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.