The Gospel According to John
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Sometime near the end of the first century, a write skilled in Greek language and philosophy wrote the last Gospel, called the Gospel According to John. In some quarters the authorship is assigned to the Apostle John, while others declare it was another person, perhaps another person named John. While the authorship is a hotly debated item, what is not debated is this Gospel is very different than the first three.
The Kingdom of Heaven
This Gospel is far more philosophical; and contains longer and deeper theological expressions by Jesus. In the Synoptic Gospels; Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus speaks in quick bursts and uses parables for many of his teachings. Here we have philosophical explanations by Jesus; about the Kingdom of heaven and who he is.
Nowhere is this more evident than in chapter three, where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus late at night. Jesus is being questioned by Nicodemus about his purpose. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, who were very much opposed Jesus and his teachings. But Nicodemus was not so sure. In the middle of the night, he went to see Jesus. In a way, Nicodemus was acting as a foil for Jesus to explain why he came. In this chapter you have the famous Christian slogan, John [3:16], where Jesus states very clearly who he is, by saying;
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whomever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus also uses images in this chapter; such as light versus darkness and the Spirit to describe how one arrives at having faith in the unseen. The complexity and philosophical nature of this chapter requires a number of readings to fully grasp what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus, but like many parts of the Bible, Jesus’s message is not just for Nicodemus, but is very important to the 21st century reader.
Book of Signs
While in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’s divinity is expressed and demonstrated through healings and miracles, in John they are called “signs”. In fact, there are seven signs spread throughout the Gospel. From changing water to wine, raising Lazarus and walking on water. Causing some to call the Gospel, the Book of Signs.
At the very beginning we also get a very philosophical statement about who Jesus is. In verse one, it says; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In this well-crafted sentence we see the theological and fundamental statement of who exactly Jesus is.
But notice the use of the word, Word.
And also notice it is capitalized. In Greek, Word means logos. And the fact it is capitalized means divinity. So we can safely assume, the author is using the word logos to describe Jesus. So when we reread this verse with Jesus substituted for Word or Logos, it now reads; In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.
In this simple statement, we get the essence of Jesus, from the beginning Jesus was with God and was God. Later, in Christian history this became one of the fundamental statements in the Nicean Creed and is now part of our current confession of faith. There is no ambiguity in this statement as to Jesus’s place in the Trinity. Jesus is God and with God, and has been since the beginning.
The Gospel contains many of the features similar to the other Gospels; from Jesus’s life, his death and resurrection. In fact the term, Gospel means; the teaching, revelation and life of Jesus. So while this Gospel is a very different and more philosophical, it is a complete history of the teaching, revelation and life of Jesus. From his ministry, to the crucifixion and resurrection.
So we might ask, why is it needed? Or why is it so different? Well, my best answer is; it’s part of the beauty of the Bible. It provides another avenue to get to know Jesus. Perhaps for the person who is very analytical or philosophical, a different and easier way they think about their faith. In fact, each of the four Gospels have different appeals.
It doesn’t mean that John is better or inferior.
It represents the beauty of all four Gospels combined. While some may say they like the Christmas story in Luke, or others might say they like the connection to the Jewish traditions in Matthew, even others will say they like the crispness of Mark. Each of the Gospels pull us into the story of Jesus differently. In effect giving us many ways to enter the story of Jesus’s existence on earth.
All were written to encourage the early Christians in their faith. Written for separate audiences. But so well written, that their lessons and revelations about Jesus are easily transportable to today and future generations.
The Gospel of According to John, rounds out our understanding of Jesus through a different, but equally reliable lens. Placed in the Bible by people and circumstances inspired by God.
Listen to the Full Podcast – The Gospel According to John – The Bible and Its History
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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