Scripture: John 3:31-36
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
Today, John the Baptist is once again proclaiming the truth of Christ’s identity to any who will listen. Jesus is the Son, sent from above by God the Father to bring eternal life. This short passage is actually a sort of summary statement for the overall themes in the Gospel of John. More than the other gospels, Jesus is portrayed as an other-worldly, divine presence with foreknowledge of all the events that must take place in order for his purpose to succeed. To illustrate the difference in perspective between the gospels, take for instance the Gospel of Mark. The very first time someone declares Jesus to be the Son of God occurs after he dies on the cross. Mark 15:39 reads, “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ The Gospel of John inverts this sequence. The author wants us to have in or minds the whole time exactly who Jesus is. Through the voice of John the Baptist, we understand straight away that this Jesus guy is not only bringing the words of God, but that he is God, himself.
The method in this gospel is a different storytelling technique meant to add authority and weight to the instructive lessons that will soon be laid out by Jesus. And John the Baptist’s last statement in this passage sets the bar for heeding those lessons as high as he can: Belief = eternal life; disobedience = wrath. What I think is the most interesting part of this passage is the parallel words John uses in this statement. “Belief” and “disobedience” are contrasted. That doesn’t make much sense initially. I would expect “belief” to be contrasted with “disbelief” or “disobedience” with “obedience.” But clearly that’s not the case. This signals something important for us. Belief is active in the Christian faith. The lessons of faith we will see Jesus teach throughout the gospel are things like healing, feeding the multitudes, and peacemaking. Our belief is authenticated whenever we, too, are doing these things in some way. For John’s Gospel, to believe is too obey. So for us, there’s really no such thing as passive faith. Our belief that Jesus is God makes Christianity something we do. We proclaim our belief in Christ whenever we live in obedience to the lessons he enacted before us.
Christ our Lord, inspire me to not only be a hearer of your word, but a doer of it, also. Guide me with your Spirit to the places where I can act out my belief in you through the uplifting of others. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
To believe in Jesus is to do what he did for others.