Starting backward

Some of us start writing to see what we think. As the words come, we begin to realize what was in our head. The words come in fits and starts and then in a rush. We grin and weep as we begin to understand our hearts.

John didn’t write that way, at least not for the works we know. He knew exactly why he was choosing the stories he chose. He sorted carefully through all the possibilities, all the memories, all the images.

And then he wrote twenty-one chapters for one reason:

…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 20:31)

For John, this is not a collection of interesting stories about Jesus. John wants the reader to come to understand that Jesus was about life, about hope, about God. And he will pick stories of miracles with that in mind.

In all the times I’ve read through the book called John, I haven’t considered the flow of stories as, well, as a flow. That’s because when it comes to the Bible, we pick out bits.

I’m good at telling the stories, pieces at a time. All of us (and I hardly ever say “all” about church stuff) who have watched football or baseball or basketball or Olympics or other large events have seen “John 3:16” on cardboard, which is just one bit. When we prove perspectives, when we embrace or condemn, we pick out bits.

John already picked out bits. He took the whole of his time with Jesus – which was, it seems, three years – and chooses a few pages worth of miracles and messages. With them he tells the story that gave him a life’s work and struggle.

Let’s see what he picked.

2 thoughts on “Starting backward

  1. Frank Reed


    What I always wonder )and look forward to knowing someday) is what ELSE Jesus did that caused John to conclude his writing with John 21:25:

    “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”

    Thanks for making me think about Jesus in the flow and rather in bits. He is awesome.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Part of it, Frank is that there was so much that happened in three years, so many conversations, so many experiences, that John had to pick. And I’m guessing that there were things that happened to John that were just for John. Just like there are things for Frank.


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