Intro: The Gospel According to John (from Sunday, 10/19/08)
(For those just joining us, every we I post the notes from our Sunday School lessons with the youth group. Click “youth studies” to view past entries or to catch up with the current series.)
e have been away from the Word for several weeks, for the sake of understanding key aspects of the Gospel: what it is, and why people reject it. As such, we have looked at the way we should think about the Gospel in our world. Last week, we looked at the way we should hear and do the Word. As such, our experience with the Gospel is not just one of hearing, but also one of doing.
So, what of the Gospel of John? We will be starting the Gospel next Sunday, but today, we will get a bird’s-eye view of the Gospel. That is, we will look at a summary of the book as well as taking time to introduce John himself.
There are Four Gospels!
You’ve noticed there are four Gospels kicking off the New Testament. Why is this? First, we should notice that no Gospel is written to be a biography. A biography gets into the lives and events of people in a way the Gospels do not.
Of course, we do know the what and when of many of the major events of the life of Christ and His disciples. However, we know these things only by meticulously piecing together the events from all Four Gospels like a puzzle. Some Gospels leave out entire events, while simultaneously providing unique insight others do not. This makes it difficult for the individual trying to gather biographical data.
What is the purpose behind four individuals writing on the same person (Jesus Christ) while including and excluding key events and discussions seemingly on a whim? They do this to provide a unique perspective on the person and events. They also do this to suit their writings to their respective audiences.
What Makes John Unique?
Well, first, to be honest, it’s my favorite Gospel, which is one of the main reasons we are going through it. It is more mystical (Origen called it the “Spiritual Gospel”), which is something I enjoy, but it is also easier to understand—a good combination. Someone once said John’s Gospel is “shallow enough for a child to wade in, and deep enough for an elephant to bathe in.”
Second, John writes to a different world, which naturally gives his writing a unique flavor. The other disciples have departed to glory—they died years earlier, leaving John to be the sole apostle to whom the church could turn. The temple is gone (AD 70), and since the previous decades saw many more Gentile converts than Jewish, the church was already losing its “Jewishness.” In addition, many of the early church fathers are already on the scene (Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Papias, and Polycarp), some of whom were John’s personal disciples.
Third, while the other Gospels focus more on the area surrounding Galilee, John turns more to the south in the area of Judea.
Fourth, John gives us vital biographic information. For instance, it is John who reveals Jesus made many trips to Jerusalem and ate three Passovers with his disciples. We would expect Jesus to be in Jerusalem every year, but the other three Gospels only mention His final visit.
Fifth, though it is not unique that John’s Gospel is very Jewish in tone (Matthew takes the cake on “Jewishness”), it is strange that such a Jewish Gospel would only one reference to the kingdom (John 3).
Sixth, John contains more of the long discourses of Jesus with more interpretation than the other Gospel writers.
Seventh, John is more repetitive. John is all about believing in Jesus, and everything he records somehow comes back to that. Another John, John Piper, uses the illustration of a bee buzzing around a flower to describe this Gospel—the bee views the flower from this direction and that, but there is only one flower.
that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God,
and that by believing
you may have life in his name.
While the book of Mark uses the term “Son of God” more than John, John wants you to believe Jesus is divine as well as the Messiah.
Signs and Speeches
There are several signs Jesus gives, and every one of them tie into a message Jesus has for us:
John, the Jewish Theologian
John was simply a fisherman (21:7). By the way, isn’t it interesting how Jesus takes simple things and makes a lesson out of them? John was a fisherman, and Jesus said, “Now let me show you how to fish for men.” His time with Christ definitely changed him, though, so much that the early church would refer to him as “the theologian.”
John was also a “son of thunder” in his youth (Mk 3:17). People made him mad, and he was the kind of person who wanted to call down fire on the heathen. However, his time with the Savior changed him, as did years of service, which is how get the pastoral and grandfatherly man who is writing this Gospel.
Interestingly, he records his designation in the story as simply “the beloved Disciple.” He never mentions his name in the book. We know it’s him, however, because his is the only name missing from the list of disciples, replaced with someone “whom Jesus loved” (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He was (presumably) the only disciple at the cross, and becomes the guardian of Mary (19:26-27).
He was the one who leaned on the breast (shoulder or chest) of Christ. There is a great lesson for us, there: John was at the place of greatest honor, for he is able to lean back on Jesus’ breast. The person of second greatest honor was Judas, who could dip in the same bowl as Christ. Of course, Judas being on the other side of Christ gave Judas what he wanted… not Jesus’ breast, but His ear. S. Lewis Johnson pointed out that we need to be like John—figuratively, we need to lean on Jesus.
Sunday, we will look at the opening verses of John. Read John 1 in preparation.
Until then, God bless!