Pay Attention

From the time we are young, we are told to pay attention.

Pay attention…to the teacher.
Pay attention…to the directions.
Pay attention…to what you’re doing.

It seems that we all need reminders to pay attention. We get distracted. We become preoccupied. We lose focus.

When we turn to the life of Jesus, we see that many people did not pay attention to Him. The beginning of the Gospel of John states, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11).

The Gospel of John is arranged around seven signs, plus the crucifixion and resurrection. A sign is a signifier. It points to something. The signs in the Gospel of John point to Jesus as the Word who became flesh, showing us the Father. Sometimes, the people paid attention. When Jesus turned the water into wine, “His disciples believed in Him” (John 1:11). After Jesus heals the son of a royal official, “he himself believed, and his whole household” (John 4:53). When Jesus feeds five thousand men, the people said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). When Jesus walks on water, “They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat” (John 6:21).

But there are other times when people do not pay attention. When Jesus heals a man who could not walk, the Jews are upset that someone has carried a bed on the Sabbath (John 5:10). Similarly, when Jesus makes a blind man see, there is a complaint among the Pharisees that this has occurred on the Sabbath (John 9:16).

The raising of Lazarus is met with mixed reviews. “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46).

After all of this, we might expect that Jesus’ disciples have paid close attention to Him. Yet, when we get to chapters 13 and 14 in the Gospel of John, Jesus essentially tells them that they haven’t been paying attention. He corrects Peter, Thomas, and Phillip for not understanding things which they should have known.

The signs in the Gospel of John set the stage for the greatest signifier of all—the resurrection. What is our response? Will we pay attention, or will we be distracted by things of less importance? Near the end of the Gospel of John, we find this statement: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

Pay attention. Believe. Have life. It is much better than the alternative.