There are many ways of asking “Why?”. The small child who endlessly repeats the question to each attempt at answer infuriates, and raises suspicions that attention is more important than an answer. Yet for Christians, it is a sign of success when someone without faith starts to ask “Why are you bothering? Why are you doing this for me?”. It is also a good question for Christians to ask at Eastertime: “Why is this happening? Why do others care about what I think or do?”
John’s gospel gives us an insight into the life and ministry of Jesus. He takes us through both the success of his teaching and healing, and the pain of his passion and death. But it is only in chapter 20 that he comes to the question “Why?”, with a clear answer, “these [signs] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name”.
John 20:19-31 has shown us the disciples receiving both new hope and authority, then Thomas finding answers to his doubt, and the gospel writer summing up his purpose in writing. The hope is that we who read the gospel now will see Jesus as the one promised to bring life to a climax, and that not in a merely intellectual way, but as the recipe for life as it is meant to be.
Like the repeated question of the small child, that needs us to do more than find the right words. We have to pay attention, to engage, to change. It is much easier to find an excuse not to – but then we miss out.