This is a series on exploring the book of John for rookies and experts alike! Start here, if you want to follow along.
Personally, I have always been drawn to the gospel of John as a favorite account. The interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman of chapter 4 has long been a story from scripture that has encouraged me, especially when Jesus describes himself as the well of life-giving water. The fourth gospel has a way with words that draws a dramatic and compelling picture—imagery of light and dark, good and evil, the kingdom of heaven and the world below. This kind of epic story telling is hard to resist!
I’ve also found the gospel of John to be the most “literary” of the accounts, in the way that you can easily read it as a stand-alone book, with the poetic introduction of, “In the beginning was the Word…” all the way to the theatrical epilogue of, “not even the world itself could contain the books.”
From an apologetics and philosophical perspective, I appreciate how the gospel of John is clear, from the very start, to establish Jesus as Creator God (and therefore, placing us in the role of created ones.) John continues this theme in Jesus’ prayer of chapter 17, confirming his own timelessness and unity with the Father. These are important parameters to set, both for the 1st century audience and for our modern one.
John develops this theme further by showing Jesus as the Christ for all people, whomever may come. Again, this is important for our evangelistic purposes today, because even though there is a great chasm between the perfection of Christ and our own sinful state, Jesus still willingly came to us in the flesh and demonstrated his love by way of ultimate sacrifice.
His mission wasn’t reserved for only the ritualistically pure, or wealthy, or offered only to a certain gender or ethnicity, but given for all.
The gospel is clear to show that Jesus is the source of true life and that we are able to access that life by our relationship with him. Examples of physical healings are offered, as well as Lazarus’ coming out of death at the spoken word of Christ, the living Word. This life is multi-dimensional, effecting both the physical and spiritual state of man, and transcending the present moment all the way into eternity. In “The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel,” Craig Koester puts it this way,
“questions about life are ultimately questions about God…the issue is not whether people will seek life…the issue is where their pursuit of life will take them and how this relates to what God is doing.”
The gospel of John reveals Jesus to be the Christ, and he comes in a rather confrontational way. Every reader must ask themselves the same questions that Jesus presents to the people he encounters in the narrative.
For me, I can relate to an author that presents Jesus as the answer to life’s deep questions—he not only has the answer, but he IS the answer! John’s gospel isn’t afraid to tackle the issue of Christ from a cosmic, history-shaking way but he also knows how to bring it down to an intimate, one-on-one connection between Jesus and a single seeker.
This is great writing and inspiring to me on so many levels. Reading John in comparison to the synoptics affirms the fact that we can tell the story of Christ, and even though we are all attempting to say the same thing (the gospel message), the way in which we present him can vary. This shouldn’t deter us from sharing but encourage us to listen well.
If we allow it, this approach can prompt ecumenical questions like–
- What can I learn about Christ from my brother or sister’s experience with him?
- What can their story reveal about him that I didn’t know myself?
John’s gospel is proof that Jesus is still revealing himself, by the aid of the Spirit, even today.
This week: Spend some time in chapters 4-6 and take note of Jesus’ approach when ministering to individuals (like the Samaritan woman and the man by the pool), to crowds, and to his disciples. Who recognized him as God? Who seemed to miss it? What did people say about him? Ask the Holy Spirit for a new revelation of Jesus Christ in your own life and pay attention throughout your week…he doesn’t always work on our time table! 😊