The Gospel of John
Lesson : Introduction
14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions. if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us 9 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; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
These verses are typical of the kinds of things Jesus of Nazareth said to people while He was on earth. And obviously a man who would say these kinds of things over and over again was either a “Liar, lunatic, or Lord” as C. S. Lewis said. And today we launch into the study of a man who had hundreds or opportunities to observe Jesus “up close and personal” over a three year period of time and concluded that He was, indeed, the Lord, not a liar or a lunatic. And as we study we want to follow same procedure we normally follow when we pick up any book for the first time and ty to decide whether or not we want to read it.
The first thing we want to think about is the reason for the book – why was it written anyway? The background of that question for readers of the New Testament is “why another gospel? Aren’t three enough? (Or even just one?) And the answer to that question has to do with the whole surrounding of this momentous occasion of Christ’s 33 years on earth. God’s wisdom and thoroughness is shown in the fact that not only did He become a man, but He provided “up close” exposure of Himself on a day to day basis to 12 other humans. Because of that, 11 of those men were to be used as “authorities” (and to some extent “referees” on what Jesus actually did and said while He was on earth. At first this consisted of mainly going around preaching about Jesus and quoting from things that He had said. Later, 3 of those men were to either write or supervise the writing of books about the life of Christ. Matthew and John actually wrote books in their own names. Peter supervised his protégé Mark in writing a third one. The fourth gospel was written by Luke, who was taught and “supervised” by Paul, who was also an apostle, even though he wasn’t one of the original twelve.
These men didn’t just sit down and write their books simultaneously. Each one was written at a particular time over the course of the first fifty or sixty years after Christ’s return to heaven. And each was written to answer different and specific questions or controversies about some aspect of Christ’s life and ministry. Matthew wrote particularly with the Jews in mind; to address the “royalty” of Jesus as King of the Jews, the Messiah. Mark wrote to address the “servanthood” of Christ. Luke wrote to address the “humanity of Christ. And John wrote to stress His “deity.” Matthew, Mark and Luke did that by writing in a biographical style about the life of Christ, but John did it by selecting things from various parts of Jesus’ life and ministry to demonstrate the subjects he wanted to present. But most importantly, II Timothy 3:16,17 tell us that the true writer was God the Holy Spirit. That passage tells us that the Holy Spirit “breathed out” into the minds of the writers the truths that He wanted to present. This doctrine is known as “the doctrine of inspiration.” It says that the authors wrote in their own styles and vocabularies, superintended by the Spirit.
This was the last of the gospels to be written – probably 85 to 90 A.D. During the last part of the first century their individual books were gathered up and put together as part of the New Testament. Later other books were added, the various letters that Paul wrote, and another one written by James, the earthly brother of Jesus. John later wrote 3 letters to his disciples. Another letter written by Jude, whom most scholars agree was another of Jesus’ earthly brothers. Finally, the last book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, which focuses on “the end times” just before the return of Christ. During the closing years of the first century several “councils” of leading Christians met to decide on which books were “inspired” by the Holy Spirit, using several standards of authenticity.
So the reason for the book was to give an authoritative statement by an eyewitness that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. This is succinctly stated in some of the last verses in the book, chapter 20:30,31:
These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through his name.
And it is demonstrated in John’s unique quotations of Jesus Himself, saying that He was the Son of God. The primary name of God in the Old Testament was “I AM, which is the Hebrew equivalent of “the self existent one.” I think it is probably safe to say that any adult in Israel would recognize those two words as speaking of God. Interestingly enough, Jesus used this term frequently when He spoke of Himself. For example, In John 6:35 He said, “I AM the bread of life.” In that instance He was using the term “bread” as a euphemism for “food – the thing that makes life satisfactory. Then chapter 8, verse 12 He said, “I AM the light of the world.” In the opening chapters of this gospel John demonstrated that Jesus was the one who “shed light” on all the mysteries of life. In chapter 10, verse 9 He said, “I AM the door” – He is the passageway into a more meaningful life. Those who have a sense of lack, a longing for more meaningful life need to hear these words. Then in John chapter 10, verse 11 He said, “I Am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. He is the only one properly equipped to steer an individual through life, as Psalm 23 demonstrates. In John 11:25 He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Resurrection demonstrates absolute power over life. And Jesus uses it here to show that His power can work when all else has failed. In chapter 14, verse 6, He said “I Am the way, the truth and the life. He is the ultimate source of everything. In chapter 15, verse 5 He said the same thing: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Another important thing to know about this book is something about the writer of the book. It was written by John, one of the closest disciples to Jesus. He was included with Peter and James in the transfiguration experience in Matthew 17) in which for a brief time Jesus took His glorified heavenly body upon Himself, and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He and John were the only ones who were entrusted with the “secret mission of preparing the last Passover supper before His death. He was the one to whom Jesus committed the care of His mother at the end of His life.
John was a quiet man, unlike Peter for example. Peter is always presented as doing the talking, while John rarely says anything. This may be why John had the insight later to refer to himself repeatedly as “the disciple loved,” and to record the deeper truths presented in this gospel. Some have questioned John’s references to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. But it wasn’t really that Jesus loved John more than any of the other disciples, but John as he kept things in his heart and thought about them later had insight into them later.
We can piece together a few things about John’s personal history from various other mentions in the New Testament: He was from a family of at least four; his older brother, James (considered to be the older because he is usually mentioned first). Luke in his gospel seems to indicate that His father, Zebedee, was a fisherman, and Mark in his, seem to indicate that Peter and James were partners in that business. And his mother’s name was Salome (mentioned in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40.) She became an ardent believer in Christ, as demonstrated by the fact that she was one of the few followers of Christ who followed Him all the way to the cross. There are hints here and there that John’s family were well to do. Mark 1:20 speaks of Zebedee’s “hired servants.” And Mark 15:40 and 41 indicate with Luke 8:3 as one of the women who women who “ministered to Jesus with their resources.” John 19:27 says that John had a house of his own to which he took Jesus’ mother, Mary after the crucifixion.
John apparently outlived all of the other disciples and died in extreme old age. The first eight chapters of Acts indicate that he ministered with Peter in the early years after the ascension of Christ. After that he seems to disappear from the history of the early church, except that he is mentioned by Paul in Galatians 2:9 as one of the “pillars of the church” who officially approved of Paul’s work among the Gentiles. There is no record of when or why he left Jerusalem, but in the opening verses of the book of Revelation he is seen in exile on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea “for the testimony of Jesus Christ. The Bible doesn’t mention it, but church history says that he spent the last years of his life pastoring in Ephesus and that he died there. So here is a man whose entire adult life was spent in faithfully serving Jesus Christ in various capacities.
Having seen The reason for the book and the writer of the book, let’s think now about the arrangement of the book.
It is difficult to give an outline of the book. As mentioned above, Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote biographical books. John wrote to stress His “deity. “And he did that by selecting things from various parts of Jesus’ life and ministry to demonstrate the subjects that He wanted to convey.
First of all, in chapter 1 verses 1 through18, we have the introduction of the Son of God. His identity is in verses 1 through 5; His introduction is in verses 6 through 8; His reception is in verses 9 through 13 and His reality is in verses 14 through 18.
The third section of the book is the Instructions of the Son of God in chapter 13 verse 1 through 17:26
This section records the various teaching situations in which Jesus was, and the results, positive and negative.
The fourth section of the book the is The rejection of the son of God in chapters 18 and 19
The fifth section of the book is The resurrection of the Son of God in chapter 20.