An introduction to John’s Gospel.
There was a time when I didn’t appreciate the Gospel of John as much as say, Matthew, but that has changed. All the gospels are unique and that’s part of the beauty, but John just seemed, well, odd. John presents Jesus in beautifully articulate words and ideas that require more effort. The gospel of John soars to the highest peaks in 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 penetrates the depths of Jesus’ personality, identity, and teachings like no one else. From his great prologue to the exciting epilogue; John’s words are 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 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 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” features 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; faith 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 of the great purposes of John’s gospel is how he presents the people of God. They are the recipients of God’s gifts and make up a new community that will be a refuge for the faithful. A place where faith and love become the marks of true discipleship.
The gospel of John is a magnificent book that cannot be read too often or 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.