John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Messianic Son of God who was crucified and resurrected to guarantee everlasting life to all believers. Those who view Jesus as an ordinary human being disdain any notion that He could guarantee everlasting life to anyone. Ordinary human beings cannot bestow life everlasting upon others.
Does this mean that we must of necessity first convince people that Jesus has the ability to bestow eternal life and then talk about His promise of life?
Jesus Gave the Message of Life to Groups
John often records Jesus telling groups of unbelievers how to receive everlasting life. His message of life to unbelievers is a one-step pronouncement: The promise of life for the believer. It is not a two-step message: First explaining why He is able to give life and second explaining the promise. Let us consider several examples.
Jesus’ main audience in John 5 consisted of religious leaders who thought it blasphemous that He made Himself equal with God (5:18). This would have been a golden opportunity for a two-step message. But what did He say in John 5:24? “Amen, amen, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes the One who sent Me has eternal life, and will not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”1
Jesus gave a one-step message. Did He fear that His opponents might receive life while regarding Him as a mere mortal man? No. Everyone knows that a mere mortal man has no such power, so their low-regard for Him would cause them to reject His one-step message.
Jesus’ sign (healing one who was lame for thirty-eight years) showed that He is the Christ, the Son of God (cf. John 20:31). Those refusing the sign’s testimony regarded John 5:24 as preposterous. In light of this, observe that He gave His opponents a one-step message. We are on safe ground to follow His example.
Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus about 15,000 women and children) from five loaves and two fishes. That evening He walked on water. The next day some who were fed found Him in Capernaum (John 6:22–25). He taught that day in a synagogue there (6:59). His audience included people who had not been fed. Even so, the miraculous feeding was the backdrop for Jesus words.
Some (who probably had not been fed) charged that He was a mere mortal man in John 6:42: “And they said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, “I have come down from heaven”?’”
They not only denied that Jesus was God, but also any notion that God sent Him. We might expect a two-step message. Instead, Jesus spoke the words of John 6:47–48, “Amen, amen, I tell you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life.”
Those regarding Him as a mere mortal man viewed this as further proof of blasphemy. They grumbled over His words (6:52). Once again, Jesus does not fear that they would believe His guarantee of life while viewing Him as a nobody. Knowing this, He gave a one-step message. Why should we do any differently?
Jesus Gave the Message of Life to Individuals
Three examples of Jesus speaking with individuals about the message of life follow. Each illustrates the utility of a one-step message.
Signs convinced Nicodemus that Jesus was a God-sent teacher (John 3:2), though He did not yet know that He was Messiah or the Son of God. Did Jesus start by focusing on His identity? No, He first said that Nicodemus needed life (vv 3 and 7).
Once again, Jesus’ primary focus was not whether listeners could state precisely who He was and what He would do to secure redemption. The focal point was the one-step message: Believing His guarantee of life everlasting. Who would believe that promise apart from believing that He was qualified? Jesus reiterated to Nicodemus the message of life eight times in 3:14–18. Twice He mentioned eternal life (vv 15–16), once employing a synonym, salvation (v 17). Five times He utilized antonyms, condemnation (v 17, 18 [twice]) and perishing (v 15–16).2
The Lord Jesus focused on His guarantee of life everlasting.
The Samaritan Woman
When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, He spoke of living water. John 4:13–14a, “In response, Jesus told her, ‘Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never thirst again—forever!’”
She understood the forever part, but thought in terms of literal water: “‘Sir,’ the woman said to Him, ‘give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty or come here to draw’” (John 4:15).
Things clicked when He told her about herself. Then she cautiously asked whether He might, indeed, be the Christ. He affirmed that her identification is correct: “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘Whenever He comes, He will explain everything to us.’ ‘I am He,’ Jesus told her, ‘the very One who is speaking to you’” (John 4: 25-26).
Jesus focused on His promise of life forever. When she realized that He was not just an ordinary Judean, but the Messiah, she perceived that He could deliver on the promise. Her Samaritan presuppositions did not deter Him from presenting a one-step message. His approach is instructive.
In John 11:25–27 Jesus summarizes His message of life to comfort this believer concerning her brother, Lazarus. He reminded her that He will resurrect all believers and no believer will ever die spiritually. In other words, He reminded her that He is the Resurrection and the Life:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe [all of] this?”3 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Jesus asked, “Do you believe [all of] this?” She affirmed her belief that He guarantees resurrection and life everlasting to all believers. Then, she explained why she believed this. She knew that the guarantee is true because she also believed that He is the Christ, the Son of God. No ordinary man could be the guarantor of everlasting life. Her faith in the promise rests on knowing who He is. Once again, though, Jesus makes the promise of life the key issue. Jesus sets forth a one-step proposition. We should follow His example.
Skeptics scoff, when we say that Jesus guarantees everlasting life to all believers. No sane adult believes Christ’s promise of life while viewing Him as an ordinary person. It is common knowledge that no mere mortal can guarantee everlasting life to anyone.
The magnitude of His promise of life everlasting was Jesus’ focal point. The infinite scale of that promise is what allowed Jesus to make it the core of the message. His focus should be ours as well. He guarantees life everlasting to all believers.