Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why I love to read the apostle John

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way." - Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I can relate to Donald Miller’s statements. I didn’t need to watch jazz in order to like it. But once I got serious about jazz, and about my instrument, I was quickly drawn to not only listen to my favorite players, but to watch them. It became obvious that in addition to playing different notes and different chords, they all interacted differently with their music. Oscar Peterson grinned in confident mastery of the piano as his fingers flew up and down the keyboard in execution of his bold and celebrative music. He even kept a face towel handy as he sweat as profusely as the more intense preachers I’ve watched. Bill Evans (in his younger years) quietly leaned into the piano, his face sometimes inches from the keys, contorted with some deep angst or perhaps intense focus. And his music reflected this complexity of emotion with complex, impressionistic harmonies struck down by his long, slender fingers at unexpected, jutting syncopations. Dave Brubeck seemed to (and still does) play every concert as if it were a Christmas present to him. He would smile in great wonder as his band mates took their solos, seemingly enjoying theirs as much as his own.

The men whom Jesus spent the majority of His ministry with share a paralleled spectrum of emotional appreciation and engagement of their Lord and His glory, and what it means to know Him. Perhaps the New Testament writer with the most artistic, poetic heart is the apostle John.

Several months ago I listened to a Bible teacher explain that the words in the Bible have a historical value, a theological value, and an aesthetic value. The first two are obvious but we often gloss over the aesthetic value. He pointed out that the aesthetic value, just like the historical and theological qualities of the text, tells us something about the author’s subject matter.

In John’s account of the Gospel of Christ, he could have opened with “Jesus has always existed as part of the godhead.” Instead, he writes, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1). Throughout the letter it is clear that John was particularly attuned to Jesus’ plain yet slightly mysterious statements regarding truth and love. Thus it comes as no surprise that in John’s first epistle he repeatedly emphasizes two factors which mark somebody as truly belonging to God: truth (or holy living consistent with God’s truth) and love, especially love toward “the brothers”. Yet, even when revealing that not all who claim to be in the truth are actually in it, John’s words maintain a unique reverence, love, and beauty. He draws his readers into greater awe and love for the glory and majesty of God. And that is why I love to read the things that he was inspired by God to write.


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