We now take up the study of the Gospel itself and see how the Holy Spirit led John to develop the exalted theme of Jesus, the Son of God.
1. The Gospel of John opens with a reference to Jesus as the Word, the Logos (John 1:1-18). As the Word, Christ existed before He was born (John 1:1). He participated in creation (John 1:3-4). He is the Light of the World to fallen man (John 1:5-13); He came into our flesh (John 1:14); John the Baptist came to bear witness of Him (John 1:15-18).
2. Before the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus revealed Himself to more and more people (John 1:15-6:71). John the Baptist introduced Him as the Lamb of God (John 1:15-34); Jesus gathered His disciples (John 1:35-51); He performed His first miracle, changing water into wine (John 2:1-11); He made His first sojourn to Capernaum (John 2:12); He went to the Passover at Jerusalem to reveal His authority by cleansing the temple, and He taught the people (John 2:13-21); He visited with Nicodemus and instructed Him concerning the necessity of regeneration and the great love of God (John 3:1-21); John the Baptist testified concerning Jesus, that he, John, must decrease and Jesus must increase (John 3:22-36); Jesus went to Galilee and on the way He had conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42). In Galilee Jesus went to Cana and healed the son of the Nobelman (John 4:43-54); He returned to Jerusalem for the second Feast of the Passover (John 5:1); there He healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath and taught concerning the Sabbath (John 5:2-47); He returned to Galilee and fed the five thousand, stilled the storm, and resisted the attempt of the Jews to make Him their king (John 6:1-71).
Jesus visited Jerusalem a third time during the Feast of Tabernacles and Feast of Dedication (John 7:1-10:39). The brothers of Jesus suggested that He hasten to Jerusalem to show His power (John 7:1-9); Jesus resisted this haste and eventually went to Jerusalem; there was tension in the city for fear of the leaders of the people, but Jesus entered into controversy with the people; this resulted in their trying to take Him (John 7:10-31). The Pharisees and Chief Priests sent officers to take Jesus. They failed, for some of them testified, “Never man spake like this man.” There was division among them (John 7:32-53). The woman taken in adultery was set before Jesus; He exposed their hypocrisy and pardoned her (John 8:1-11). Jesus discoursed on the light of the world and spiritual blindness; the Jews took up stones to kill Him, but He passed by (John 8:12-59). On the Sabbath Jesus healed the man born blind; the Jews excommunicated this man for his faith; Jesus, however, comforted him (John 9:1-41). Jesus taught the parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). From Solomon’s Porch, He declared His divinity. This was during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-39).
3. After the Feast of Dedication, Christ entered into public confrontation (John 10:40-12:50). He raised Lazarus from the dead and, “From that day, the Jews took counsel together to put Him to death,” (John 11:1-57). Mary annointed Jesus for His burial (John 12:1-11); Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a young ass; the Greeks seek Him; the Jews reject him (John 12:12-50)
4. The private ministry of Christ to His disciples (John 13:1-17:26). Before the Passover Feast, He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20); He informed the disciples that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21-27); Judas was dismissed (John 13:27-30); Jesus instructed His disciples regarding the new commandment to love one another; He also prophesied Peter’s denial (John 13:31-38); Jesus gave His farewell to His disciples, promised the Holy Spirit, and said He would return (John 14:1-16:33). The sacerdotal prayer (John 17:1-26).
5. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (John 18:1-20:31). Jesus went to Gethsemane and was arrested (John 18:1-15). He was taken to Annas and Caiphas. During this trial, Peter denied Him three times (John 18:16-27). He was subsequently taken to Pilate for trial (John 18:28-19:16). Jesus was crucified (John 19:17-37), He was buried (John 19:28-42), He arose from the dead. Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John visited the tomb (John 20:1-10); the Living Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18); He appeared to His disciples without Thomas being present (John 20:19-23); a week later, He reappeared to them when Thomas was also present (John 20:26-29); John added a reminder as to why he wrote the Gospel (John 20:30, 31).
6. The conclusion of the Gospel (John 21:1-25). Christ appeared to seven disciples who caught no fish; He instructed them to cast the net on the other side and they caught many; He ate with them (John 21:1-14). Jesus spoke to Peter, instructing him three times to feed His sheep (John 21:15-19); Jesus spoke concerning the future of Peter and John (John 21:21-23); and finally John attested to his authorship of the Gospel (John 21:24, 25)
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF JOHN’S GOSPEL
1.As we said, the special emphasis of the Gospel is upon the divinity of Christ. The Holy Spirit led John to make reference to this in such a way that the readers might know that Jesus is the Son of God. Consider, “the Word was God” (John 1:1); “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58); “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9); and the confession of Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). As God, He existed before He was born of Mary (John 1:14; John 8:58; John 17:5). John calls Him the Word, the Logos (John 1:1, 14).
John was careful, however, not to deny the reality of the human nature at the expense of the divine. Current in John’s day was the heresy of Gnosticism and its by-product Docetism. This view emphasized that flesh was evil. Hence when Christ became man, He did not take on a real human nature, but simply appeared as a man. John carefully stressed, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “and the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). When the soldier pierced the side of Jesus while He hanged on the cross, “forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). Jesus is God and man!
2. John included material that substantiates the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. This is true of the miracles recorded: water changed into wine (John 2:1-11); healing of the Nobelman’s son (John 4:46-54); healing of the impotent man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-9); feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14); Jesus’ walking on the water (John 6:16-21); healing of the blind man (John 9:1-17); raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44); resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-29). Reference to these miracles is made in the context of setting forth the divinity of Christ. Similarly, John includes the well-known seven “I am’s.” In these discourses Jesus also teaches the people concerning His divine ministry: I am the bread of life (John 6:35); I am the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5); I am the door of the sheepfold (John 10:7); I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14); I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); and I am the true vine (John 15:1).
3. Once again we see that the Holy Spirit chose the right man for this task. Such a profound truth as the deity of Christ defies human reasoning. One could easily get caught up in philosophical terms and heavy language. Yet, John writes with the simplest vocabulary and most concise sentences so that one can identify his writing very easily by this trait. This is not to say that John suffered from limited vocabulary. The words that he does use indicate that the church at that point in time had matured to understand many difficult concepts of truth. This is indicated in his use of terms such as light and darkness, world, flesh, believe, truth, hate and love, know, abide, glorify, and such like.
4. John sets forth the ministry of Jesus to individuals. Surely, Jesus preached to the multitudes, but here in John’s Gospel, we learn more how Jesus brought the Word from “house to house.” At the same time, almost incidentally, we get to learn something of some of these individuals that receive such personal care. Examples are: Nicodemus (John 3:1-15; John 7:50-52; John 19:39); the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26); Philip (John 1:43-46; John 6:5-7; John 14:8-11); Thomas (John 11:16; John 14:5, 6; John 20:24-29); Mary and Martha (John 11:1-40; John 12:2-8); Mary the mother of Jesus (John 1:1-5; John 19:26, 27).
5. The Gospel of John makes more references to Christ’s ministry in Jerusalem and Judea than do the Synoptics. This helps us understand something of the chronology of Jesus’ ministry and at the same time gives us insight into the ceremonial life of the Jews. Three Passover Feasts are mentioned (John 2:23; John 6:4;John 13:1). There is reference to the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:6), Feast of the Dedication of the Temple (John 10:32); and one unnamed feast (John 5:1). From the Gospel of John, it becomes apparent that Jesus spent more time in Jerusalem and its environs than seems to be indicated in the Synoptics. This adds some dimension to the words of Jesus recorded inMatthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not!” As the Son of God, He did not come to establish an earthly kingdom in the capital city of Jerusalem. Rather He directed His people to the eternal, heavenly kingdom (John 6:39, 40;John 14:3; John 21:22).
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
1. What do we know about the author, and can we show how God wisely chose him to write?
2. What is the special message that the Holy Spirit led John to emphasize in this Gospel, and what is the importance of this message for the church of all ages?
3. Does the fact that John was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus add anything to the credibility of the Gospel?
4. Discuss why Jesus is called the Word, Logos (John 1:1).
5. Go through the seven “I am’s” and show how each one tells us something of the divinity of Christ.
6. Take the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-54). Show that the miracle substantiates Christ’s teaching, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and that from this also He sets forth His divinity.
7. From the point of view of inspiration, did John paraphrase the words of Jesus (he wrote them at least 40 years later) or do we have the actual words of Jesus. Explain.