Luke was not alone in his goals in writing his Gospels and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles to give a factual and eyewitness account of Jesus’ life. John the Apostle wrote his own Gospel which in effect fills in many of the gaps of the other three Gospels and adds theological depth to the story of Jesus.
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 at the conclusion of his Gospel adds these words: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of the disciples.” “Signs” are not merely miracles, like raising Lazarus from the dead, but miracles which attested to who Jesus was. In fact, the raising of Lazarus from the dead followed Jesus’ statement to Mary, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25) Jesus’ miracles weren’t “throw-aways,” or parlor tricks meant to impress. They were historical events with a teaching purpose.
Indeed, John tells us further: “these [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” John’s first goal is that we understand that Jesus is the Anointed one, the one God sent into the world to die for our sins
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Also, John clarifies his goal when he adds: “that by believing you may have life in his name.”
In the Book of the Acts Peter the Apostle says:
Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is the one who dies on behalf of his people. He is the sacrifice for sin. By believing that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed one, people can find salvation.
At the very end of his Gospel John adds another statement of purpose:
John 21:21 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John tells us that he was an eyewitness. He “testifies.” He uses very legal language. Aside from declaring that his testimony is true, he also repeats that if everything Jesus did, all of his teachings and all of his miracles, were written down it would fill many more books that the four Gospels.
John also wrote a letter to Christians in Asia Minor. In that letter he gives a sort of introduction which reiterates his points:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,
John makes clear that he was with Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. He also tells us in no uncertain terms that they had heard Jesus teach, they had seen him with their own eyes, they had not just seen him, but also looked at him, watched him over time, and they had also touched him.
Some at the time John wrote this letter were denying that Jesus as God’s Son could have taken on a body. These false teachers are generally known as proto-Gnostics. The Gnostics were a later group of neo-Platonic teachers who argued that flesh or a material body was evil and that the spirit or nonmaterial part of a person was pure and heavenly. John is taking this teaching head on. He gives details which show that Jesus was in fact a real man
Besides stating this truth John gives again language of the court: eyewitnesses. They had heard him teach, they had seen him physically with their own eyes (first-hand, not second-hand information), they had known him for some time seeing him live, walk, teach, eat, sleep, etc. and they had even touched him. Jesus was a real human, a man whom they knew as one knows another human being.
This was very important because according to the argument of the Bible Jesus was the sacrifice Lamb. He was the atoning sacrifice for sin. He died in our place. By believing in him we gain eternal life.
John uses a sort of rhetorical device here which is called an inclusio. He begins with hearing and seeing and he ends the section with hearing and seeing. Hebrew thought uses repetition to drive a point. As a Jew John’s thought patterns are shown here. He wants this point to be clear: Jesus was a real man and he died for our sins to save us. He and the Apostles were eyewitnesses.
I have spent a lot of time writing about Luke and John’s prologues, introductions and conclusions to show that at least for the Apostles there was no faith in Jesus without belief in these written accounts of his actions, without these events having happened. There can be no “Christian” faith without a historical Jesus who was both the Christ and a real man.
In my next blog I will apply these ideas about the eyewitness nature of the Apostles’ testimony. Christianity is not a myth. It is based on hard cold fact.