Ask a non–Christian–even ask some Christians–what the point of Christian faith is.
For many, it is “Jesus came so that I’ll live forever.” In the Gospels, however, Jesus never promises that he will be crucified and his disciples will be the risen ones.
Such self–centeredness renders us deaf to a keynote in all of this Sunday’s lections: the capacity of the risen Christ to draw individuals into authentic life together.
In John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to the Twelve, not only to quell their distrust, but also to unite them as a disciplined church (cf. verse 23). In Acts 4:32-35, the power of Jesus’ resurrection graces his church with an uncommonly open heart, out of which every material need is satisfied. Even Psalm 133 accents the joy of community: “How good and sweet it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Lastly, 1 John 1:1–2:2 is a candid yet encouraging meditation on life in a community whose Lord is Jesus.
First, John’s opening plays a riff on the Fourth Gospel’s first verses. Notice their similar language:
- the Word or “the word of life” that was “in” or “from the beginning” (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1)
- a life made manifest and testified to (John 1:4, 7, 15; 1 John 1:2)
- the intimacy of God the Father with his Son Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17-18; 1 John 1:3)
- the proclamation of the Word (John 1:4-5, 7-9) or of God (1 John 1:5) as light unquenched by darkness
In contrast, the distinctive contributions of 1 John 1:1-4 are to draw at least two things out of John’s background and set them center stage.
First, the Gospel highlights Christ’s divine glory, assuming his incarnation (John 1:1-3, 14). 1 John reverses the polarity by repeatedly stressing the sensory character of “the eternal life that was with the Father and made manifest to us” (1 John 1:2): “what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, and we have beheld and touched with our own hands” (1 John 1:1, 3).