“‘If I thought I could help you,’ Dumbledore said gently, ‘by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened.'”
p695 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
The best of books take you to a place where you can see the world in a fresh view. Your perspective grows as the story captures you and pulls you in. After I move away from this apartment, I suspect one of my most pronounced memories will be late nights with Harry Potter. I anticipate reading these books aloud to my children somewhere down the road… should I ever arrive at that point in the road (we’ll venture into that digression another night). For this is neither a blog about my future nor Harry Potter.
(And the faithful reader thinks, “Thank God. We’ve had quite enough.” And the writer thinks, “Harry Potter ended before anyone had quite enough.”)
This is a blog about the gospel of John, the book within the compilation of books that makes up the Bible that I have read and wrestled with most. How I love John’s writing, his intentionality, his methodology of introducing the life of Jesus. I love the hypnotic use of repetition and the rhythm he creates to keep the reader intrigued. John’s intelligence, emotionally, spiritually- humanly- stands out to me. He got something about the telling of the story of Jesus. He knew he needed to engage his audience on a real, raw level. So he tells the stories of other people’s stories. He tells us what happened. He tells it from lots of perspectives.
I am reading John, sometimes uninterested and sometimes mesmerized on this go-round. Something new that stands out is the use of the senses in the writing of the book. John mentions a person seeing and hearing, a person touching, a person tasting… He describes stories in this way. I love the way John provokes faith in someone unseen by telling the story of what he saw. John’s storytelling becomes a challenge to the reader: will your faith in someone unseen play out in the stories you see? We lack the luxury of a physically present Jesus.
The world aches and groans with the struggles of sickness and death. And we lack the luxury of a physically present Jesus. So John writes the words of the story of Jesus: water turns to wine; a paralyzed man walks; a child not in the presence of Jesus is healed by his words from miles away; 5,000 are fed from one lunchbox; a blind man sees; a dead man lives… lives literally, physically transform. Some believe. Others don’t. Jesus changes everything.
And then towards the end of the book, John writes some words of Jesus that invite the reader to ponder their place in the way things have changed. “Greater love has no man than this,” John writes, echoing the words of his Savior, “than he lay down his life for his friends.” And then Jesus lays down his life for his friends. And in so doing, he overcomes death. Then he tells his friends that they’ll do greater things than him.
John tells a grouping of stories to tell the life story of Jesus. All along he’s showing his readers a different way to see. He’s showing them how to see people honestly, for who they are. He’s showing them how to love them in the midst of their brokenness. He’s showing them how to heal them in their woundedness. He’s showing them how to lay down their lives for the sake of love. By the end of John’s gospel, you don’t necessarily realize you’ve just realized that perspective is much bigger and more creative than you ever hoped or imagined.
But it is so much bigger and more creative that the world couldn’t contain enough volumes of books about how full the story of redemption will be, how full it is.
We are left with great hope. And we are left with the great and beautiful responsibility of working out how we live in light of this great hope. I think it means waking up to the reality of the best and worst of humanity and committing to live fully present. Here. Now. And as we go, we keep revising the story to tell what has happened as we realized that our perspective continually needs a little stretching so vast is the love of Jesus. The more we stretch, the more he fills. And the risks may be large, but it is SO. VERY. GOOD.
Incomplete thoughts but what I got tonight…