The Intensity of John
Recently, my husband had bi-lateral hernia surgery, and I was sitting in the lobby of the hospital reading the Book of John. There’s something about a loved one being put to sleep and being surgically operated on, that makes the Word that much more vivid. I clung to the Word and its Truth a little more tightly as I prayed that all would go well for my husband. As I got further into the stories, the intensity seemed to pick up. I felt as if I was watching a wide-screen movie as I saw the plot pick up before my mind’s eye.
I noticed that when all was good, all was good. What I mean by that is that when there was no major pressure, and Jesus was performing miracles, all was right with the crowd and the disciples, but when danger came, when persecution surfaced, the crowds dispersed and the disciples grumbled.
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven.’” Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The Jews began to argue among themselves. Then, the scene switches to the disciples:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”
As I continued to read John, I noticed that the people were trying to makes sense of the facts that they knew of Jesus (that he was born of Joseph of Mary), but they were confused because He spoke of His Father in Heaven. As I watch them struggle, I am reminded that the knowledge of the world is so vastly different (and falls grossly short) when compared to the knowledge of faith based in God. As the people grumbled among themselves, the intensity and frustration increased. They wanted an answer, and the Pharisees wanted Jesus to stop what He is doing. As a result, they begin to lay plans to seize Him!
I notice something else about Jesus: He is not moved. He knows the intensity is increasing, but He continues to go about standing up for the underdog (the woman caught in adultery in Chapter 8), they call him a false prophet – a liar, and he continues on – not moved. At the end of chapter 8, they pick up stones to stone Him, but Jesus slips away. At the beginning of chapter 9, He heals a man who was born blind.
As He went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
I love this verse. I notice two things. One, Jesus was nearly stoned, and as He is slipping away, He takes the time to stop and help someone else.
I am reminded that when we are under attack, it can be so easy to get so caught up in our own trials that we don’t notice people along our path that God put before us who may need our help. We must be focused on the Father’s work, rather than our own despair and heartache, if we are to see, with eyes of faith, the people and blessings before us in the midst of our own battles.
I can just imagine Jesus escaping a crowd who desired to stone him, walking quickly away, but noticing a blind man along His path. Of course, He stops to heal him. What would you or I have done in that instance? I think it’s human nature to sprint 90 miles an hour, kicking up dust the entire way, getting as far away to safety as we can get. And in our heated dash for our own security, we don’t notice the physically, emotionally or spiritually disabled people along our path who need our assistance.
The second thing I notice is that, the disciples are confused because they are thinking in earthly terms. They are wondering what in the world this man or his parents did that caused the man to be born blind. When in fact, the answer Jesus gives is not of this world. “Neither this man or his parents sinned,” Jesus said, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3)
Isn’t it also human nature to look at our struggles or someone else’s and think, “What did I do, or what did they do, that they would be punished in this way?” This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because my son was born profoundly deaf, and he has been diagnosed to go blind (though God says it will never happen). I have found great comfort in this verse because I am reminded that we are all vehicles through which He works, and He is the one who chooses what type of vehicle we inhabit on this earth; He gives us all the exact vehicle He designed for us to carry out the work that He was already predestined for us to carry out.
If everyone was born in fancy red-corvette types of bodies, there wouldn’t be any work-truck or love-bugs to deliver a different message. And He’s given us all gifts and messages unique to us. Besides, it would be pretty boring if all we saw was people who, by man’s definition, were perfect, shiny and fancy. Jesus didn’t show up as an earthly King with riches and fancy clothes and fancy chariots. No, He came to serve. If you have ever struggled with the type of body you were born into, I pray you focus on this verse and then get really, really excited about the plans Jesus has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
As the Book of John continues, Lazarus dies, Jesus comforts his sisters, Jesus brings him back to life, the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus, Jesus stands up for Mary - who took out expensive perfume for Jesus’ feet, unbelief and plots continue, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, Jesus comforts His disciples, He talks of the vine and the branches, He reminds His disciples that the world hates them (because of His Father), Jesus prays for Himself, Jesus prays for the All Believers, Jesus is arrested, Peter denies Him, Jesus is questioned by the High Priests, Peter denies Him again and again and again, Jesus goes before Pilate, Jesus is sentenced and crucified, and Jesus dies.
As I sat in that hospital lobby and finished the Book of John, I noticed that things continued to get worse and worse for Jesus – in the physical – earthly realm. By man’s definition, He was defeated. Jesus, however, sacrificed the physical for the sake of the spiritual. And although it was darkest before the dawn, dawn did come. On the third day, He rose again!
While reading the Book of John, the intensity of each moment reminded me of the pattern of battles. One battle comes, then another, then another, then another, and just when we “feel” as if we can’t take one step further, we remember that this is not a physical war we are fighting anyway! It’s not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So, we sacrifice something in the physical realm in order to gain the spiritual victory.
As a result of that sacrifice, we receive countless blessings, gain insight, our faith increases, and we are renewed. As God pulls us up with His righteous right hand, we gain new footing, claim new territory, and persevere to a new level of faith-conquering mentality!
The older I become, and the more I endure, I am drawn to the Word with a new intensity. I want to encourage you to read the Book of John, pop some popcorn, and put on your comfy clothes. Oh, and you might want to buckle up; your faith will be catapulted to new heights as you cling to the Word as if your very life depended on it – because it does!
Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina's Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can't survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/. God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.