For my post on the Introduction to The Gospels, I used a photo of one green apple and three red apples as a metaphor for how the Gospel of John is different from the other Gospels. In this next post on lessons from The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men, I explain how the fourth Gospel is unlike the other three.
A Different Gospel
Structurally, John is different since the stories of Jesus’ ministry are not connected chronologically or by geography. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus goes to Jerusalem at the end of His life. John portrays most of Jesus’ early ministry occurring around Jerusalem and Judea. Also, the Temple cleansing takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John, not at the end.
The timing of events at the Last Supper and crucifixion are also different. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus actually eats a Passover meal before He dies, whereas John portrays the Last Supper a day before the beginning of Passover. Also, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all picture Jesus crucified about the third hour (9:00 am), while John writes that Pilate did not reach his final decision until the sixth hour (19:14).
Content-wise, 92% of the material is unique to John’s Gospel. For example, John records eight miracles from Jesus’ ministry, and six of them are unique to John.
Here is a chart I used in a previous Bible study on John that shows more differences in content. Unfortunately, I can not find the original author to give credit.
John makes no secret about Jesus’ identity by acknowledging Him six times in the first chapter alone. Mark’s “Messianic secret” describes how Jesus forbade making His identity publicly known.
In John’s Gospel, Christ refers to “the Father” more than 100 times, though John says nothing of the supernatural birth. John does not contain a genealogy nor any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, or any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension, or great commission.
John also uses an entirely different and somewhat confusing vocabulary: light and darkness, life, truth, witness, abide, world, Father and Son, Jesus’ “hour,” glory, etc. Also, unlike the Synoptics, John does not portray Jesus talking much about the “kingdom of God [heaven]” nor does he recount story parables from Jesus’ mouth.
- Why do you think John uses different language than the other Gospels?
- How would you describe salvation to someone?
Who Was The Author
Some say this Gospel is anonymous but most attribute it to John, one of the twelve disciples. He was the son of Zebedee and brother of James, one of the “Boanerges,” which means Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). The author was NOT John the Baptist, who was the son of Zecharia, the priest, and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25).
Others say the author could be someone called John, the Presbyter (Elder); an obscure figure of the early Church who appears in scroll fragments of Papias of Hierapolis (60 – 130 A.D.) who wrote the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord. Another historian of Christianity named Eusebius of Caesarea (~260 – 340 A.D) first distinguished John the Elder as the author of the Book of Revelation. Eusebius denied that Revelation was written by the Apostle John in order to question its inclusion in the Bible.
Among the 12 disciples, the apostle John was one of Jesus’ closest companions. He, James, and Peter formed Jesus’ inner circle with the exclusive privilege of witnessing and testifying about events that no others were invited to see. John was present at the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter (Luke 8:51), the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). He is also the only recorded disciple to be present at the crucifixion of Jesus.
John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2). He authored five books (John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation); second only to Paul in the number of New Testament books written. He was the youngest disciple but probably the last to survive. John was exiled to the island of Patmos in 94 A.D. due to his opposition to the Roman emperor, Domitian. There, he wrote the final book of the Bible: Revelation.
John brings the “Good News” about Jesus to everyone in the world, whereas Matthew writes to Jews, Mark to the Roman Gentiles, and Luke to a Greek audience.
John lived in a time where theological debates and heresies were becoming rampant. Gnosticism and other ideologies denied Jesus’ divine nature but that He was a very good man, and not actually God. These controversies led to great debates during the 3rd and 4th centuries by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople, which revolved around the mystery of Jesus’ nature as both fully God and fully man.
Specifically, John wrote his Gospel to a culture where Christians experienced severe persecution at the hands of Jewish authorities and the mighty Roman Empire, as well. The fall of Jerusalem had scattered the church. John saw an evangelistic opportunity to help the people see that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. He also clarified a number of theological points and doctrines using the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
About The Gospel of John
John was probably written about 85-90 A.D. Scholars have traditionally assumed that John’s eyewitness account was the last written, sometime before he was exiled to Patmos. His portrayal of Jesus is more concerned with theology than demographics. He portrayed Jesus as the divine “Logos” (the Greek for ”Word”, “Discourse”, or “Reason”) while making it clear that Jesus was the heaven-sent Son of God and the only way to have eternal life.
The key verse is John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
The 21 chapters of John’s Gospel are divided into four major units:
- The prologue—1:1-18 (Introduction)
- The signs—1:19-12:50 (each of the messianic “signs” or miracles of Jesus, Son of God)
- The glory—13:1-20:31 (Jesus’ exaltation with God, the Father subsequent to His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection)
- The epilogue—21:1-25 (unfolds the future ministries)
The prologue describes Jesus as the Word, who was God, who became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ. God revealed Himself as a man so that we might see Him and believe. God then sent John The Baptist to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah (1:6-34), who calls His first disciples (1:35-51).
John’s Gospel also includes the famous verse: “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.” (John 3:16).
Finding “Real” Freedom
Many people view the new life Jesus offers as being restrictive instead of freeing. They say, “If I become a Christian, I’ll have to stop doing things I like to do. I will need to go to church and lead a boring life.”
Until we learn to follow Jesus, we remain slaves to our sinful nature and have no choice but to give in to it. The cross means real freedom. Jesus lifts the heavy chains of sin that restrict us from having a better life.
- What chains from sin do you still carry around?
- Have you confessed those sins to a GodBuddy? If not, who might you confess to so that you may be healed (James 5:16).
In every chapter of John, Christ’s deity is unveiled, specifically as seen in the seven “I am” statements.
- John 6:35, 48 – “I am the bread of life.”
- John 8:12; 9:5 – “I am the light of the world.”
- John 10:7, 9 – “I am the door.”
- John 10:11, 14 – “I am the good shepherd.”
- John 11:25 – I am the resurrection and the life.”
- John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
- John 15:1 – “I am the vine.”
In chapter 13, Jesus teaches the disciples directly about humility by washing their feet and sharing the Last Supper. In His “Upper Room Discourse,” (John 14-17), He comforts the disciples and teaches them that the only way to the Father and eternal life is through believing in Him.
John also writes that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will come as another “Advocate” (Comforter, Encourager, and Counselor) who will never leave you (John 14:15-16). Through that power, you show others the life of Christ.
John regards Jesus as human of actual flesh and blood, the same as us. John presents Jesus as the divine so that all of His marvelous accomplishments and miracles came through the power of God. In this way, John shows us what can happen in the life of anyone in whom the power of the Holy Spirit dwells.
Chapter 17 begins the completion of Jesus’ mission here on earth. John writes that Jesus prays for Himself, for the disciples, and for future believers. John explains that Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Jesus was arrested by the Temple guards who take Him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. Peter denies knowing Jesus as He stands trial. Pontius Pilate, the governor of Rome, has Jesus flogged and led away to be crucified on the Cross.
The good news is that Jesus rises from the dead. He appears to Mary Magdalene and then to the disciples. He appears to Thomas, the twin, who puts his hand in the wounds of Christ’s side to remove any doubt He had risen. Jesus challenged Peter about how much he loved Him that removed any clouds left by his earlier denial.
God Buddy Focus
We should not overestimate the importance of John’s Gospel. The triune relationship of the divine God and the human Son and the Holy Spirit has always puzzled people. How can God, who is an eternal and omnipotent being, become a man limited by the conditions of space and time? And how does He dwell in us even today?
While difficult to interpret at times, John’s message is clear: Christians cannot live the good life unless Christ abides within them. As John sees it, we can not overcome the power of sin alone but the death and resurrection of Christ assure our salvation. We must simply believe and follow Him.
- When was the last time you meditated on what it means that Jesus died on the cross for your sins?
- What keeps you from believing there is freedom in Christ?
My next post is about the book of the Acts of The Apostles.