|What in the world is happening in the book of John?|
First, let’s acknowledge that John’s Jesus story is different. It doesn’t follow the narrative paths of the other three gospels. So, we read John differently than we do Matthew, Mark or Luke. All three have a particular, related purpose, of course. John establishes it in the most concrete terms in John 20:31. He says he’s written these stories of Jesus “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.”
Now, back to our original question, what in the world is happening in the book of John? Well, that kind of depends.
Not knowing biblical Greek myself, I’ve discovered several helpful resources. Some of them highlight at least ten uses John employs for the word world. So, what’s going on in the world depends on what understanding of the world you’re considering.
It’s a fascinating conversation to be had. No wonder John’s text stands apart from the other gospel readings. When you think of the world, have you given thought to what you mean by that?
I won’t go into all the ideas. That’d take much more of your reading time and my preparation. Instead, let’s focus on one idea used in our reading today. The word kosmos is the Greek word we translate as world. A literal translation could be “something ordered” or an “ordered system.”
In our passage today, Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure. They seem sure of their readiness. Jesus knows, though, they will scatter when the time comes. What is to take place will endanger them. But Jesus wants them to have what he promises is his to give: Peace. Those who remain in Christ will have his peace.
That’s important because they’ll have his peace while they’re still in the world. Oh, that pesky ordered system. What does it suggest to you that the world is a system?
Many Christians abhor the idea of systems. I’ve never quite understood that. Systemic racism, systemic injustice or other forms of systemic inequality aren’t removed from the world. The world or the United States is not heaven. Now, we may not want to believe that our systems could rest on such ideas. But we all live in the world and the world is and has its systems. That’s part of what John tells us.
That’s why the kingdom of God is so important. It is God’s; God’s system, could we say? It stands apart from and quite often in opposition to the world’s system.
If Jesus was talking to his disciples then, you can imagine John speaking to us now. The church’s rule has to be God’s system. How else do you remain in Christ?
As I’m sure you’ve seen or experienced, the church can follow other systems. What’s worse, we can follow other systems all while denouncing others for doing the same. To me, that’s an example of another system.
At the heart of God’s kingdom is God’s peace. The world can neither offer nor take away the peace God provides. Be sure, child of God, Christ has conquered the world! The world has a losing record against the Lamb of God.
You see, Jesus lived and ministered in the world using God’s system; he proclaimed God’s kingdom. That’s why the world crucified him. The world thought its power was mightier than a sacrificial lamb. It was not and is not.
So, what in the world is happening now? Hopefully, the church is rejecting the systems of the world and living faithfully as kingdom-minded people.