This semester I have the unspeakable privilege of teaching through the New Testament book by book. This week’s lesson was on the gospel of John. Of all of the things that could have ‘jumped off the page’ at me as I read the fourth gospel again in preparation for the class, it was the very last verse that struck me.
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.
I must have read this verse hundreds of times, but this time, I got ‘stuck’ on it. Obviously the statement is hyperbole right (an intentional exaggeration employed to make a particular point)? I mean, I’ve been in some pretty large and impressive libraries during the course of studies. The biggest (and probably the best) of them was the Regenstein library at the University of Chicago. Indeed this library, is one of the largest libraries in the world. According to its own website, it holds 4.5 million(physical) volumes, which it has collected through a process of constant acquisition over many years. . .and yet, it takes up somewhat less than a single city block. Here’s a picture:
But as I thought about it, a well-known quote came to mind: “you are the only gospel that some people will ever read.” And it hit me. The world has indeed been filled with countless volumes that record the wonderful and miraculous works of Jesus. For just as God promised to write the words of the New Covenant on human hearts, so he has also been recording the works of Jesus onto the very lives of his followers ever since the apostle John penned the statement above. We are those books. And I daresay that if all of his followers over the centuries were alive today, the entire world could scarcely contain their number. And yet, God is not done writing. This very day, God continues to write his story onto the pages of your life.
So next time you are tempted to wonder what the point of it all is, consider this: the purpose of a book lies outside of the book itself. The purpose of the story that God is writing in and with your life, is that it would be read by others, and that in reading the story of your life, they themselves might become acquainted with the Author, enfolding their story into his and surrendering the pages of the coming chapters of their own lives to will of the greatest story teller of all time. As the Psalmist says, “my heart is stirred with a noble theme as I recite my verses before the King, my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Ps 45:1).
In short, God has chosen to display his works in us, so that his own character and nature; his own glory and majesty; his inscrutable wisdom and relentless love may be clearly seen; heard; experienced, by others.
May his works be multiplied in your life today, that others may see Jesus in you.