This weekend we wrapped up our sermon series “The Great Exchange” based on stories in John 20. After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to his followers in different ways. We spent a week each on the figures of Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, the disciples (as a group) and the disciple Thomas (in particular). Ultimately, we noted that John closes his gospel by commenting that Jesus did “many other things” that are not contained in this book (the gospel / bible) because no book in the world could hold everything Jesus did and said were indeed everything recorded.
It is true, and something we often experience at a funeral service. After family and friends come forward to speak words of eulogy for the deceased, I will often say something to the effect that “even if we stayed here all day and night, we wouldn’t have enough time to convey what this person meant to us.” How do we accurately report what our dearest loved ones mean to us? How do we accurately report the full weight of Jesus’ life on earth? We don’t. We can’t. Which means that we don’t know everything Jesus said and did and will always have unanswered questions to the historical life he lived. But what is recorded in scripture is enough to believe.
My mother’s role in my life is a living illustration of this truth for me. From an early age, I found it much easier to open up to mom. I loved my dad and knew he loved me. But he wasn’t overly warm and didn’t always express emotions of compassion very easily. But mom??? She was warmth personified. Mom was a “hugger” – not afraid to be physical like that. And every time I left the house, whether it was for long trip or a day or evening out, mom would drop whatever she was doing, walk to the front door, and hold my cheeks in her face, smile, and whisper to me “be careful.” Even today, as I near the age of 50, before she hangs up at the end of phone conversation, mom will say in hushed tones, “Slow down and get your rest.” When I reached the high school and college years and asked my parents for advice about possible summer jobs, my mom was always a proponent of “do-what-you-love-the-money-will-follow.” She wanted me to find work that would bring me happiness, regardless of how much it paid. My father, on the other hand, was of the “how-will-you-pay-for-it?” school of thought. He consistently reminded me of the reality that there is a cost to everything in life. When it came to sharing, I wasn’t necessarily afraid to open up to my dad, but I honestly looked forward to sharing my insecurities and vulnerabilities with mom.
I don’t intend to make my mother out to be a saint. She and I are both too honest for that kind of implication. There were many times when she didn’t have the answers I was looking for. Or when she couldn’t offer explanations that would have been helpful. But I have never doubted her love for me. And in the last analysis isn’t that a personification of John’s Gospel? For God so loved the world… Love is the essence of the Gospel. Communicating love is essential. Having unlimited answers and explanations is not. Which is why John reminds us that there were “many other things” Jesus did which are not written down. To remind us that there will always be empty spaces that our answers and explanations can’t fill. But everything John gave us in his 21 chapters on Jesus’ life is enough: enough to generate faith in us. Similarly, all the love my mom has shown me – and continues to show me – is enough to embody the spirit of the Gospel and sustain that faith in me.
Blessings – Michael