Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him. (John 8:30)
In the twentieth chapter of this Gospel, the evangelist states that Jesus had done many other things than were written in the Gospel but that these incidents had been recorded so that “you” may come to believe. This particular ending of the Gospel has always been a touchstone for me as I read and contemplate the Gospel of John. However, I must admit that for some reason, this year I have been noticing that almost every story in the Gospel ends with words similar to those I have quoted above.
In the prologue, the evangelist states: He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. (John 1:11-13) Faith in Jesus enables us to become children of God. Our Jewish brothers and sisters were designated as God’s chosen people, but because they did not accept Jesus when he came into the world, faith in Jesus has enabled us to take their place.
This replacement theme is present throughout the Gospel. The very first sign that Jesus worked in Cana of Galilee shows us that the seven stone jars filled with water for the ritual ablutions have been replaced by the wine of the new covenant. During the Festival of Lights, a feast that recalled that God led the children of Israel through the desert as a pillar of fire, Jesus stands up and declares: I AM the Light of the World. (John 8:12) In chapter six, in the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus declares that his flesh and blood replace the manna with which God fed the children of Israel during their sojourn in the desert.
John’s Gospel is not the only one to include this replacement theme. The Gospel of Mark which we will hear proclaimed this coming Sunday comes to a climax as Jesus gives up his spirit. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:38) The barrier that had separated us from God was destroyed by Jesus’ death.
The Gospel of John places primary importance on the issue of faith. It is helpful to remember that all the letters of St. Paul were written before any of the Gospels. His insistence that we are saved by faith echoes throughout the Gospels, particularly in the Gospel of St. John.
Our Lenten journey is quickly coming to an end. We will be called upon once again to profess our faith in Jesus by renewing our baptismal promises as we gather around the font of life giving water. Those of us who cling to that faith are assured that we will rise with Jesus to new life. As we mark these last days of Lent, let us pray for faith which will enable us to withstand all the temptations to wander away from Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator