November 2, 2020
In John 21:25, the Apostle John makes a massive claim: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
The library at my alma mater, Southern Seminary, is one of the finest theological libraries in the world. It boasts over one million books. These are all kept in two places, the four-story main building and an additional storage facility. One library, two places, one million books that relate to Jesus in one way or another . . . And it’s not even a tiny fraction of what could be written about the significance of Jesus’ life.
If the 102 floor, 2.7 million square foot Empire State Building were filled with books from floor to ceiling about Jesus’ words and works, it would not begin to exhaust the needed capacity to hold what could be printed.
The Empire State Building is dwarfed by many newer buildings today. (In the picture above, you can pick it out just left of center. It’s sort of a cute little guy. Isn’t it?) But even if every skyscraper in the world were converted into a library with countless rows of bookshelves, it would be grossly insufficient for sharing the impact of Jesus during his handful of years in the small region of Palestine.
Indeed, every building in the world, not just every skyscraper, could not hold the books.
But wait a minute. Aren’t we taking this a bit far? Isn’t John’s assertion in John 21:25 just a hyperbole for literary effect?
No. It’s actually an understatement.
The real truth is that the whole universe could not contain the stories, the interactions, the significance, the profundities, the wonders of God’s Messiah, full of grace and truth, lovingly engaged with desperately needy people.
Imagine spending one hour with Jesus during his earthly ministry. Every moment of that hour would possess unlimited life-changing power. Every smile, every word, every gesture would in fact be a miracle taking place in front of your very eyes. The eternal Son of God would be present with you clothed in frail humanity but also in the power of God. Your experience of just one hour in the presence of Jesus would be enough to supply you with a life-time of reflection and testimony.
And that’s just you. The same would be true of every other person in the room during that one hour, and it would be true of everyone with Jesus in the next hour and the next. It would be true for everyone in small gatherings with him and for everyone at huge multitudinous events with him. It would be true for the lame man made to walk again and for every lame heart in need of forgiveness that witnessed the lame man’s healing.
The literal reality is this: The wonderfulness that Jesus brings to any given person in any given moment is inexhaustible.
Now, are you ready for this? In an incredible providential orchestration of the order of the New Testament books, the very next verse in the Bible, Acts 1:1, says that everything Jesus did in his ministry was only what “Jesus began to do and teach”!
In back-to-back verses, the last of John and the first of Acts, the Bible says that Jesus’ earthly ministry provided for endless, delightful reflection and that it was only the beginning of the life-changing works he had set out to do on earth.
Take this in: Jesus is so awesome that he wore out the world’s capacity to tell of his awesomeness in his introduction to his awesomeness. His earthly ministry was not the main body of his transformative work in people’s lives. It was the foundation for it. When he was done, he had only begun.
Ever since Jesus ascended, he has continued to fill moment upon moment, life upon life, with wonder upon wonder, and he hasn’t stopped for two-thousand years.
Doesn’t Jesus’ infinite volume to fill infinite volumes have present value for our present values? Relationship with him should be our top priority, and his redeeming impact is worthy of our constant focus.
How focused are we on other people and things that cannot bring endless glory to our lives? How enthralled are we with other stories and events that are hardly worthy of one book, much less a world full of books? Every day we have the opportunity to spend time with the man who can transform our little, insignificant lives into incredible turning points in his infinite story.
How consumed are we with other dramas that are empty of power and quickly exhausted of significance? Are we consumed with movies, novels, songs, sports, news, politics, reality shows, social media, celebrities, conflicts, gossip? Are we enthralled with other books to the neglect of the one Book that Jesus chose to inspire among all the books that could have been written about him? Are we dwelling on ourselves, our acts, our successes, our failures, our narratives? If so, where will all the miss-focused drama leave us? Full or flat? Overjoyed or underwhelmed? At peace or in fear?
But we don’t have to be consumed by that which is unworthy. We can rather consume the endless wonders of Jesus Christ and be consumed by his glory! And when we do, we drink from a fountain that never runs dry and never gets old.
Also, we don’t have to waste all our words on the world’s shallow tales. We can rather invest our time in the telling of Jesus’ inexhaustible story. If there are infinite books that can be written of him, why shouldn’t we do our part to share our experience of the Savior? With our own witness, we can be contributing authors to “The Complete Works of Jesus Christ” which of course will never be complete.
Where will a life-long focus on Jesus leave us?
It won’t leave us anywhere because we won’t be standing around disappointed with unworthy stories about unworthy things. We won’t be paralyzed by the fear that comes from sad stories of defeat that vie to define our lives. We will be energized and eager, moving and meeting, talking and treating others to the message of the hero of ten trillion times ten trillion books. . . . Look, another understatement.