If you want to have some fun, ask a husband and wife to tell you about something memorable—their wedding, the birth of a child, a vacation story, etc. Then just back away and enjoy the moment. It doesn’t matter who starts telling the story, they won’t get too far before the other breaks in to say something. It’s not that what the first person is reciting is incorrect—it just doesn’t represent to the satisfaction of the other person what they experienced. And so it goes.
I suppose it’s understandable that with something as earthshakingly important as the resurrection of Jesus, some would like total uniformity from the gospel accounts with no deviation whatsoever. Still, how consistent is it to allow the gospel writers to share their unique perspectives about Jesus and then at the very end demand they say everything exactly the same way? And if they did that, wouldn’t it actually work the opposite way and make us suspicious about their testimony rather than assured?
John wants to show his readers more than the resurrected Jesus—he wants them to see individuals embracing the risen Christ. So, what does he offer us? He shows himself being convinced by the evidence (v. 6-7), Mary Magdalene hears her name spoken and meets her Lord (v. 16), and Thomas gets his proof (v. 27-28). This section is the crowning part of John’s overall presentation of Jesus and these stories provide powerful testimony to convince, convict and convert anyone to the life that is in Jesus.
After all, that’s John’s purpose. His ultimate goal isn’t for people believe in Jesus. He told us at the very beginning of the book that the person who believed has “the right to become” a child of God—but they must exercise that right! They must be moved to act upon what they believe and be “born again of water and Spirit” and become part of the kingdom under Christ’s reign (John 3:5). Only then do they experience life.
He points us toward this again at the close of his gospel. He lets us know he’s interested in proclaiming Christ—but he wants to proclaim Him is such a way that people experience the life Jesus came to give us (10:10, 17:3). He’s not interested in people reading his gospel, nodding their heads in assent and then getting on with their lives as before. He wants them to have life in all its fullness and grandeur.
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples which as not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name (v. 30-31).
That means we believe in life after death, but it also means that because of Jesus, we believe in life before death.
For many of us, that means, like Lazarus, we need to remove the rags and remnants of grave clothes we have clinging to us. Some of us have been carrying them around for years. We need to get rid of the grave clothes of doubt, fear, guilt, shame, and regret and replace them with the new look of peace, hope, joy, faith, and love. That’s the wardrobe that reflects the new life we’ve been given through Jesus and will serve us for the adventure of faith He calls us to.
As strange as it sounds, there’s life at the tomb.