One of the good sides of having a heart attack (like I did six months ago), is learning to live with lack: Lack of energy. Lack of concentration. Lack of emotional stamina. And lack can be a good thing, since it pushes you into Christ, in whom there is no lack. As John says in the banner-text over his story of Christ, “Of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
That statement shapes the whole book.
The idea of fullness “bookends” John’s gospel. Beginning and end, Jesus meets people in their lack, and shows his abundance.
A wedding where the wine had run out (2:1-12). That’s lack. Then, suddenly, six large jars of water (“each holding twenty or thirty gallons”, v6) were brimming with top-quality wine (vv 9-10).
In the face of lack – no wine left – there was abundance. Our lack (ever felt empty?), and “his fullness.” The story had begun.
That was the front bookend. Now notice the concluding one.
The risen Christ met his weary, up-all-night disciples. Up all night in a boat on the sea, fishing, and all they had to show was empty nets (21:1-14).
Suddenly, a Stranger on the beach (who wasn’t really a stranger), called out, “‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat.’ So they cast it, and were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish” (v6).
John reports seven men in that boat (v2). Fourteen arms couldn’t pull in that catch. Soon enough, they (sore arms and all) sat down on the beach for a fish breakfast, with the risen Jesus as the host (v12).
Jesus taught that the Last Day would come, when he would raise us up in new bodies (6:40). Then there will be no lack. That day is coming.
It hasn’t come yet. People still get heart attacks, still face physical and emotional lack, still run out of wine and still take their boats out fishing and come home empty.
John knew all that when he sat down to write the first chapter of his gospel. He knew his readers lived in lack-world. Still, he unfurled the abundance banner over the story to come: “Of his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace.” Good news, now.
We live in a yet-to-be-renewed world. But in its yet-to-be-renewed state, Jesus is Lord of wine and fish. Our lack is real, but it is not the last word. His fullness is.