Wednesday

21 April 2010

"This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day." (v.40)

Background

The Gospel of John is a complex and subtle book, and many of the passages are meant to be taken at more than one level. Clearly when Jesus says that those who come to him will never be hungry or thirsty the meaning is not about physical hunger. The invitation is to have inner questions and desires met - to have life, that isn't physical life, satisfied.

Jesus promises that those who believe in the Son will have eternal life. "The Son" most naturally is understood as the Son of God. When Jesus says "I will raise them up" he is making a claim to be the Son of God. There is a sense in which the Son of God could mean anyone, and in some places in the Bible that is the natural sense of the phrase - some translations of Matthew 5:9 refer to "sons of God". In John's Gospel though, something different is meant. The gift of eternal life and the promise of resurrection are something that only God can do. The Son of God in John's Gospel is given the powers of God, and from this sort of understanding comes the development of the doctrine of the Trinity (God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

This talk of life only makes sense if we allow time to reflect on death. For the person who believes in Jesus the promise is life, not death. For the one who believes in Jesus, death is not the end, life continues. John also mentions the 'last day'. This is his belief that there will be a day when this current world ends and a new one will start. It will involve judgement of people and the consequences of judgement. Those who believe in Jesus will be given the privilege of life, those who don't will face the end of life. Many people are not comfortable with this idea of a last day with the implication of judgement, but it is a real strand of thought throughout the Bible.

To Ponder

When people are afraid of death, are they afraid of dying and the consequences of dying, or are they afraid of not living? Is there a difference?

What makes a good death?

What, in your opinion, are the things God will judge us by?

Bible notes author: Revd Malcolm Peacock

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