Most of us exaggerate now and then, using expressions that would be outrageous if taken literally. “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” “I have told you a million times not to do that.” Hyperbole isn’t meant to falsify or misrepresent the facts, but to intensify them. We exaggerate our points in order to drive them home.
John ends his Gospel by noting, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). New Testament scholar Leon Morris comments, “With this delightful hyperbole he [John] lets us see that there is much more about Jesus than we know.” How could John provide an exhaustive account of every detail of the Son of God’s ministry? How could any author include every noteworthy thing the Lord said and did? How can anyone say enough about the praiseworthy qualities of Christ?
His teachings are unsurpassed. Language experts estimate that the average person uses about 16,000 words per day, which adds up to hundreds of millions of words over a lifetime. But how many of our words will others remember after we are gone? One hundred years from now it will be remarkable if anyone remembers even two or three sentences we spoke, but Jesus’ brilliant insights have remained relevant for 20 centuries. Think of his stories and parables, like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Consider his pithy one-liners, like “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Think of the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. It’s no exaggeration to say the world has never seen another teacher who compares with Jesus.
His deeds are unparalleled. Jesus proclaimed “the good news of the kingdom” and healed “every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). At one point in the Lord’s ministry, “The whole town gathered at the door” while Jesus healed the sick and the demon-possessed. On two separate occasions he fed 5,000 and 4,000 men, “besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21, 15:38). It’s no exaggeration to estimate that during his three-year ministry those directly affected by his miraculous deeds numbered in the tens of thousands—and in the centuries since, the life-changing power of Christ has continued to impact millions.
His creativity is unfathomable. If it sounds like John is exaggerating when he says the whole world could not contain the written records of all Christ’s deeds, remember: Christ made the world! “Through him all things were made” (John 1:3). “For in him all things were created” (Colossians 1:16, 17). It’s not surprising that the world cannot contain the one who created it in the first place.
In light of his surpassing wisdom, moral excellence, sacrificial love, and resurrection power, it’s no exaggeration to speak of the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ. The most reasonable response is to join with Simon Peter and say, “Lord, you know that I love you.” In the words of William Barclay, “Human categories are powerless to describe Christ, and human books are inadequate to hold him. And so John ends with the innumerable triumphs, the inexhaustible power, and the limitless grace of Jesus Christ.”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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