We have finally come to the end of the gospels with the book of John. It was written by John, son of Zebedee, brother of James and it was written to new Christians and searching non-Christians as conclusive proof that Jesus is the Son of God and all who believe in him will have eternal life. I will discuss John the Baptist, even though he appears in all the gospels, John starts with John the Baptist as he declares his mission. We can learn from John the Baptist’s life and his commitment to his purpose. Second, I will discuss why physical aliments are not punishments for sins but possibilities for God to show his works in our lives. Lastly, there is no wrong way to pray. The importance of prayer is coming to God, not having the right words or the perfect length.
John first writes about John the Baptist, he is giving testimony when priests and Levites asked him who he was. First, they asked him if he was the Christ, to which John replied no (John 1:20). Then they asked if he was Elijah, again John replied no (John1:21). They finally asked him if he was The Prophet as foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), John replied no (John 1:21). John tells them that he is “the voice of one calling in the desert. Make straight the way for the Lord” (John 1:23) as foretold in Isaiah 40:3. John the Baptist was unique. He wore odd clothes, ate strange food and preached a message that the Jews hadn’t heard before. He has a specific role: to announce the coming of the Savior and he did so with all his strength and energy. John is an important figure in all four gospels. John was set apart for God’s service and he remained faithful to that calling until his death. He was a man with no power or position in Jewish society, yet he spoke with irresistible authority. There are three important lessons from John the Baptist’s life. First, God does not guarantee an easy or safe life to those who serve him. John was eventually imprisoned and executed because of his message. Many people believe that the Christian life is a cushy one; but it isn’t. Second, doing what God desires is the greatest possible life investment. Even though he lost his life, John the Baptist, his message never stopped. John had accomplished what God wanted him to do. Lastly, standing up for the truth is more important than life itself. Even when his life was threatened, John refused to back down. Although we may not face life threatening situations, we can still learn this important lesson from John the Baptist. It is better to stand up for the truth than being liked by others.
John writes about the healing of a blind man to illustrate Jesus’ lesson that physical ailments are not always punishments for sins. In John 9:1-12, a man who had been born blind passed by Jesus when the disciples asked Jesus whose sin caused the man’s blindness: the man’s or his parents? Jesus replies to his disciples, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (verse 3). It is still a common belief today that our troubles are caused by our sins. Sometimes they are, we suffer the consequences of our bad decisions. Like getting injured in a car accident because we decided to pick up the phone instead of watching the road. However, sometimes it is not our fault at all. God uses our misfortunes or disabilities to teach us and others to rely on him through our rough times as well as our times of comfort. Jesus makes a salve with dirt and his salvia, places it on it on the man’s eyes and sends him to the Pool of Siloam to wash it off. When he did, the man could see. What was the purpose of the man’s blindness? To demonstrate the healing powers of God. I have seen people receive devastating news of terminal cancer and yet their faith and focus on God never waivers. Through the treatments and the wasting of their bodies, the light of Jesus still shined in their eyes and it never dimmed even when their death was imminent. Even as they prayed for healing, they knew God heals in two ways: he may heal us physically or he may call us home to heaven. Regardless of the source of our misfortunes, God wants us to focus on him, rely on him and he will guide us on the right path.
As a new Christian, I was told to pray to the acronym JOY: Jesus, Others, Yourself. For many years, I struggled with this. It didn’t feel right. It wasn’t until I studied the book of John and prayer in general in my college years that I understood why. When in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays. However, he prayed, first, for himself. John 17:1-5. He asked God the Father to glorify him now that the time has come to glorify him, so the Jesus can glorify the Father (verse 1). He then prays for his disciples. In John 17:6-19, he asks God the Father to protect them by the power of his name, to protect them from the evil one. He lastly prays for future believers. John 17:20-26, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (verse 20). When Jesus prayed for himself, the disciples, and future believers, he prayed for unity (verse 11), protection from the evil one (verse 15) and sanctity/holiness (verse 17). To me, there is no wrong way to pray. There is no right formula to bring your requests, concerns to God. A quick prayer for safety is okay. A detailed prayer for those in our lives is okay too. God listens whenever we call on him. The order or length isn’t what to focus on. The focus should be on coming before God with our prayers. Some people set a certain time each day to pray. That’s okay. Some people pray throughout the day as the need arises, that’s okay. As with every relationship, it’s different for everyone. Follow Jesus’ example and pray as you feel is necessary. Pray for yourself is that’s what on your mind. Pray for others if that’s what is laid on your heart. The order doesn’t matter. The length doesn’t matter. Heck, even the place doesn’t matter. It is coming to God that does.
In conclusion, the book of John is a book filled with great lessons in the life of Jesus and those around him. John the Baptist was a man with a mission. A man who never backed down when threatened. He stayed focused on God and his task until the end. He is an example that each of us is given a purpose in life. It may not be as extreme as John’s but a purpose for the glory of his kingdom. The blind man is a lesson that our ailments aren’t always punishments but a chance for God to show his power in our lives. We need just to focus on him in all times of our lives and he will heal us, lift us out of our calamity, as we demonstrate our faith in him. He will use it to his glory. Pray as your heart is led. God doesn’t care if the words are eloquent or lengthy. He cares that you are coming to him with your cares and concerns. He wants that time with you. All you need is to pray.