THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - OVERVIEW
AUTHOR: The Gospel asserts that it is based on the written testimony of the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.
John 21:20-24 (NIV) Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)… This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
This description points to John: the author had to be one of the 12 disciples because he was an eyewitness to the events in the gospel; as the disciple closest to Jesus he had to be one of the inner circle of 3 disciples (James, John, and Peter).
John writes Gospel?
c. 80-90 AD
John writes Reve-lation
c. 95 AD
John released from Patmos by Nerva – goes to Ephesus
c. 96-98 AD
John writes Gospel in Ephesus
c. 96-101 AD
John dies in Ephesus
A SPIRITUAL GOSPEL
Irenaeus, the 2nd generation disciple of John, writes in the 2nd century that it was initially written for the church in Ephesus.
Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. *
The Synoptic gospels stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct. This was deliberate - according to Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria (150–215 AD) said that “last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.” **
* Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1.1
** Hypotyposes, Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14.5-7
PURPOSE OF WRITING
Jerome (c. 342-7 – 420) writes that John was requested by the bishops in Asia to write the gospel in response to the emerging Gnostic and Ebionite heresies:
John, the apostle whom Jesus most loved, the son of Zebedee and brother of James… most recently of all the evangelists wrote a Gospel, at the request of the bishops of Asia, against Cerinthus and other heretics and especially against the then growing dogma of the Ebionites, who assert that Christ did not exist before Mary. On this account he was compelled to maintain His divine nativity. *
Hence John writes “In the beginning was the Word… The same was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2 KJV)
* De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men) ch. 9
But there is said to be yet another reason for this work, in that when he had read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he approved indeed the substance of the history and declared that the things they said were true, but that they had given the history of only one year, the one, that is, which follows the imprisonment of John and in which he was put to death. So passing by this year the events of which had been set forth by these, he related the events of the earlier period before John was shut up in prison, so that it might be manifest to those who should diligently read the volumes of the four Evangelists. This also takes away the discrepancy which there seems to be between John and the others. *
John presents signs, testimonies of people who knew Jesus and the sayings
of Jesus – to prove his claim – that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God”.
John 20:30-31 (NIV) Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The gospel of John includes only seven miracles - John calls them “signs” - to demonstrate the deity of Christ and illustrate His ministry. Some of these miracles and stories, such as the raising of Lazarus, are found only in John.
Turning water into wine in Cana (2:1-11)
Healing an official’s son in Capernaum (4:46-54)
Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-18)
Feeding the 5,000 (6:5-14)
Walking on the water (6:16-21)
Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7)
Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany (11:1-45)
7 TESTIMONIES ABOUT CHRIST
To John the Baptist and the apostles, Jesus is:
“the Word (Logos), … God, … the true light that gives light to everyone, … the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:1-14) ~ John
“… the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29) ~ John the Baptist
“the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). (1:41) ~ Andrew
“the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote…” (1:45) ~ Phillip
“the Son of God … the king of Israel.” (1:49) ~ Nathanael
“the Holy One of God.” (6:69) ~ Peter
“My Lord and my God!” (20:28) ~ Thomas
“a teacher who has come from God …” (3:2) ~ the religious ruler, Nicodemus
“a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (4:29) ~ Samaritan woman
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” (7:46) ~ the temple guards who heard Jesus talk
“If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (9:33) ~ the former blind man Jesus healed
“the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (11:27) ~ Martha
“the king of Israel!” (12:13) ~ crowd at Triumphal entry
“the King of the Jews.” (19:19) ~ Pilate’s written statement
7 OTHER TESTIMONIES
7 “I AM” STATEMENTS
Unlike the Synoptic gospels, there are no parables in the book of John; however, there are allegories. An allegory is a story in which ideas are symbolized as people. E.g.
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). As bread sustains physical life, so Christ offers and sustains spiritual life.
“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). To a world lost in darkness, Christ offers Himself as a guide.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). “I am the door of the sheep.” Jesus protects His followers as shepherds protect their flocks from predators.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus is committed to caring and watching over those who are His.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Death is not the final word for those in Christ.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the source of all truth and knowledge about God.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
Jesus is the Logos who was “with God” (1:1) from the beginning.
V 1 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The living Word of God became flesh and lived among us.
V 12 (NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us …
When people received him (believed in him), or responded properly to him, they were born again. They experienced a birth that was not physical or natural birth. They were born of God.
V 12-13 (NIV) Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John uses the Logos as a title
of Jesus. This term has a long tradition in Greek philosophy
and helped to present
Christianity to Greeks who
were familiar with the idea.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (c.535 - c. 475 BC), an ancient Greek philosopher, used the term logos to explain what he believed was a universal force of reason that governed everything.
Plato allowed his characters to engage in the conceit of describing logos as a living being in some of his dialogues. *
The Stoics developed the notion of logos and conceived it as the principle that gave life and order to all beings in the universe. In their view, logos existed both in the human soul and the universe, and identified justice within the life of a man who lived according to this order of the universe. *
* https:// www.newworldencyclopedia.org/ entry/ Logos
However, the usage of the word Logos was not restricted to the Greeks. The 1st century AD Hellenistic Jew, Philo of Alexandria, related the idea of the Logos to “the angel of the LORD” i.e. the messenger of Yahweh, the God of Israel.
John writes that “the Logos was God” (1:1), and like the angel of the LORD, Jesus revealed God.
John 1:18 (ESV) No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
In Stoicism, the Logos is an unknowable force while,
in the Gospel of John, the Logos became flesh (1:14)
and lived among us – revealing God to us. For the Stoics, a relationship with the Logos is distant, intellectual, and based on the ideas of duty and virtue. In Christianity, a relationship with the Logos is personal.
THE LOGOS BECAME FLESH
LAMB OF GOD & WORD OF GOD
John uses unique titles for Christ, e.g.
The term “Logos” (Word) in John 1:1,14 and Rev 19:13 appears nowhere else in the NT.
The title “Lamb of God” (Agnus Dei) only appears in John’s Gospel (1:29,36). Revelation includes over 30 references to Christ as the Lamb.
In chapter 1, we also see how some of Jesus’ apostles first met him:
THE LAMB OF GOD
In the OT the blood of the Passover Lamb was a sin sacrifice. (Ex 12:13)
In John 1:29 John the Baptist prophetically speaks of Jesus as being “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Jesus turns the water into wine. The words of Mary to the servants represent the key to making the Word of God a power in our lives: “Whatever He tells you to do, do it!” (2:5)
In verse 19 Jesus first alludes to his resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter into the Kingdom of God. He essentially tells him, “You must begin again. You must begin another way, and you must begin with me.”
Jesus claims that he is God’s only Son, God’s only solution to the problem of sin. He says that believing him when he makes these claims about himself means eternal
salvation, and not believing
him means eternal condemnation (3:14-21).
Jesus predicts his death as the means whereby mankind will attain eternal life.
John 3:14-15 (NIV) “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:16 is probably the most well-known and widely quoted verse in the Bible. It has rightfully been called THE GOSPEL IN A NUTSHELL
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus meets a Samaritan woman and presents himself as Living Water and tells her drinking of this water will quench her thirst forever.
In verse 23 he declares that
“a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they
are the kind of worshipers
the Father seeks.”
THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST
The next 4 chapters record a long and
hostile dialogue between Jesus and the religious authorities. This dialogue breaks off and changes locations at times, but it continues until some of these leaders believe and others try to stone Him for blasphemy –
because he claimed to
be equal with God.
Jesus obviously wants this confrontation to take place. He establishes his hearing with these religious leaders by deliberately breaking the Sabbath Law. He healed a man on the Sabbath at the Pool of Bethesda, which was very near the Temple. He ordered the man to pick up his bedroll.
This healing was the catalyst for the hostile dialogue that continues through the end of Chapter 8.
He follows the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 with his most profound and difficult discourse.
He claims that he is the Bread of Life, who has come down from heaven. In Chapter 4, he is Living Water. In this chapter, he is Living Bread.
Many professing disciples refused to follow Him after this discourse because He said that they “must eat His flesh and drink His blood” to have the eternal life made possible.
In this context, Peter gives us a good answer to the question, “What is faith?” When Jesus asks him if he will also leave, in so many words, Peter says, that even though he does not understand, he believes.
At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus claims that his teaching is the teaching of God. When that claim is questioned, he says that those who come to his teaching with the will to do what it teaches will know that his teaching is the teaching of God (7:17). The world’s intellectual approach is “When I know, then I will do.” The knowing leads to the doing. According to Jesus, the doing leads to the knowing.
Chapter 8 brings the dialogue to a dynamic conclusion. Jesus preaches very forcefully as he tells these religious authorities they are the children of the devil and they are in bondage to their evil father. He tells them they are the slaves of sin and they are going to die in their sins if they do not believe.
8TH “I AM” STATEMENT
There are seven or eight “I am” statements in John’s Gospel – depending on how you count them. The eighth “I am” statement is found in John 8:58 and it is the most profound of the lot. Jesus declares, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” Here Jesus makes two claims that astonished the Jews.
He said that he existed before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior.
It is believed that Jesus is making an allusion to Exodus 3:14 (LXX) where God refers to himself as “I am” when addressing Moses at the burning bush. That is when some of them attempt to stone Him.
LEAVE YOUR LIFE OF SIN
The story of the woman caught in adultery is found in John 7:53—8:11.
While Jesus tells the adulterous woman that he does not condemn her – he tells her to “go and sin no more”.
Chapter 9 begins with a miracle of healing, followed by another strong discourse from Jesus.
Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who began their sermons with symbolic acts that captured the attention of their hearers, Jesus precedes his discourses about being Living Water, the Bread of Life, and the Light of the world, with events that illustrated his message before it was preached.
After giving sight to the man who was born blind, Jesus says that he is the Light of the world. He is a special kind of Light that reveals the blindness of those who professed to see and gave sight to those who knew they were blind.
Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd (v 11). He predicts his death as the way of saving the sheep from the wolf.
10:11-12 (NIV) “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. “
In verse 7 he says that he is “the gate for the sheep.” He claims to be the exclusive way of salvation.
10:8-10 “All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Chapter Eleven is the great resurrection chapter of this Gospel. This beautiful story shows how Jesus permits three people (Mary, Martha, Lazarus) to experience life’s two most unsolvable problems of sickness and death, precisely because he loves them.
He wants them to learn that he is “the Resurrection and the life” (v 25). They learn through this experience of the death of Lazarus, that he who believes in Christ will never die (v 26).
Approximately half the chapters in this Gospel cover the first 3 years of Christ’s ministry, and the other half cover the last week of his life.
Throughout this Gospel, we read the phrase, “His hour had not yet come.” In this chapter we hear Jesus pray: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds … Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (10:23-28)
Jesus is anointed in Bethany by Mary ( a different occasion to the anointing by the sinful woman earlier in his ministry at the house of the Pharisee Simon).
He defends Mary from criticism by Judas and says that “she has kept this for the day of My burial” again alluding to his imminent death in the following week.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gives his longest recorded discourse (ch 13-17).
He began this discourse with the symbolic act of washing their feet. Luke tells us that on the way to the upper room they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom they believed He was going to soon establish (Luke 22:24-30). How it must have impacted them when he, their Master and Lord, assumed the role of a slave and washed all their feet.
When he finished washing their feet, he asked, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (v. 12) He made the application, “I have given you an example. If I have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet.”
Later, he really answers this question and makes a dynamic application when he teaches: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples.” (13:34, 35)
He told them he was leaving them (meaning that he was going to die), but that their hearts should not be troubled, because there is a place, and he is preparing that place for them. Their hearts should not be troubled because he will send the Holy Spirit who will comfort them. And because of this Comforter, they will always have a supernatural peace in their hearts.
He also comforted them by telling them that their relationship with him will be even more intimate after his death. He told them that the key to that relationship would be their obedience to him and his teaching, which the Holy Spirit will bless by making possible an intimacy with their risen Saviour.
He then gives another profound metaphor comparing himself to being the true vine, his Father the gardener and we the branches. The fruit grows on the branches because they are attached to the vine.
Unfruitful branches are cut off. He exhorts the disciples to abide in him, promising that they would be fruitful if they did.
He promises to send them the Holy Spirit, whom he calls the Comforter. He describes the nature and function of the ministry of the Holy Spirit when he comes to them. This chapter is literally fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
He prays an inspired and profound prayer for these apostles.
In the first third of this prayer, he prays for his own work and makes the claim that he has glorified the Father by finishing the work the Father assigned to him.
Then he prays for the work of the apostles in whom he has invested so much of his three years of ministry.
The final third of this prayer is for those who will believe the Good News through the apostles. That means he is praying for his Church. He prays that we will live in such a supernatural oneness with him, and at one with each other, that the world will know and believe, that God the Father loves them as much as he loves his Son.
Jesus is arrested and put on trial before the high priest.
Despite Peter’s earlier boast at the last supper, “I will lay down my life for you” (13:37), he denies Jesus 3 times.
Jesus is tried before Pilate, he tells him “the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (v 37) to which Pilate responds, “What is truth?” (v 38)
Declaring him innocent of any crime, Pilate unsuccessfully tries to release Jesus.
Jesus is crucified and entrusts the care of his mother to his beloved disciple, John.
Before he dies, Jesus says “It is finished” (19:30) He indicated that the atonement was completed on the cross. “It is finished” is a single Greek word tetelestai meaning ‘paid in full’…
Papyri receipts for taxes have been recovered with the word tetelestai written across them. So the word was used regarding paying a legal debt. Jesus effectively cries out: PAID IN FULL.
Jesus is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
Mary Magdalene discovers the stone removed from the entrance of the tomb and reports to the apostles that Jesus’ body is missing.
John outruns Peter to the tomb but does not go in initially.
On arriving Peter went straight inside the tomb.
John then also enters and seeing the abandoned graveclothes says that he “saw and believed” (v. 8)
The risen Christ appears first
to Mary Magdalene.
Then he appears to his disciples (excluding Thomas).
He then appears to “doubting” Thomas, who had not believed the accounts of his resurrection given by the other apostles.
Jesus tells him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (v 2()
THE DEITY OF JESUS
The Gospel of John also develops a Christology unique from the other Gospels.
Matthew: presents Jesus as THE SON OF DAVID
Luke: presents him as THE SON OF MAN
John: presents him as THE SON OF GOD
John's Gospel makes it clear that Jesus is not just the Christ (Messiah) but God.
In John 10:30-33 Jesus says, “I and my Father are one.” After this, the Jews picked up stones that they might stone him on grounds of blasphemy because he claimed to be God.
John 14:9 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”
At the end of the Gospel, Thomas makes an astounding confession of faith - declaring Jesus to be “my Lord and my God” (20:28).
Jesus reminds his apostles that he did not commission them to catch fish, but men! (21:1-14) They had been involved in a fruitless all-night fishing expedition. From the beach, Jesus directs them to cast their nets on the other side of their boat. As soon as the net was filled with fish, John knew the stranger on the beach was the Lord.
Just as Peter had denied him 3 times, Jesus restores him by asking him 3 times “Do you love me?”
When Peter says, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you,” Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep” (v 17). – So that is how we show our love for Jesus.
The gospel of John continues to fulfil its purpose of evangelizing the lost. John 3:16 is likely the best-known Bible verse and is often used in evangelistic Bible studies. *
In the recorded encounters between Jesus and Nicodemus and the woman at the well, we learn much from Jesus’ model of personal evangelism. His comforting words to his disciples before his death are still of great comfort in sorrowful times. Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” for believers in chapter 17 is also a wonderful source of encouragement for believers. *