The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple

May 8, 2022 ()

Bible Text: John 20:30-31; John 21:24-25 |


The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple | John 20:30-31, 21:24-25
Brian Hedges | May 8, 2022

I want to invite you to turn to the Gospel of John for one last time in our current series through the Gospel of John. This has really been five short series that have spanned over the course of about five or six years, and we’re now coming to the very end of this Gospel in chapters 20 and 21. For the last number of weeks we’ve been looking at the passion and the resurrection narratives from John 18-21.

It’s always kind of satisfying and also kind of sad for me, coming to the end of a book, and especially a book like this. The Gospel of John is such a glorious Gospel; I certainly don’t feel that I’ve done it justice, and if I live long enough, by God’s grace, I would love to teach through it again, preach through it again, and hope I will have that opportunity.

Martin Luther called this “the unique, tender, genuine, chief Gospel,” and he said that “if a tyrant should succeed in destroying all of the Holy Scriptures and only a single copy of the Epistle to the Romans and the Gospel According to John were left [just one single copy!], Christianity would be saved.” That’s how much value he placed on the Gospel of John. There’s just so much here, and it’s been a joy working through it together with you.

To give you a little preview, next Sunday we will begin a new series, and this isn’t an exposition through a book of the Bible, but for at least a few weeks we’re going to look at a series on identity. I’m calling this “Identity Crisis.” We’re in a culture that is awash with confusion about identity—What is it that constitutes a human person? How do we find our identity? Especially as believers, we need to understand how we find our identity in Christ. So for at least a few weeks we’re going to be considering a number of passages from Scripture about identity.

But today we’re in the Gospel of John, and I want to begin by reading two passages to you from John 20 and 21. You may recall that last week we looked at the epilogue of John’s Gospel, which is the narrative that takes place at the Sea of Tiberias (or Galilee) as Jesus appears to his disciples again there in John 21. But that narrative is really framed by two concluding statements in the Gospel of John. That scene in John 21 is something like a mid-credits scene, but the credits really seem to begin to roll in John 20:30-31, where John tells us the purpose of his Gospel; and then identifies himself as the author in John 21:24-25. I want us to read both of those passages this morning, beginning in John 20:30.

“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.”

Now chapter 21:24-25.

“This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 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.”

That may be the best ending of a book ever written in history.

This is God’s word, and today is really kind of a summary sermon of the Gospel of John, and one more call for all of us to respond to the basic message of this book.

What I want to do is look at three things:

  1. The Author of This Gospel (the beloved disciple)
  2. The Message of This Gospel (which is all about Jesus and who he is)
  3. The Purpose of This Gospel (that we might believe, and through believing might have life in his name)

1. The Author of This Gospel: "The Beloved Disciple" 

First of all, and briefly, the author of this Gospel, identified here as “the disciple who is bearing witness about these things” in John 21:24, who is the “beloved disciple,” we understand from the verses that precede that.

Now, I’ve basically assumed throughout this series a traditional understanding of the authorship of the Gospel of John; that is, that it was John the Apostle, one of the Twelve, John the brother of James, the son of Zebedee, who was the author of this Gospel. We need to understand that he never identifies himself as John in the Gospel, but this is the traditional understanding, certainly almost the uniform understanding of most of the church fathers and many theologians and scholars for the first number of centuries in the church.

That is a contested view today, and there are a number of possible options that have been suggested concerning the authorship of this Gospel. Some have suggested that this was written by an anonymous disciple who exemplifies what it means to follow Jesus correctly, and he simply calls himself “the beloved disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Others have speculated that Lazarus, whom Jesus loved in John 11, was the author; or Thomas; or even Mary Magdalene. There’s absolutely no evidence for any of those views, from what I can tell, and the traditional view is that John was indeed the author. There are other views as well, and I just want to make a brief case for why I think it was John and why it’s at least important for us to consider this question.

We need to think for a minute about the appearances of the author, identified as “the beloved disciple,” in the Gospel of John. There are at least five of them, and one or two that are disputed.

The first clear reference is in John 13, during the last supper that Jesus ate with his disciples, in the upper room, when one of the disciples, it says, “whom Jesus loved,” was reclining at table at Jesus’ side. This was when Peter motioned to this disciple to ask the question who it was that would betray him. We read in verse 25 that that disciple, “leaning back against Jesus, said to him, ‘Lord, who is it?’”

That’s the first time this disciple is identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and he’s right there leaning on Jesus. This was obviously a very close, intimate relationship that the beloved disciple had with Jesus. It’s also very clear that this was one of the twelve disciples, because we know from the other Gospel records that it was only the twelve disciples who were with Jesus in the upper room. That’s one reason why I would reject the idea that it was Lazarus or Mary Magdalene who was the author of the Gospel.

There’s also probably a reference to this disciple in John 18, in the courtyard, just before Peter denies Christ. In John 18:15-16 we read that “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple,” and that’s probably this disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

There’s a very clear reference in John 19, where Jesus is dying on the cross, and surrounding the cross are a number of women and one disciple. We read in verses 26-27 that “when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Again, it’s traditional in our understanding that it was John, the brother of James, the son of Zebedee, who had taken Mary the mother of Jesus into his care.

The beloved disciple appears again in John 20. He, along with Peter, comes to the empty tomb, having heard the testimony from Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty. You remember that they raced to the tomb, and John was more fleet of foot than Peter was. He reached the tomb first and he looked in, but Peter’s the one who went straight into the tomb. But the beloved disciple who first saw and seemed to understand and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Then, in John 21, the story we looked at last week, there were seven disciples who met Jesus on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias or Galilee. We know who five of those disciples were; we know that Peter was there, Nathanael, and also Thomas, and we know that the sons of Zebedee were there, James and John. It’s the only reference to the sons of Zebedee directly in this Gospel, and then there are two unnamed disciples. But one of those disciples, one of those seven, was clearly this disciple whom Jesus loved. We know this because in John 21:20, “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had also leaned back against him during the supper, that said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ Peter saw him and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.’” We looked at that passage next week.

Then the next verse, verse 23, says, “So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’” And then he goes on to say, “This is the disciple who is writing these words, whose testimony is true.”

We believe that the Gospel of John was the latest Gospel to be written. The earliest possible date would have been the late 60s, sometime between A.D. 65 and A.D. 70. Some say that the Gospel was written even much later than that. We also know that the apostle John was the last of the disciples to die and was the only disciple to die a natural death—at least that’s our understanding according to church history.

So, when you put all of that material together, and the way John references himself in this Gospel, and then also the language and vocabulary that he uses and how that matches up with other writings in the New Testament that we believe the apostle John wrote, it seems that there’s strong internal evidence that John was this author, the beloved disciple.

There’s also a lot of external evidence, and I’m not going to take the time to take you through all of that; it would feel more like a seminary lecture than a sermon. But I will read you this one quotation from Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a church father, a leader in the second century. He had known personally Polycarp, who was one of the disciples of John, the apostle. He was martyred at 86 years old in 156 A.D. So Irenaeus had a first-hand acquaintance with Polycarp, who knew the apostle John. Irenaeus said, “John the disciple of the Lord, who leaned back on his breast, published the Gospel while he was resident at Ephesus in Asia.”

That’s a very clear affirmation from the second century, from one of the key church fathers, that John was the author of this Gospel, and there’s much more evidence beyond that, from Papias, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and other sources as well. In other words, there is really strong internal evidence and very strong external evidence that the author of this Gospel was none other than John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.

Now, why is this important for us? It’s important because it just reminds us that our knowledge of Jesus comes to us through a historical process—eyewitness testimony, reported, written down, and passed down from generation to generation. There’s all kinds of evidence in this Gospel that it was an eyewitness who saw these things and who wrote it down. It means, and it’s the point I’ve made many times in this series, that our faith is not founded on fiction or on fantasy, it’s founded on facts. It’s founded on history, eyewitness testimony written down by one of Jesus’ own disciples, one of the close associates, a man who knew him, who walked with him, and who called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Why did John call himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? I think it was because John was so deeply captured by the love of God demonstrated to him through Jesus Christ. Maybe he didn’t even feel worthy to put his name in the Gospel. For whatever reason, he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and he is known as the apostle of love. Read the first letter of John, 1 John, towards the end of the New Testament. It’s all about love and how God has loved us and therefore we are to love one another.

He is a wonderful model for us of a disciple, and he gives us a beautiful testimony to who Jesus is, what Jesus had done, how Jesus had loved him, and indeed, how God had so loved the world that he sent Jesus to die for us.

2. The Message of This Gospel: Claims and Signs 

That leads us to the message of this gospel, which is the second point. Turn now to John 20:30-31, which is that first passage we read. This really is the purpose statement for the Gospel of John. John says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written [these signs] 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.”

We might summarize this point under two words: the words “claims” and “signs,” because the message of John’s Gospel is making a claim, and it is making the claim through the reporting of signs. Right? He says, “Jesus did many other signs which are not written, but these are written, these signs are written, so that you may believe—” here’s the claim “—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

We could say that the primary claims of the Gospel of John are simply these: that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the Messiah, the Son of God; and that his teaching, his signs, his death, and his resurrection were seen by eyewitnesses. Those are the claims. It’s all about who Jesus is, and it’s the firsthand eyewitness testimony of those who saw him and who heard him and saw him crucified and saw him resurrected.

Again, the beloved disciple was right there. He was there in the upper room, he was there in the courtyard during the trials of Jesus, he was there at the foot of the cross! He saw Jesus crucified. He was there at the empty tomb, and he peered in and saw the tomb was empty. He was there in the room when Jesus appeared two different times to his disciples, and he was there at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus revealed himself to the seven. He is saying, “I was there and I saw it, and this is who he is, the Christ, the Messiah! We’ve seen him, we know him! It’s Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus who is crucified, Jesus who is risen from the dead. He is the Son of God.” That’s the claim of this Gospel.

That claim is made in so many ways in this Gospel. I’d have to preach through it again to tell you everything that is in this Gospel, but just think about the beginning of the Gospel, that tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It’s a claim that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, is none other than the Word who existed with God before the worlds began and has now become incarnate among us.

Then you get to the end of the Gospel and you have Thomas’s remarkable confession in John 20. When he saw the risen Christ, he saw the wounds in his hands and the wound in his side, and he said, “My Lord and my God!”

This is the claim confessed by many witnesses who saw Jesus, but this claim is advanced by John in this gospel especially through the signs. He says, “Jesus did many other signs not written . . . but these [these signs] are written so that you may believe . . . .” This is how he’s advancing his thesis in this gospel, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: through the signs.

There are 17 direct uses of this word “sign” or “signs” in John’s Gospel, more than in any other Gospel, and John’s Gospel is the only Gospel to use this word to speak about the miracles Jesus did in his ministry. The signs are miracles, but they are miracles that point to something. They are signs that have significance.

D. A. Carson puts it like this: “Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjuring tricks to impress the masses, but signs, significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived by the eyes of faith.”

The importance of these signs I think is clear in John’s description here of the purpose of his Gospel in John 20.

The first of these signs was when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding of Cana in Galilee in John 2:1-11. Verse 11 says that this is the first of his signs that Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. So right there we’re seeing the function of the signs. The signs were to reveal his glory so that the disciples would believe. It’s the very purpose for which John is writing this gospel.

Here are the other signs:

  • The healing of the official’s son in John 4:46-54; it’s called the second sign.
  • The healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5, although this one is not directly called a sign.
  • The feeding of the thousands in John 6. This is also called a sign. There’s also the walking on water in John 6, not referred to as a sign, and probably not to be considered one of the signs because it wasn’t done privately; it was more of a private miracle. But perhaps it is also a sign, and the scholars debate exactly how many signs there are and which should be counted as signs. But the feeding of the thousands for sure.
  • Then the healing of the man born blind in John 9.
  • The raising of Lazarus in John 11. That’s also called a sign in John 12.

I think a good case can be made that the final sign, the seventh sign in this Gospel, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself, because following the resurrection narratives John says, “These signs are written . . .” He uses the signs language again, and it harks all the way back to John 2:18-22, when the Jews asked Jesus for a sign, and Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was speaking about the temple of his body. Jesus said this would be the sign: “My body will be destroyed. This temple will be destroyed, and I will raise it up in three days.” So I think this is the seventh sign; I think it’s the ultimate sign. It is the sign that compels belief. This is why we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; because he was raised, and because people saw him.

John Stott, a wonderful scholar, says, “The value of Christ’s miracles lies less in their supernatural character than in their spiritual significance. They are signs as well as wonders. They are never performed selfishly or senselessly; their purpose is not to show off or to compel submission; they are not mere demonstrations of physical power, but illustrations of moral authority; they are, in fact, the acted parables of Jesus. They exhibit his claims visually. They are his works which dramatize his words. St. John saw this clearly and constructs his Gospel around six or seven selected signs, and associates them with the great I Am declarations which Christ made.”

The claim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is made through the signs, and made directly by Jesus through these I Am statements, which in some ways correspond with the signs.

What were these I Am statements? You remember them:

  • “I am the bread of life” (John 6), or the living bread that came down from heaven
  • “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5)
  • “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved” (John 10:7-9)
  • “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believe in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25)
  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)
  • “I am the true vine” (John 15:1); “I am the vine and you are the branches,” verse 5
  • Then, in John 8:58, Jesus simply says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” clearly there evoking the name of God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3.

All of these statements, and many more made by Jesus, are statements that advance the claims of Jesus, and in many ways they correspond with the signs. When Jesus turns water into wine in the wedding in Cana, it verifies his claim to be the living water and the Messiah in chapter 4. When he feeds the thousands with a few loaves and fishes in John 6, it verifies his claim to be the true bread from heaven, the living bread, who gives his life for the life of the world. When he opened the eyes of the man born blind in chapter 9, it verifies his claim to be the light of the world, the one who gives light to those who are in darkness. And when he raises Lazarus from the dead in John 11 it verifies his claim to be the resurrection and the life. His claims and his signs.

What’s the application of this for us?

Surely the first application is simply to believe the message. We’ll talk about that more in a moment. As believers, it also compels us to know this message. Do you know what an amazing, God-given resource we have for understanding Jesus, for knowing Jesus, for seeing Jesus, and for sharing Jesus with others in the Gospel of John?

And did you know that you can buy single copies of the Gospel of John really cheaply and give them out to people in evangelism? This is a great way to share your faith! Give someone a copy of the Gospel of John—just the book of John. Not the whole Bible, not the New Testament, not something that overwhelming. For someone who knows nothing about Christ, someone who does not know the Christian faith, and you want to share with them, you want to take the first step, give them the Gospel of John and say, “Hey, would you like to read this with me? We could read and study a chapter a week. You read a chapter, I’ll read a chapter, and then let’s meet for coffee and let’s just talk about the Gospel of John and what this says about Jesus.” That’s a wonderful way we can use this Gospel for the very purpose that John wrote it, to share the message of Jesus with others.

Of course, brothers and sisters, we should continually read and reread this Gospel. It’s so rich, perhaps the favorite Gospel of all for many of us in this room—so rich, so much here to encourage us, to strengthen our faith, and to lead us into a deeper experience of life in Jesus Christ.

3. The Purpose of This Gospel: Life through Believing 

That leads us to the final point this morning, the purpose of this Gospel. Why is it that John wrote the Gospel? He wrote it, of course, to make these claims and advance the claims of the gospel through recording these signs, but not just as an academic exercise, not just as a historical exercise, but so that we would respond. Listen to what he says. This is, again, chapter 20:30-31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that [that’s a purpose statement; in order that] you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

That’s why John wrote this Gospel: so that you and I could have life through believing.

What does he mean by that? Let’s think about each of those words for a minute, “life” and “believing.”

First of all, “life.” What does he mean, “that you may have life through his name”? I think we could say “life” means at least four things in the Gospel of John.

(1) First of all, it means eternal life. We’ve already heard it this morning multiple times, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Eternal life is the opposite of perishing.

Here’s the reality, friends: every single one of us is mortal, every single one of us faces either gradual sickness and decay leading to death, or a sudden death. Every single one of us will die (unless Jesus returns first). What happens when you die? Do you perish, or do you receive eternal life in the presence of God? There’s no more urgent question for any human being to ever consider. What happens to me beyond this life? The message of the Gospel of John is, through believing in Jesus Christ, eternal life, life with God forever.

John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life . . .” That shows that this eternal life is something that begins now, it’s something that we begin to experience in its qualitative sense, an eternal kind of life in the here and now. “. . . whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

This was the message that Jesus gave to the woman of Samaria in John 4. He asks her for a drink of water from the well. She’s surprised, because he’s a man, he’s a Jewish man, he’s a teacher; she’s a woman, she’s a Samaritan, she’s a woman of ill repute. But Jesus says, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would have asked him for living water.” He says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It’s the greatest gift of all, and it’s given through Jesus Christ to those who believe.

(2) This is also resurrection life; that is, it is resurrection life in the age to come, eternal life. It’s not merely that our souls live forever, it’s also the promise that our bodies will be raised in glory and we will inhabit a physical new creation. John 6:40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Again, John 11:25-26, there before the resurrection, before the raising of Lazarus from the dead, when Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

I’ve seen death. I’ve seen it up close and personal with dear family members and friends and church members over the years. Death is an enemy. Death is a sad, devastating reality. We all have to face it. But the hope of the gospel is there’s resurrection! The resurrection is coming for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Read John 5 as well, where Jesus talks about having the authority to raise people from the dead.

(3) So it’s eternal life, it’s resurrection life; and then it’s what we might simply call abundant life, and that’s life in the here and now. That’s the experience of this life with God, this fellowship with God, this eternal life now in our hearts and lives. John 10:9-10, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Life to the full!

Listen, do you want joy? Do you want peace? Do you want to flourish spiritually, inwardly, internally, emotionally, in your relationships? The way that comes to us is through abiding in the vine, Jesus Christ, experiencing his life, his joy, his peace in us, in our hearts. There’s abundant life available for us here and now.

(4) Then the final thing to be said about life in the Gospel of John is that it is life that comes through Christ’s death. John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus died so that we would live. It’s the whole message of the cross.

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. We get life through his death because of what he did for us.

Then we get it through believing. This is the final thing, the last point—life through believing. John says, “I have written these things 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.” There’s no life without believing; it’s life that comes through believing. What is that? What does it mean to believe?

I like the definition given in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 14, paragraph 2, where it says that “the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life.” That’s good. Accepting, like you accept a gift. Receiving, like you a receive a gift, or like you receive someone into your home. Remember, in the prologue we read that “he came unto his own and his own received him not, but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Receiving him and then resting upon him, so that we’re depending not on ourselves, not on our works, not on our goodness, not on our morality, not on tallying up the score to see whether we have more good works than bad works on at the end, not on our law-keeping, our religiosity, not on our church attendance, not on our baptism, not on anything we do, but on what Christ has done, resting on him, not on ourselves.

I think maybe the best, most vivid illustration in the Gospel of John is John 3:14-15. (This is the last verse I’ll read, and then I want to end with an illustration.) It’s in the conversation with Nicodemus, when Jesus, instructing this Pharisee, this Old Testament scholar, says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

You remember what Jesus is talking about? He’s recalling the event from Numbers 21. Moses is leading the children of Israel through the wilderness, and once again they’re complaining, they’re murmuring against God, they’re impatient, and they grieve God. God, in an act of judgment, sends snakes into the camp, fiery serpents, poisonous, venomous snakes. They’re coming through the camp and they’re biting people. People are languishing, they’re sick, they’re dying.

Moses implores God for a remedy, something to deal with this problem, the judgment through the serpents that is on the people of God. You remember what God tells Moses to do? He says, “Make a serpent of bronze, put it on a pole, and when people look at the serpent they will be healed.”

What was this serpent? It was a symbol of the judgment of their sin, lifted up on a pole. Jesus, recalling that, says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” When is he lifted up? He’s lifted up on the cross. There he is, showing our judgment, our sin, bearing it in his own body on the tree, and Jesus says that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. What is believing? It’s looking! It’s looking to Christ, just as the people who were sick in Numbers 21 looked at the serpent. They didn’t have the strength to climb up and touch the serpent, to make a new serpent for themselves—there was nothing they could do except look. But in looking they were healed.

This truth, that looking to Jesus is what brings salvation, this is what changed my favorite preacher of all, Charles Spurgeon. It’s what changed his life. Do you remember this story? Charles Spurgeon was a young teenager trying desperately to live a good life, he was trying to keep the Ten Commandments, but he’s afraid he’s committed the unpardonable sin. He was raised in a Christian home, but he’s haunted by guilt, and he’s reading all these Puritans, and they’re just making him feel more guilty, worse and worse. He cannot come to peace.

He’s 15 years old, and on a snowy night he wanders into a little Methodist church and he hears a layman, probably a deacon in the church—not a preacher, but a layman—who gets up and he reads Isaiah 45:22, “Look to me, all the ends of the earth, and be saved.” He didn’t preach a great, eloquent sermon, he just starts looking around at the people, and he says, “Look to Christ! Look to Christ!” He spots Spurgeon looking miserable in the back of the chapel, and he says directly to him, “Young man, you look miserable. Look to Christ! Look to Christ! Look to Christ and you will be saved!” He just keeps exhorting him to look.

Spurgeon suddenly understood that it was just looking. It was just trusting what Jesus had done; it was ceasing from trying to save himself and trusting that what Jesus had done was sufficient to save him.

Probably thinking about that experience, Spurgeon, a few years later, said these words. Consider this an invitation to you.

"But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though faith is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merit. Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and the finisher of thy faith.”

What is the message and the purpose of the Gospel of John? That you would look to Christ, that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you would have life in his name. Let’s pray.

God, thank you for not leaving us alone in our sins and in our death, but sending your Son to die for us, raising him from the dead, sending your Spirit into our hearts and lives to change us, and sending us your word, a gospel, good news about how sinners like us can be saved, forgiven; how we can pass from death to life, how we can have the hope of eternal life, resurrection life, life in the age to come; how we can experience abundant life, joy, and peace in our hearts right now, all through Jesus Christ your Son.

Thank you so much for the gospel. Thank you so much, Father, that it’s not left up to us to save ourselves. We’re not saved by our works, our righteousness, any good that we could do, as if we could do any real good in our own strength; but thank you that we’re saved through Jesus and what he’s done for us. May each one of us respond in our heart of hearts this moment, this morning; some, perhaps, for the first time, believing, trusting, looking to Christ and Christ alone for salvation; many of us reaffirming that basic commitment and trust of our hearts. I pray that in believing we would experience life to the full.

Lord, would you fill us up with such joy in believing this message that it would compel us to share it with others? There’s a lost world out there. We’re surrounded by thousands of people who do not know Christ, and there are millions upon millions in parts of the world who have never heard, not once, the name of Jesus. They’re trapped in darkness. They need this message. Lord, would you so work in us that we would share it with others, that we would either go or that we would send others to go with our support, with our prayers, with our love, with our goodwill, with our backing them? Lord, give us eyes to see the fields that are white with harvest. I pray that you would work this morning even in the moments that follow, as we come to the Lord’s table together, as we worship through song and through confession of our faith. Lord, would you work in these moments to burn these truths deep in our hearts? May you be glorified, I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.