The Gospel of John encapsulates much of Christian doctrine and Christology, for it teaches and shows us Who Jesus Christ is and how to get saved. It is an excellent place for an unsaved person to start reading to learn about God and His plan of salvation through faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), and for a babe in Christ to start studying the Bible.
Yet John is full of deeply profound truth for even the most mature believer. An anonymous commentator has described the Book of John as being like “a pool of water, so shallow at the edges that a child could wade, and yet so deep at the center that an elephant could swim.” It is easy to understand at the surface, but with a depth that Bible scholars who have spent their entire lives studying it have not fully exhausted.
The specific purpose of the Gospel of John is that the reader might believe, be born again (John 3:3-8), and have saving faith giving eternal life (John 3:16), as we see when the resurrected Christ encounters doubting Thomas, one of His apostles:
John 20: 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
The book of John was written by the apostle John, often referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). It is therefore a deeply personal, intimate portrayal of Jesus. John was part of Jesus’ inner circle, along with Peter and James, who were the only three to witness the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2) and various miracles Christ performed.
John was the only apostle who stayed by Christ’s side during the crucifixion; the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother Mary (John 19:26); and with Peter, one of the first men to witness the empty tomb (John 20:1-10).
John and his brother James, also an apostle, were called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John wrote five books of the New Testament: the Gospel of John; letters I John, II John, and III John, and the book of Revelation. Historic writers say that John lived longest of all the twelve apostles and was the only one who died a natural death, whereas the others were martyred.
The Gospel of John is probably the last of the four Gospels to be written, likely between AD 85-90, before John’s exile to the Island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels, focusing on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and on what He taught and what He did, or concrete, physical, bodily things. In contrast, John highlights what Jesus said and did in Jerusalem, but more importantly, on Who He is, or spiritual doctrines.
Events in Jesus’ ministry included in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but omitted by John are Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation in the wilderness, confrontations with demons, teaching in parables, the Last Supper, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, and His Ascension into Heaven.
And yet, in keeping with John’s emphasis on theology, his Gospel gives the clearest presentations of the Trinity, not only among the Gospels but throughout the New Testament (John 14:9-20; 15:26; 16:10-28; 17). Jesus Christ the Son is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6), and He promised to send the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, to those who believed in Him (John 14:16).
The Book of John proves that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God (John 1:34, etc.) but God Himself. It contains seven “I AM” statements, referencing the Name of God as “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In other words, He is self-existent, not a created being, God Himself, ever present from the beginning (John 1:1).
The “I AM” declarations in John identify Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Light of the world (8:12), the Door of the sheep (10:7), the Good Shepherd (10:11), the Resurrection and the Life (11:12), the Way, Truth and Life (14:6), and the True Vine (15:1). He is also “One that bear witness of Myself” (8:18).
Each of the Gospels emphasizes a different origin of Jesus. Matthew, written primarily to Jews, portrays Him as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, and gives His lineage from Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1-17). This genealogy is necessary to prove Jesus’ origin from Abraham’s seed, in whom all nations are blessed (Genesis 17; Acts 3:25), and His legal entitlement to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 16:5).
Mark depicts Jesus as the humble Servant from Nazareth (Mark 1:9), and Luke reveals Him to be the Perfect Man and Son of Man (Luke 5:24, etc.), descended from the first man Adam (Luke 3:23-38).Yet John identifies Jesus Christ as God Himself, Son of God (John 1:34, etc.), and Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), from Heaven.
“Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon wrote: “John is the majestic evangelist. He is the high-soaring eagle with piercing eyes. His is the Gospel of the Son of God. We cannot describe the deity of Christ in clearer language than John uses. He was with God. He was God. He did the works of God, for He was the Creator.”
© 2022 Laurie Collett