For weeks, I have struggled to write this introduction. Most of my adult life, I did not really appreciate the gospel of John but with age and experience, things change. That is why I have struggled to write this introduction. It is almost impossible to write something brief enough to be a short article and do justice to the magnitude of this great book. The gospel of John soars to the highest peaks in the teachings of the New Testament. From antiquity, it was known as “the spiritual gospel” because of its focus.
Written by the apostle John, the beloved disciple, at the culmination of a life of growth and ministry for Jesus. Being so close to Jesus, John is able to penetrate the depths of Jesus’ personality, identity, and teachings like no other gospel could. From his great prologue to the exciting epilogue; John’s words have been considered and contemplated by the best minds this world has to offer.
John’s gospel is organized into two principal sections and is framed by the prologue (John 1:1-18) and the epilogue (John 21:1-25). The prologue introduces the incarnation of the preexistent Word and sets the stage for all that follows. The epilogue wraps up some loose ends concerning John and Peter and helps us see that no matter what path we walk, our only obligation is to follow Jesus.
The first section is called “The Book of Signs” (John 1:19-12:50) and describes how Jesus appears within Judaism and ultimately replaced its most cherished institutions (the temple, the priests, and the festivals). The second section is called “The Book of Glory” (John 13:1-20:31) because Jesus takes aside his followers, washes their feet, and repeatedly explains to them who he is and what will happen in Jerusalem. Yet, John emphasizes that this is no accident or tragedy but a time when his glory will shine brightly for all to see.
The idea of “faith” has featured prominently throughout the gospel. From John, the Baptist’s statement that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world, to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in chapter 3, verse 16; believing in Jesus has been put forth as the most important purpose for the book. John wanted every person who read this great book to come to saving faith in Jesus. Even the purpose statement of John 20:30-31, which wraps up nicely John’s stated purpose, is meant to instill faith in his readers.
One other purpose stands out clearly from the gospel of John and that is the people of God. Those who believe in Jesus and follow him are recipients of Jesus’ gifts and have been made into a new community that has stepped out of the darkness of the world into a refuge for all who trust in Jesus. In this new community, Jesus is the Great Shepherd (John 10) and we are his flock. He is “Vine” and we are his branches (John 15). This community is a place of love, mercy, obedience, faithfulness, and worship. A community where love is the greatest command (John 13:34-35) and everyone is considered your neighbor.
The gospel of John is a magnificent book that cannot be read too often or learned too deeply. The more you plumb its depths, the greater your love for Jesus, the Father, and your fellow man will grow. Let me encourage you to read it and read it often.