In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:1-18, NIV)
In my profession, I have to take an unconscious or implicit bias training. Since I sit on many hiring teams, I was required to take the training every time. I often thought this was a waste of time because I’ve taken the training before. During an interview with a potential candidate, I felt drawn to the person simply because I liked them. I disregarded the job description because I felt this person was similar to me. I had to stop myself and ask, “why is my brain trying to override my objectivity? Why was the emotion so powerful?”
Our brains love familiarity and similarity. We are attracted to people who reflects “me” than “we.” In fact, our brains automatically place more weight on feelings than facts. Our likes and dislikes triggers moving towards people or moving away from them. We prefer shortcuts about people since it is convenient and predictable. I had to admit I had a distorted lens about people. I am not as “objective” and “rational” as I liked to believe about myself. I am biased.
John knew many Greeks and Jews were biased against his master Jesus. John witnessed from other Jews that the life and work of Jesus triggered strong dislikes for hearing anything about some crucified rabbi. John had his work cut out for him. He had to find a way to alert the biased communities of hearers that Jesus was the real deal. What method could he implement? What hook was available to him to change minds and hearts?
John’s storytelling used the Jewish bias to reach into people’s hearts.
John came back to his own history and experiences as a Jew. He came from an oral tradition of storytellers. John knew where to start. He knew the Hebrew Scriptures by heart. With any good story, the best place to begin with is “once upon a time”. This approach perked some ears to listen to John’s story about a living, breathing word that went beyond paper and ink. This living word was real, not a made-up fable or awful Greek myth. This Word was God-breathed, relational-connected, the call card of the divine on earth. John copied the template of Genesis 1 that Jesus was a revealed living person, not hiding behind combination locks nor buried in the ground. God’s story read in Christ Jesus as the best book for the human condition. John’s storytelling used the Jewish bias to reach into people’s hearts.
John also did not get caught up in the individualistic bias he knew it was tempting to put himself ahead of his rabbi Jesus. He did not make himself the star and give Jesus a small, supportive role in God’s story. He had enough self-awareness to acknowledge his role and place in the greatest story ever told. He wasted no time stating he was not the main event. He refused to grab the spotlight. He made a conscious decision he was not the story, but point others to the Story wrapped in God’s answer for desperate people searching for a better way to life. John took the title “witness”, which meant he observed the miracle story of Jesus as he walked with him for three years. In those three years, John could had told people whom he saw raised from the dead. He could had shared the stories of thousands who ate in fullness with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. John resisted such sensational, self-serving tales. He accepted resisting ears to the light of salvation was a given. Oftentimes, people see what they want to see.
Throughout his gospel, John spent over half of his gospel on the death of Jesus.
In Greek mythology, the gods lived on Mount Olympus, away from the pollution and disgust of human beings. Why? Gods wanted nothing to do with the human condition because humans were poor, limited creatures who had terrible lives. It was as if the star high school quarterback and the gorgeous head cheerleader wanted to hang with the nerds and geeks at the same lunchroom table. No way! The gods believed strict segregation between the divine and humans were best for all. John’s telling of Jesus was radical and shocking. John mentioned “world” several times on purpose. He challenged the Greek idea of divine beings who lived in a gated community while Jesus walked through alleys, streets, and neighborhoods. Jesus was comfortable becoming a human to know the pain, sorrow, terror, and joy of human life. Jesus did not run for humanity; he ran towards it. He moved into the neighborhood of human life in order to see life from our perspective. He was not forced or bullied into the job, he chose to warp himself in bone, sinew, blood, and flesh out of deep, abiding love for humanity.
John felt the emotional resistance to Jesus as God’s story by most people. It is no wonder the apostle John the Baptist and himself analogous to his own struggle. They were both crying in the religious marketplace and no one was buying what they were selling about God living in the hood, God hanging with nobodies, and God dying for losers. It made perfect sense that people would had accepted John’s life than the person coming after him. For many people in John’s world, Jesus sounded like another conspiracy theory. John knew that telling the Jesus story was a losing battle. Maybe he accepted that Greek stories sounded better and offered better things. Maybe John gave up trying to make the Jesus story intriguing and fun that the story resembled a Tik Tok video than an invitation of dying and resurrection on different terms.
John understood death. He saw death quite a bit in his life. He saw his Lord die before his very eyes. He remembered he did not stick around to die with Jesus. Throughout his gospel, John spent over half of his gospel on the death of Jesus. The other three gospel writers spent less ink on Jesus’ death. John understood grace because he understood Jesus’ death as the best part of the story. While we were sinners. Christ died for us who build up biases and resistance of our need for God’s amazing grace. Instead of wrath that Moses saw fall upon God’s people for going their own way, God’s “law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (v.17-18)