Jesus healed the blind man, for example, it was not just about Jesus having compassion on a man blind from birth (though it was not less than that). No, it was a sign which pointed, first of all, to the fact that Jesus was from God just as he claimed. And, secondly, that he has the power to open, not only physical eyes, but also spiritual. He is the remedy to our spiritual blindness.

John calls these miracles “signs” so that we might not make to much of the miracles themselves. They were associated with Jesus’ ministry, and the ministry of those who were eyewitnesses – his Apostles. And they were preformed for the purpose of directing our attention away from the miracle itself on to the thing that the miracle signified, namely Jesus, his person and his work.

What a strange sight it is to see those who name the name of Christ fixate upon miracles.

They assume that miracles should be the norm today. The scriptures reveal otherwise. Miracles have happened in the world. And God is indeed able to act in miraculous ways even today. But miracles have been concentrated in times associated with God’s intrusion into human history as he has accomplished great acts of redemption. Brothers and sisters, our redemption has been accomplished. Only the consummation remains.

Some imagine that Christ came to preform miracles. He did not. He came to accomplish redemption for his people. The miracles that he preformed were signs which pointed to him, confirmed his claims, and signified things that were true his person and work. Those who obsess over miracles have made a tangential thing the main thing. They have failed to recognize the role that signs play in relation to the thing signified.

Next time you go to In-N-Out I dare you to go to the sign out on the street corner and facing it. Talk to it. Place your order there. And wait. I think you will be disappointed at the result. The sign has no substance in itself. It cannot feed you. It is there to point you to the substance and the food. Christ is the food. The good news about his work of redemption is the food. The miracles he preformed were meant to draw our attention to him.

Jesus preformed many signs in his time on earth. John has only told us about a few of them.

What He Has Said, He Has Said That We Might Believe

And notice, secondly, his reason for telling us these things. What he has said, he has said that we might believe.

To believe something is to understand it and to confess that it is true.

I was taught from a young age that one plus one equals two. I understand the claim. I understand the equation. And, on top of that, I have also come to believe that the equation is true. I believe it.

The same is required to believe in Jesus. We must first of all understand the claims – who he claimed to be and what he claimed to accomplish. And after that we must also come to confess that his claims are indeed true. It is only then that we can say that we believe.

And what are the claims of Christ concerning himself? What does the word of God teach us about him? The scriptures present Jesus to us as the Christ, the Son of God. John wrote what he did in his gospel that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 20:31, ESV).

What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ?

It means that he is the anointed one that God promised to send long ago. He is the one who would save his people from their sins. He is the seed of the woman who God promised would crush the head of the serpent. He is the seed of Abraham through whom all the people of the earth would be blessed. He is the Prophet like Moses to whom we are to listen. He is the Priest in the order of Melchizedek who has made atonement for our sins, once for all. He is the King, the son of David, who has conquered all of his and our enemies, who has subdued even our own hearts, bringing us to call him Lord. In short, he is the promised one spoken of in the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. He is the Christ – the Messiah.     

And what does it mean that he is the Son of God?

When this phrase is applied to Jesus it is a clear reference to his divine and human natures. He is the Messiah, it is true. He is a man – the Son of Man – born of woman. But more than, he is of God and from God. He is God with us – Immanuel. He proceeds from the Father.

John’s Gospel has insisted upon the divinity of Christ from beginning to end. He is the eternal word of God, the one who existed in the beginning – who was with God, and who was God (John 1:1) This is the one – the second person go the Trinity, the eternal Word of God – who became flesh and tabernacled amongst us.

John wrote his Gospel so that we might understand the claim that Jesus is the Christ and that he is the Son of God and agree that they are true. He wants us to believe.

Of course believing in a Biblical sense involves more than just understanding principles or facts and agreeing that they are true. To believe is also to trust.  We are to trust in, depend upon, have faith in this Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of God. So believing really involves three things: understanding principles, agreeing that they are indeed true, and trust. We are trust in Jesus, who is the Christ. We are to see him for what he is. We are to understand what he has accomplished for us in his life, death, and resurrection. And we are to say “yes” to it all. “Yes, it is true!” And “yes, I trust in him because of who he is and what he has accomplished for us.”

It Is Through Believing That We Have Life In Jesus’ Name. 

The end goal of John’s writing is that we would have life in Jesus’ name.

Life is what we need.

Though we come into this world alive, we do not come into this world alive. We are born living in state of spiritual deadness due to the sins of our forefathers. We confirm that we are born in fallen and sinful state with our own personal sins. Though we are alive according to the flesh we are dead according to the spirit.

Adam was warned concerning that forbidden tree. He was told that “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17, ESV) He ate. And death reigned from that day forward. Paul is right to say that “[We] were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1–3, ESV) Though we were born into this world alive according to the flesh, we were dead according to the spirit. We were by nature children of wrath. Life is what we need.

And do you see that life is what Jesus has earned?

He rose from the grave on the third day conquering the power of death so that we might have eternal life. For you and I, and for all born of Adam, death has dominion over us. We cannot conquer it. We cannot overcome it. From the moment we are born into this world death threatens us. It looms large over us. It is forever harassing us, desiring to pull us down into it’s depths. And once we pass from this world death holds on to us with a ferociousness and strength that is far too much for us to resist. Death dominates the son’s and daughters of Adam. They are hopeless in and of themselves. But Jesus Christ, who is the lion of the tribe of Judah, was more ferocious and more powerful than death. He was given over to it so that he might devour it. He broke it’s power. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, ESV)

Jesus has earned eternal life. For him death is not the final word. Life is. He possesses “the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16, ESV)

And what kind of life is it that he has earned? Did Jesus earn life as we know it now for all eternity? Is that the kind of life that he has laid ahold of? One marked by sin, suffering, sickness, and sorrow? Is that the kind of life that he secured for all eternity? I hope not. That sounds more hellish than heavenly. Thanks be to God that Christ has entered into a state of being that is undefiled, imperishable, and unfading. He has entered into glory. That is the kind of life that he has earned. It is eternal – unending. And it is glorious.

And notice that it is this kind of life that Jesus gives to those who believe in his name.

You say, well I still struggle with sin, suffering, sickness, and sorrow. What do you mean that I have this kind of life by believing in Jesus’ name? 

Brothers and sisters, we must pass from this world before we enjoy the fulness of that life that Christ has earned for us. But we have it now. We have it in that we have begun to taste it. And we have it in that it is our sure inheritance. For the Father has, “according to his great mercy… caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us], who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this [we] rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, [we] have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of [our] faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3–7, ESV)

We have life by believing in Jesus’ name. It is life that is everlasting. Death is no longer the final  word for those believing in Christ Jesus. And it is a glorious life – imperishable, undefiled, unfading.

Application

Brothers and sisters, and friends who do not yet know Christ, let is consider the teachings of Christ and the signs that he (and his Apostles) preformed. Let us not grow obsessed with the miracles, as if they were preformed in order to draw or attention to them, or to set our hope in them. May they serve their function as signs which derelict our eyes to Christ, his person and his work, and to the substantial salvation that he has procured for those who believe upon him.

And once we look upon him, let us believe upon him. I pray that those who do not yet believe, would believe, and that those who say they believe now would believe to the end. Friends, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and there is life in his name. Believe that it is true, trust in him, lay down your life, so that in dying to yourself you might truly live.

And brothers and sisters, now that you are alive in Christ, let us walk in the newness of that life.

“[We] who were dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross… If then [we] have been raised with Christ, [let us] seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Let us] set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For [we] have died, and [our] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is [our] life appears, then [we] also will appear with him in glory. [Let us] put to death therefore what is earthly in [us]: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these [we] too once walked, when [we] were living in them. But now [we] must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from [our] mouth[s]. [Let us] not lie to one another, seeing that [we] have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.’” (Colossians 2:13–14; 3:1–10, ESV)

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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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