John 20:31: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
This verse has given me a lot of insight into the different passages that we read about Jesus throughout the gospels. I have always wondered why we don’t get more stories and details about Jesus’ life in the Bible—but as you read John 20:31, I think we have a pretty straightforward answer. The apostles chose the encounters with Jesus that they included in their gospels so that we could see two things in every moment: Jesus proves that he is truly the Son of God, and if we believe that truth, he is offering us eternal life through his resurrection. What each moment with Jesus calls us to do is recognize these things and respond to them—Jesus is confronting the people in the stories (and those who read them) with a choice: Will you trust that Jesus is God and rely on him to cleanse you of sin and lead you into eternal life?
In one of my favorite moments in the whole Bible, Jesus confronts two people with that same decision—to believe in Jesus’ resurrection and trust him to bring their salvation. Take a second and read Luke 24:13-35.
A quick summary: after Jesus’ death and resurrection, two of his disciples are walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, sad and pondering all the things that have taken place in the last few days. Jesus shows up, walking alongside them, but they don’t recognize him. As he questions them about why they’re sad, the two men go on to talk about how they had hoped Jesus would be the redeemer of Israel, but their hopes are dashed because he died—he must not have been the redeemer. Jesus confronts their unbelief and explains the Scriptures and what has taken place to them. Then, later, as they’re having a meal, Jesus breaks bread for the men just as he did at the Passover meal, and in that moment, they recognize him.
There’s one part of this encounter that stands out to me above the rest—it’s how Jesus responds to the men. In verse 21 we find out that the men were hoping that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. Redeem here is a word that means something along the lines of ransom—that Jesus would pay the ransom for their lives and deliver them from sin and death. In verse 22 they even say that they heard Jesus was alive—that he had been resurrected after his death, but they still didn’t make the connection between this miracle and Jesus being the redeemer. Now, here’s the kicker—how does Jesus respond to their confusion? How does he help them to believe what has happened?
He confronts them in verse 25: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Notice he doesn’t criticize them for not believing in the miracle they just heard about—he criticizes them for not believing what the Scriptures have foretold about the Messiah. Verse 26: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus helps them to believe in who he is and to trust in him for their redemption by showing them in the Scriptures why his death and resurrection had to take place.
He shows them how his own life is the fulfillment of tons of prophecies (like Isaiah 53, for example!). He shows them why it was necessary for him to both die and be resurrected so that those who trust in him would follow him into resurrection as well. But notice what Jesus does not do. He doesn’t do another miracle—he doesn’t display his deity to prove that he is God so the two men would trust in who he is and believe in his redemption. He’s already done the greatest miracle that validates everything he has said and done—and now he uses the Scriptures to communicate the truth; and that’s enough for the men to understand and believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
This is something that I find really encouraging—a lot of people that I’ve encountered in the past have a difficult time believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that his death and resurrection make it possible for us to have eternal life. And what they ask for, or what they think will make them believe, is a sign—a miracle. If only Jesus showed up in front of me and did a miracle—then it would be easy for me to believe these things are true. But here, Jesus has just done an incredible miracle before these men, and he shows up in front of them and yet they still don’t understand—it’s the Scriptures that bring clarity and conviction of their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
These are the very same Scriptures that we have access to—these things are written down so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The very power that Jesus himself used to lead others to a saving knowledge of him is in your hands right now—what are you doing with it?
Middle School Pastor