The Word and Our Story
Do you know how the Gospel of John ends? The very last line, John 21:25, goes like this:
“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”
I can’t honestly say that I’ve read John’s gospel from start to finish, but when I came face-to-face with that last line in prayer one day, it completely captivated me. It is not some “happily ever after” epilogue, but a striking confirmation of both Jesus’ humanity and mysterious divinity. He moved, loved, and lived with such purpose that every breath could fill a novel. Every laugh, conversation, and touch of His surely deserved an entire volume. Christ, someone so vast and indescribable, fit himself into the reality of our world. He became a word when His true nature is an infinite story far beyond human comprehension.
The very first line of John’s gospel gives Jesus the title of the “Word”. And in John 1:14, the Word enters into our life on earth: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
The Gospel of John makes it clear, from its beginning to its end, that we cannot even begin to comprehend the entire story that God has so carefully written. But light is shed on the story as we come to know the Word. It is precisely because He became human that we received a glimpse into an infinite narrative, and it is into this narrative that John invites us at the conclusion of his gospel. He seems to say, “All that I have told you here, all that I have heard and seen Him do, is only one word of His entire story. There is more. Enter into it yourself. Know the Word so that you might know the story.”
I’d like to borrow an example of the power of words from Christopher West’s book Fill These Hearts. He credits this exercise to Mike Metzger, who credits it to Robert A. Burton… so consider this a gift from a friend of a friend of a friend (whom I have never met.) First, read the following paragraph and try to understand its meaning:
A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor. If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance.
It makes no sense, right? There’s meaning to each individual sentence, but the point of the paragraph is simply incomprehensible. It sounds like jumbled nonsense, and you might be a little frustrated that you even wasted your time on it (sorry). But with one simple word, the seemingly disordered paragraph becomes meaningful: kite (go back and read it again with that word in mind, if you’d like.)
Jesus, the Word made Flesh, gives meaning to our own narratives that we cannot comprehend by ourselves. There is power in His simplicity to bind together what seems hopeless, lost, and pointless. In His generosity, the Father, the author of a marvelous, mysterious story, gives us the Word on which the rest all builds. But we must come to know the Word if we are to have a frame of mind for the rest of the story. Faced with the stark reality of Jesus’ humanity, how do we come to know the Word and the story He points us towards?
- The Gospels. It’s no secret that the human brain and heart are built for stories. After all, the movie industry spends billions of dollars to tell new stories every year. Scripture presents both the gift and the necessity of entering into the narrative of Jesus’ life. In knowing how He lived and moved during His time on earth, we are better able to recognize His movement in our own lives.
- Spiritual reading. If your friend wrote a book, you’d probably want to read it, right? And if they wrote a book about your other friend, I bet you’d definitely have that read in no time. The Lord has given us the gift of knowing each other and Him in unique ways. By reading about how our brothers and sisters in Christ experience relationship with Jesus, we can discover new things about Him that we might have never come to know on our own. Some books that have led me deeper into the truth of the gospel: Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen and Healing Promises by Anne Costa.
- Prayer. Ask the Lord to help you trust His authorship of your own story. Reflect on how seemingly hopeless circumstances in your life might be made hopeful when they begin with the Word.
Everyone wants to live a meaningful story. But that can’t ever happen unless we know the Word which lends infinite significance to everything that lives. Once we have that, we can begin to live a life worth reading.
Kathryn Hurd is a senior studying strategic communications and anthropology at K-State. She's a maker, a walker, a butterfly-spotter, and a lover of a good children's book. You can read more of her words, ramblings, and random interests here.