John 20:30-31. Signs with purpose

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe  that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John now steps forward to draw his resurrection narrative to a close and make explicit the nature of his gospel. He has selectively organised his gospel around a series of ‘signs’, evident especially in chapters 2-12. Such ‘signs’ included turning water into wine, healings, feeding large crowds and even raising Lazarus. In that portion of the book John employed a particular pattern: Jesus performs some miraculous sign, which sparks a controversy or conflict of some kind, leading to further explanation and revelation as to Jesus’ identity and mission. The later section of John’s gospel, chapters 13-20, focussed on Jesus’ greatest and most compelling sign— his death and resurrection. This was told in much greater depth and detail as the climax of the book.

Now John wants his reader to know that his singular purpose in narrating these signs was to commend belief in Jesus. This belief has particular content; namely, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. These two terms would seem to be synonyms to contemporary Jewish readers. The Messiah was widely understood to be the greater son of David, a divinely anointed King of Israel who would rule over a time of national renewal without end (for example, see 2 Sam 7:11-14 etc). Similarly, the ‘Son of God’ was a royal term, referring to God’s anointed, who would be exalted to a universal reign over all the nations (for example, see Psalm 2). John’s attribution of these names to Jesus, and others like them (see John 1:40-51), not only drew on the depths of Old Testament imagery, but also added richer and new significance to them.

John’s account of Jesus as ‘the Son of God’ is one such term which was extended in its significance. Jesus is revealed as uniquely the Son of God, with a relationship to the Father extending to his personal divinity (eg John 1:1-2, 18; 10:30 etc). Jesus is also singularly God’s Son in his likeness to his Father, in his nature, his authority, and in the works he does.

Embracing this belief about Jesus has powerful effect. The one who believes has ‘life’ in his name. The life to which John refers is undoubtedly ‘the life of the Age’ — usually translated as ‘eternal life’. This has been a theme throughout (John 1:4; 3:15-16, 35-36; 4:13-14 etc). It is life lived in the new kingdom, in relationship with God, under the rule of his Messiah, without ending, and of an order revealed in the resurrection of Jesus himself. It is a life not deserved or merited, given only ‘in the name’ and on account of Jesus.

Dear God. Once again I am overwhelmed by your grace towards me. Thank you for granting me to believe in your Son, the Messiah, that I may share his life of the new age. Please enrich this faith in me that I might live increasingly in the present as I will for eternity. Amen.