“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not
one thing came into being. What has come into being in him
was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
I have frequently heard people ask, “Is there life after death?” I’ve heard it in hospice waiting rooms, hospital ERs, funeral homes, classroom discussions, and a child’s bedtime wondering.
But there is a question I hear far more often: “Is there life before death?” In different ways people are anxiously asking if there is any purpose to life, any meaning, any joy that is lasting. They are like Thoreau’s description of most people leading “lives of quiet desperation.” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden) Will they experience life, real life, before the grave?
The Good News of John’s Gospel takes up the question about life before and after death. We are reminded that Jesus is the source of all life, “What has come into being in him was life.” What came into existence through Jesus was life! As I write, NASA scientists report the discovery of what they call “building blocks” of life in 3-billion-year-old organic matter on Mars. While we await final evaluation of their analyses, we already know that Jesus is the source of all that lives.
Keep in mind the stated purpose of John’s Gospel Good News: “But these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Life in His name! Admittedly, we could say that a one-celled amoeba has life. But it does not have life in the way an earthworm has life, or in the way a dog has life. And a dog, even your smart, adorable pet, does not have life in the way we humans have life. An earthworm and archangel each have life, but life and living mean something different on each level of existence. The Good News is that the Son of God came to earth to impart to us the very life of God. He wants us to become sons and daughters of God with Him (John 1:12).
It is important to understand that the Greek word translated “life” in John’s Gospel is zoe. This is significant because zoe speaks not of life in its bare, physical existence (i.e. bios), but zoe as having a share in the very life of God! (See W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Apostle John: Studies in His Life and Writings) John delights in writing about zoe, using it 36 times in this book; nearly half the times he pairs zoe with “eternal life“. Christ offers life, not mere existence! Jesus says that He came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The Bible promises, “Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12). We can enter this higher dimension of life, God’s life, because Jesus is “the bread of life” (John 6:48) and He satisfies our spiritual hunger. He is “the light of life” (John 8:12) and He brings us out of darkness and confusion. He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) who “gives life to the world” (John 6:33). As there was a first man who brought sin and death upon the world, so there is the Man, who gives life to the world. Jesus is not something we add to life: He is life!
For many years the Chicago Daily News ran a front-page cartoon every Christmas Eve by Pulitzer Prize winner Vaughn Shoemaker. The cartoon showed a decorated Christmas tree with one gift yet unopened under the tree. Across the unopened gift were the words “ETERNAL LIFE”. Below those words was scrawled “JOHN 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Christmas Eve cartoon was titled: “THE UNTAKEN GIFT”.
Until we receive the gift of life all wrapped up in Jesus we cannot say that we live at all. It is Jesus who gives meaning and purpose to life! And that is a gift! Take it and live!
- Are there times I have felt “dead”? Do I feel more dead or alive today?
- Can I talk to Jesus now and tell Him what I am feeling about life?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.