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Know the Whole Story
Many people know some stories from the Bible, but not how the narrative fits together. The Bible is one story that begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points to Jesus Christ. Open is your guided journey through this powerful, life-transforming story.
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The Resurrection

20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus'1 head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,2 “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,3 Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,4 was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.

Footnotes

[1] 20:7 Greek his
[2] 20:16 Or Hebrew
[3] 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time
[4] 20:24 Greek Didymus

(ESV)

Overview

The name Christ means “Messiah,” or “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, God anointed prophets, priests, and kings to advance His purposes in the world. They pointed forward to one who would fulfill what they could only illustrate.

The Gospels give us the evidence that Jesus is the Christ and show us how He uniquely fulfills the ancient roles of prophet, priest, and king. The centerpiece of God’s purpose for history is that God Himself took human flesh in the person of Jesus, and it is through Him that all of the promises of God are fulfilled.

Suppose you are in an unfamiliar city and you have lost your cell phone. You need to get to a place you have never been before and you don’t know how to get there. There are two ways in which you might proceed.

First, you could ask for directions. Someone might tell you that you need to catch the number 29 bus, get off at the second stop past the old cement works, take the third street on the left, go over the bridge, across the field, through the underpass, and then it’s on your right.

A second approach would be to take a taxi. You would ask the driver to take you to your destination, and you would get in.

Now suppose, in the first case, that just after you get on the bus, the man who gave you the instructions has a heart attack and dies. This sad event will not hinder your journey because you already have the instructions.

But suppose you are in the taxi, and just as you are going past the old cement works, the driver has a heart attack and dies. Now you are completely stuck. You do not know the way to your destination, and the person you trusted is unable to take you there.

The heart of Christianity lies not in a set of instructions, but in the ability of Jesus to take us to heaven. It is not the teaching of the New Testament that will save you; it is Jesus Christ who will save you. Christianity stands or falls with the ability of Jesus to do what He promised.

The world is filled with many claims, and sometimes it is hard to tell truth from error. So how are we to assess the claims of Jesus? He tells us that He can bring us to the Father, and when, like the taxi driver, He invites us to “get in,” we face a decision: Am I ready to stake my destiny on Him? The Gospel of John was written to help you make that decision: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).

You Are the Jury
Imagine that you are on a jury in a court of law. The apostle John wants to present you with certain evidence, and when he is finished, he will be looking for you to give a verdict.

John is not trying to intimidate you, nor is he playing on your emotions. He is presenting you with the evidence that he has seen and heard as a direct witness of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All he asks is that you hear the evidence without prejudice.

And that’s our problem. Before a jury is sworn in, the key question is whether a candidate may be prejudiced with regard to the particular case that is going to be tried. Our culture is highly prejudiced against the possibility that any one person could be the Savior of the world, and so many have difficulty hearing the evidence about Jesus. But John has evidence to present, and your responsibility as a juror is to hear it, to evaluate it, and to come to a verdict about Jesus.

Jesus Is the Christ
If you were asked to summarize the core of the Christian faith in one sentence, what would you say? John boils the essence of the faith down to just four words: “Jesus is the Christ” (20:31). So it is important for us to know what the name Christ means. We know that our Lord was given the birth name of Jesus, so why do we call Him Jesus Christ?

Our English word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, which means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” Christ is a title referring to the promised one, who would be anointed by God, and a quick review of the people who were anointed in the Old Testament will help us to understand its significance.

Throughout the Bible story, God reveals Himself so that we may know Him, he reconciles us to Himself so that we come to Him, and he rules over the world so that His purposes may be fulfilled. In the Old Testament, certain people were “anointed” as a sign that God would use them in one of these ways—they were prophets, priests, and kings.

The prophets were anointed for God’s work of revealing. God spoke to them directly so that they could speak the Word of God to the people. The priests were anointed for God’s work of reconciling. While the prophets spoke on behalf of God to men, the priests spoke on behalf of men to God, and offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. The kings were anointed for God’s work of ruling. Samuel anointed David as king of Israel by pouring oil over his head, and when he did this, “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13).

As the Old Testament story progressed, there was a growing expectation that one day God would send an anointed one par excellence into the world, but since God’s anointed one could be a prophet, priest, or king, it is easy to understand how different expectations developed regarding the Messiah. Some thought He would be a prophet, calling people to righteousness. Others were looking for a priest who would restore authentic worship. And others were convinced that the Messiah would be a freedom fighter who would lead a political uprising and deliver God’s people from the oppression of the Roman Empire.

But when Jesus Christ came into the world, He fulfilled not one, but all of the Old Testament offices. God the Father said to His Son, “You go and be their prophet. You go and be their priest. You go and be their king.” Jesus Christ is God’s anointed one, and John lays out the evidence to show us that He is the one who reveals the truth of God, reconciles men and women to God, and triumphs over the enemies of God.

Examine the Evidence
John sets out the evidence that Jesus is the Christ. He is the prophet who knows the secrets of every heart and life. He knew the hidden truth about a Samaritan woman. Having met with Jesus, she said to her friends, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). But Jesus is more than a prophet. When the woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called the Christ),” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he” (4:25, 26).

Jesus is the priest who lays down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. John the Baptist identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). But Jesus is more than a priest. When Andrew, one of John’s disciples, began to follow Jesus, he told his brother Peter, “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” (1:41).

Jesus is the king who delivers us from our enemies. One day He came to the tomb of Lazarus, who had died four days earlier. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and he asked the dead man’s sister if she believed this. “Yes, Lord,” she said, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (11:25-27). Jesus “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’” And Lazarus “who had died came out” (11:43-44). Jesus is the king who can deliver us from the tyranny of death and hell.

When we know who Jesus is, we will understand what it means to have faith in Him. Jesus Christ is prophet, priest, and king. So believing in Him means that we trust what He says as prophet and take His Word as the truth by which all else is measured. It means that we trust Him as priest to bring us into the presence of God. It means that we submit ourselves to Him as king, to live under His authority and rule.

The Outcome of Faith: Life in His Name
Faith is not an end in itself. Its outcome is that “by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). As you read this, you are, by definition, alive. But Jesus spoke about another kind of life that He alone can give: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (10:10).

At the beginning of the Bible story, Adam and Eve enjoyed a life free from fear and frustration. They pursued meaningful work in beautiful surroundings. But most of all, they enjoyed the presence and companionship of God who walked with them in the garden. They had abundant life, but they lost it, and we have never known what they enjoyed.

Jesus has come to deliver us from this fallen world with all its disease, danger, disasters, and death, and to bring us into an abundant life that begins now and will continue forever. It is by believing that we have this life in His name.

Something Magnificent
Some time ago, Karen and I had the opportunity of hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with a guest soloist. They were playing Tchaikovsky, and it was magnificent.

The soloist played as if his bow would set his violin on fire, and at the end, the audience rose in a standing ovation. It was irresistible. The applause went on and on, and when it would not subside, the soloist raised his violin and treated us to an encore. That brought the house down.

When we went out for the intermission, our spirits were raised high, and the audience was buzzing with delight. But in the foyer an old man seemed upset by the encore. As we walked by, I heard him say, “I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and I have never seen that before. I don’t like it,” he said. “I can’t see any reason for it!”

I had to restrain myself. Here was a man who had been in the presence of something magnificent, which had lifted hundreds of other people around him, and he saw nothing out of the ordinary. What was wrong with the man?

As we have journeyed through the Gospels, we have been in the presence of something truly magnificent. We have seen the breathtaking sweep of God’s plan in which the Son of God took our flesh, faced our enemy, laid down His life as a sacrifice, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven—so that we may be brought into everlasting life through faith in His name.

Nothing would be more tragic than for someone to be confronted with the claims of Christ and the offer of the gospel and to go away as if he or she had not heard anything out of the ordinary. The Gospels are presented “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” (20:31).

  1. If all you had was His teaching (and not Jesus), would that be enough to get you into heaven? Why or why not?
  2. What does the Bible mean when it says, “Jesus is the Christ”?
  3. In your own words, what does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?
  4. Where does the abundant life that Jesus gives come from? How does a person get it?
  5. What is your reaction to the claims of Jesus in John’s Gospel?
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