In my attempt to start reading the Bible more regularly I read the entire Gospel of John today. Ok actually I listened to it while doing laundry, dishes and working on eBay. There are several good audio recordings of the Bible, and my personal favorite is “Inspired by the Bible Experience.” I bought a copy of the CDs back in college for about $50, which I now have copied to my iTunes and Google Music to listen from my phone.
It was one of the best investments I have ever made. When I was a youth minister a few years ago I commonly played these recordings for my students rather than read that week’s text myself. They loved them because of the professional background music and sound effects, but also because of the character voices. Who wouldn’t love Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of God?!? It is not just one person narrating the entire Bible, but this production includes an all-black cast of Hollywood actors and musicians who provide real voices for all the people throughout the Bible. (Click here to get a copy of this Audio Bible.)
From the Inspired By website…
The most ambitious, critically-acclaimed presentation of the Bible ever produced, Inspired By … The Bible Experience features a star-studded cast of almost 400 performers, including 23 Grammy winners, 8 Emmy winners, 5 Golden Globe winners, and 3 Oscar winners. Highlighting the cast is 2007 Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker as the voice of Moses, along with Angela Bassett (Esther), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jonah), Denzel and Pauletta Washington (Song of Songs), LL Cool J (Samson), Eartha Kitt (Serpent), Bishop T.D. Jakes (Abraham), Blair Underwood (Jesus), Samuel Jackson (God, NT only), and Bishop Eddie L. Long (Joel) among others.
Ok so back to the Gospel of John…
I am hoping to not only read/listen to the Bible more this year, but I also want to write more about the things that God teaches me through scripture. So before I listened to John this morning I prayed for God to use His word to change my life for the better once again, as it has done countless times in the past. Then I spent 2 hours and 5 minutes listening to John’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry. I have read the Gospel of John numerous times before, so I did not necessarily hear anything new. However, I did hear some things in new ways. I did not take notes or anything like that, but I just listened to the whole book in one sitting trying to hear it as a complete story. Here are a few things that stood out to me as I listened.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
I love how John words the opening to his book. Not only does it tie in well with Genesis 1, but John points out something that the other Gospels do not. Jesus was there when God created the world. Jesus fully participated with His Father! This immediately got me to thinking about my own children and my relationships with them. I continued thinking about my kids later in John as I noticed how much John talks about the relationship between Jesus and God. The love and the bond between them is unbreakable, undeniable and unmatchable. I can relate to the way God loves His son Jesus, but I cannot fully comprehend the depth of that love.
What is truly remarkable about the relationship between God and Jesus is just how much God entrusted to His son. He put EVERYTHING in the hands of Jesus. If God has the whole world in His hands, Jesus does as well. We talk a lot about God being willing to let His own son die on the cross to pay the price for our sins, but long before Jesus died (and came back to life), God entrusted His son to participate in the creation of the world and then be the face of God to the world. John says that no man has ever seen God, but that God did send us Jesus to live among us. God glorifies His son, and Jesus glorifies His Father. Jesus is allowed to speak for God and represent their family to their creation. God really, really trusted His son, and Jesus really, really wanted to do His father’s will, no matter what the cost.
Wow if only my relationships with my own children could have just a fraction of that level of depth, mutual trust and commitment. The Gospel of John really makes me want to be a better father, and it makes me want to do great things in this world. It makes me want to achieve greatness, not by myself, but with my whole family participating and for the betterment of others.
JESUS’ 1ST PUBLIC MIRACLE
I noticed today that when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding party in John 2, Jesus did so not because He necessarily wanted to, but He performed this miracle because His mom wanted Him to. Just as Jesus has an unbreakable relationship with His Father in Heaven, He also is pretty close with Mary, His mother on Earth. They were apparently close enough that He knew what she wanted without her having to spell it out for Him. All she said was, “They have no more wine.” (John 2:3) She did not actually ask Jesus to perform a miracle here, but I can just picture a mother giving her son a guilt-inducing look that says, “You don’t HAVE to do this, but it would really make your mom happy if you did.”
I laughed a little at Jesus’ response to His mom… “‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.'” (John 2:4) He may not have really wanted to turn water into wine that day, but He did respect His mother’s wishes. John says that this is the 1st sign in which Jesus starts revealing His glory to the world, but my gut tells me that His mom had already seen Him perform a few miracles in private.
JESUS REVEALS HIMSELF TO THE LEAST OF THESE
While I love a good public miracle where Jesus can really show the world who He is, I especially love those small, quiet moments He has one-on-one with people who are outcasts of society. The ones that really stood out today were the woman at the well, the blind man and the brief conversation he had with the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned. He talked firmly but kindly to them about their sins and had a warm presence with outcasts. He also was very open with them about who He really was. Whereas Jesus was not very friendly or warm to Pharisees or the money changers in the temple.
A couple things really hit me hearing the Lazarus story today.
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
Jesus did not mind letting his good friend Lazarus suffer with sickness, or even die for that matter. It was not that Jesus was cold or unsympathetic, but Jesus knew that Lazarus’ suffering would ultimately bring glory to both God and Jesus. In other words, what seemed like a sad and terrible thing had a much bigger purpose.
The death of Lazarus led to a pretty important conversation between Jesus and Martha (Lazarus’ sister), and it ultimately gave us the following epic verse of monumental importance:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
As you see Lazarus die while Jesus takes His sweet time getting there, it is easy to think that Jesus did not care very much, but then you find out that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) His true feelings and compassion for His friends becomes clear.
Not only did Thomas need to feel the holes in Jesus’ hands after the resurrection before he would believe that it was really Jesus, but today I noticed how much Thomas doubted Jesus all throughout their time together. It just felt like Thomas second-guessed everything and would never take Jesus at His word the first time.
JESUS DID MANY OTHER THINGS
The final words of the Gospel of John hit me particularly strong today. I remembered the gist of what the ending said, but today I heard it more clearly.
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
I knew the Bible said that Jesus performed many other miracles that were not documented in the Gospels. I even taught a lesson on this once years ago where I went through a list of all the documented miracles during Jesus’ ministry and made a point that, as great as all of these miracles are, they only scratch the surface of everything that God does for us. However today, that last line just really stuck out to me and got me to thinking about the sheer number of great things Jesus did during His too-short life on Earth. I am almost 33 years old, the same age of Jesus when He was crucified. I feel like I have done some good things in my life, occasionally maybe a great thing or two, but if I was feeling particularly prideful, I could probably record all the good things I have done in just one book. The great things I have done would probably be less than a chapter, maybe just one page.
Jesus on the other hand worked so many miracles and did so many great things during His 33 years on Earth, that the whole world could not hold all the books it would take to record His greatness. Just take a minute and think about that.
This got my brain churning, so I wrote a separate post of nerdy mathematical calculations trying to figure out how many books it would take to fill the Earth and how many miracle stories those books might contain. Click here to read my other post on the closing lines of the Gospel of John.