The symbolic images presented in John
challenge us to see Jesus differently
than the other gospel writers do.
To quote the author of The Four Witnesses, Robin Griffith-Jones,
“John’s gospel is a poetic revelation of the divinity of Jesus. With powerful metaphors and rich visual imagery. John depicts an otherworldly Jesus who invites each of us to undergo spiritual rebirth and to be transformed by the God of all creation”
I have come to see the gospel of John
as a writing that allows us to draw deeper
into understanding the foundation of our belief
and to be transformed
by a faith in Jesus Christ
as both fully human and fully divine.
This mystic style of writing
has been a challenge to people
in the church over the years.
It was this debate
about the humanity and divinity of Jesus
that kept the early church councils
struggling for hundreds of years
as they sought to make the human Jesus
and the divine Jesus
understandable in human terms.
This is a challenge that still continues today
as our spiritual and worldview broadens and deepens.
I have wondered whether there is any time
that we should read a passage from The gospel of John
without reading first the opening prologue….
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son full of grace and truth.”
This prologue sets the tone for all of John’s gospel,
it is, John’s position statement
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory”.
From this opening the gospel builds on the imagery of ‘the Word’ .
It will deeply examine
the relationship between God and Jesus
and what this means to us as
people of faith.
Within this community of faith
as we nurture people on their faith journey
we do so on the foundation of this prologue to John.
Within this community of faith,
our worship together
is a reflection
on our understanding of the prologue to John
During the week outside of worship,
our actions as a community of faith
reflect our understanding of this prologue to John.
Then in our daily walk
as servants of Christ our lives,
and our individual actions
reflect our understanding of this prologue to John.
The image of God as the Good Shepherd is presented by the prophet Ezekiel
Today we hear of
the fulfillment of God in Jesus
as the good shepherd.
This passage is full of imagery to examine
one on top of the other.
The preceding verses in this chapter
are well known and may bring to mind an imagery
of a gentle pastoral scene.
It first brings to mind
a field full of fluffy bouncing sheep
and a shepherd walking amongst them
crossing over hill and vale
calling out to them
in search of the lost one.
in the midst of these images
we hear these words which call us up short…
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.
We come to see
that there is more than just searching going on.
This a statement of commitment
that is life altering.
We hear also in the lesson from 1 John
‘He laid down his life for us”
and the writer continues with a challenge
we cannot ignore
“and we ought to lay down our lives for one another”.
What does this mean to us today ?
These statements force me to look deeper at my life
and how the teachings of Jesus, the Word,
impacts my life.
I am drawn to look beyond
the white fluffy little sheep
that romp around on the hillside to something deeper.
I am drawn deeper into trying to understand
what it means
to “listen to the voice of God through Jesus”
and how am I
to “lay down my life for a friend?”
This question came to me with a recent situation of one of my co-workers.
I work with a young woman who was born with 3 kidneys,.
When she told me this my immediate response was,
well more must be better than one.
As it turns out that is not the case,
as none of the 3 were functioning well.
She had a kidney transplant about 10 years ago
in order to have one functioning kidney.
To make a long health story short,
this co-worker is now in the early stages
of full kidney failure of even her transplant.
has recently gone on disability
in order to return home to Taiwan
to search out other health options.
When I heard this news
I went home and reflected
on what it would mean to donate a kidney to someone.
I seriously examined myself
as to whether
I could do the right thing
and become a live organ donor,
for a stranger,
or for a friend,
or for a family member.
I know this may seem
a far-fetched illustration
of the intention of this statement in scripture,
but, I use it as an example
because it lead me to think about
what the statement
‘to lay down one’s life for a friend’
really means to me.
John’s Jesus speaks
that not only will he
lay down his life
but he will also take it up again.
Of course this clearly is a statement about his upcoming death and resurrection.
How can we have a resurrection, a rebirth in our lives?
By looking again at 1John we hear the words…
“he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our life for another…
Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in truth and action”
If we look at our lives at what we do for others
then perhaps we can better understand
“I have the power to take it up again”.
I can think of moments in my life
when I really had nothing more of myself to give to another.
I think of my role as a stay at home mom
and giving my life over to raising our children.
It was a long journey to see them to adulthood,
a good 20 years of worry and nurture
of caring and empowering,
of giving of myself for the life of another.
Then the time came
when I knew this journey would be theirs.
As I had laid down my life for them
the time came when I
reached a stage in life to
‘have the power to take up my life again’.
This became the time when
I sought to listen for the voice of God calling me.
My life was to begin again
in a new direction that involved
a deeper and fuller relationship with God and with
There are those of us that have laid down our lives
as we walked with a loved one through to their death.
For me, it seemed I had no energy left,
no desire to exist past that moment of death
yet, as time passed
little by little I found
myself picking up strength
as I listened to God calling me
and I soon had ‘the power to take up my life again’.
I wonder how well we listen to God’s voice
to make decisions about how we are to live our lives
not in words and speech
but in truth and action.
In my faith journey I need the concrete,
the tangible action that challenges me
to lay down my life for another.
I need the tangible concern to challenge me over and over again
then I wait to be refreshed in God
so that I may bear witness to Jesus
by my words and actions
and then ‘take up my life again’.
My human failings are such that
only through the grace of God
am I ever able to meet this challenge in my life.
It is the Word made flesh that is the foundation
of my faith in God Incarnate
who walked our path and shared with us
“the glory as of a Father’s only son , full of grace and truth”
I pray that we all may come to know more intimately that the
Word became flesh and lived among us