1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4
John loves evidence.
We are going to see this over and over as we walk through First John. Even looking at the first verse in his first letter, we can already see how true this is: "Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands." John loves proof, he loves logic, and he loves thinking that is straightforward.
Now, in my thinking, I don't usually lean towards proof or logic, and I don't know anyone who would describe my thinking as straightforward. Mangled, confusing, or dramatic, maybe. But straightforward? Doubtful.
I wouldn't consider myself very much like John, and I wouldn't normally say that his personality type, this evidentiary, "if this then that", is one that I am striving for. To be honest, to me all that evidence and logic sounds kind of....boring. I prefer Peter, the guy who cuts off someone's ear, full of dramatic statements and flailing swords.
As I began to prep for this Bible study, I began to look at who John was through his other writings, which is how I came to the aforementioned conclusions about him. I was ready to close my Bible with a dramatic huff, asking God why he ever assigned me to study the writings of such a logical, boring guy when I came to a story at the end of John's gospel, in chapter 21.
It's after Jesus's death and the resurrection, although Jesus is coming and going, and the disciples aren't seeing him consistently. Take a minute to imagine what it would be like to stand where John stood. He watched the man he hung all of his hopes on die, and then he sat, quiet and lonely in that place for three days. On the third day, John was sitting in a boarded up building, terrified for his life, as the sinking realization settled on him that his life and the lives of those around him were now in danger. And then, in a house in the Holy Land, in the middle of a room filled with physical and spiritual weight and darkness, the Light appears.
"Peace be with you," he says softly, and John's head snaps up, recognizing the voice in an instant. John touches the holes in Jesus's hands, and Jesus tells John and the others that He is not a ghost. Then, he is gone.
Days go by and Jesus appears again, first to bring proof to Thomas, then more space, more emptiness. A new confusion, a new doubt could be creeping in John's mind- Where does Jesus keep going? What is he doing? So eventually, the disciples do what any man near a lake would do: They go fishing.
On a boat, in the Sea of Tiberias, the disciples find themselves with nets in hand, potentially with more questions and uncertainties than they have ever had. A man calls out to them from shore.
"Children, do you have any fish?"
Annoyance is the probable response. "No." They answer the man on the shore curtly.
"Cast the net on the right side, and you will find some." So they cast it, and then they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
John's head snaps up again, and before he even thinks, he recognizes. "It is the Lord!" he whispers.
Peter gets all the flair here because right after John speaks, Peter jumps in, but John saw him first. Peter only jumps because John saw.
I want to be the type of person who sees Jesus. Who recognizes, who hears his voice and knows, who sees a miracle and sees the hands of the Lord. John was that type of person. And I have a feeling that he might have been that type of person because he saw and believed this evidence that he is now presenting to us, and he is so profoundly sold on the proof of Jesus that he recognizes holy things even before other believers.
John refers to himself numerous times in the Bible as "The One Who Jesus Loved", a confidence I have been begging God to show me. When I think about what John calls himself in writings for all the world to read, I think of a deep assurance that must have resided in him.
My feelings and emotions are fleeting. They tell me that I am a beautiful daughter of God one day, that I am one who Jesus loves, and the next day, I'm left doubting if any of that is true. John's feeling and emotion are not fickle, and they don't run away at the first sign of trouble. John knows who he is, and he believes it. John stood on something more solid than I do.
John tells us in verse four that he writes all of this evidence, all of this proof down so that our joy may be complete. I am praying that this month, as we start studying the book of First John, we end up with our joy more complete, and with the solid assurance that John stood on. That we would believe the truth of the Gospel as deeply as John did, and that it would lead us to be people who recognize him first, who want to share and complete other people's joy, knowing that we have found our own.
P.S. I found some awesome stuff for this intro, and really good information about First John from a bible study done by Mark Driscoll. I added and tweaked some of his points, but it should be noted that his study was influential and wonderful in preparing for this particular day of study. You can find the original 13 week study here.