John was writing his eye-witness account of Jesus some thirty years later than the other three accounts, possibly around 95AD. There had been time for growth, reflection and observation. Many thousands of christians had by then lost their lives for their faith in the Lord Jesus, both in Rome and in Jerusalem. John himself had been in prison and was now in exile, the last of Jesus' twelve apostles to remain alive.
John's account is therefore characteristically different, spending more time on details of conversations, looking in depth at a few selected encounters of people with the Lord Jesus. John uses these episodes as 'signs': to show Jesus' power as the Son of God and to point people to the truth and reality of His claims, rather than seeking to put forward a theological argument so that everything can be neatly tied together and boxed!
For example, John records Jesus saying "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no-one can come to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). The claim is easy to understand. John offers no explanation; he simply records the conversational details of how Philip wrestled with trying to work out what Jesus meant.
Because all the terms Jesus uses are easy to understand, a trusting person can easily believe in Him from John's gospel, and millions have done. However, people who are not particularly believing usually find themselves getting tied up in knots far quicker in John's gospel than in the other three gospels.
For the believer, John's gospel brings ever deeper appreciation of who Jesus Christ is, and of how we can know and experience Him today. Leon Morris says in his Commentary on John: "John is like a pool, in which a child may wade and an elephant may swim. It is most simple and profound; it is for the beginner in the faith and for the mature christian. Its appeal is immediate and never-failing."
Only in the last couple of years have I come to realise that the Tabernacle, the Offerings, the Priesthood and the Feasts in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are alluded to in a non-intellectual, but very real, way throughout John's writings.
In John's gospel, Jesus is firstly presented as the Word, Who is God, in Whom is life, Who then became flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us (John 1:1,4,14). Regarding the Tabernacle:
There are several other conversations, with Nicodemus in chapter 3, with the paralyzed man in chapter 5, with a woman caught in an act of adultery in chapter 8 (the man got away, but did not meet Jesus), and with the man born blind whom Jesus healed in chapter 9.
In His love for people, Jesus was not soft on the real issues. He said "Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. ... If the Son (Jesus) sets you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:34,36).
John's account includes not only the conversations and the miracles, but also several discourses where Jesus speaks of His relationship with 'the Father'. God is referred to as 'the Father' more than 100 times in John's account. Similarly, Jesus often refers to Himself as the Son, both the Son of God and the Son of Man (for example, John 3:14-18). John simply states the discourse, without offering any explanation. For example, in John 5:17, Jesus has healed a sick man on the Sabbath and then declares "My Father is working until now, and I am working." This provokes a furious reaction: "Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18).
Likewise, in chapter 10:30, Jesus says "I and the Father are one". Again, the reaction was to pick up stones to stone Him, but Jesus answers "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of these works do you stone Me?" The Jews answered Him, saying "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, because You, being a man, make Yourself God" (John 10:31-33).
Jesus turns water into wine, He feeds 5,000 from five loaves and two fish, He heals the blind, the sick and the paralyzed, and He raises Lazarus from the dead. All these miracles are called 'signs' in John's gospel. The signs performed by Jesus clearly show He is the Messiah and that He comes from God, for example when Jesus heals the blind man (John 9:3-4,14,30-33 Isaiah 42:1,7). But following the signs, Jesus speaks to reveal His sonship, for example, saying to the blind man He has just healed: "Do you believe in the Son of God? ... He is the One who is speaking with you" (John 9:35,37).
The phraseology of the blind man's answer and his instinctive reaction to worship the Lord Jesus both indicate the divine status of Jesus. As declared in Psalm 146:8, it is the Lord God (Jehovah) who opens the eyes of the blind; this is why Jesus says "We must work the works of Him who sent Me" in John 9:4. God the Father sent Jesus the Son to do the works of God the Father. But as the Son and the Father are one (John 10:30; 5:17-19), they both work in co-operation, in oneness, as one; therefore Jesus says "We" must work.
Throughout John's record, Jesus displays His Person by saying "I am ...", for example "I am the living bread Who came down from heaven" (John 6:51). This phrase "I am" is a direct reference to the name of the Lord God (Jehovah), used throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, Jesus boldly declares to those who accuse Him of having a demon: "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God in human form. As God, and as the Son of God (BOTH), He receives honour and worship (John 5:23; 9:38; 20:28).
Eventually, the signs pointing to Jesus' Person are working so well that the religious leaders plot not only to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whom Jesus has raised from the dead (John 12:10-11).
Jesus shares the last supper with the disciples and washes their feet, a further sign: that He is both priest and offering in the Passover.
He prays, is betrayed, arrested and tried. Peter denies Him. Jesus is sentenced to death by crucifixion, even though Pilate declares "I find no fault in Him (John 19:6). The Passover Lamb has been examined and is found to be without blemish (Exodus 12:5).
On the cross, Jesus cries out "It is finished" (John 19:30) as He completes the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Romans pierce His side with a spear, rather than break His legs, so that two further signs are fulfilled: the Passover Lamb should not have a single bone broken (Exodus 12:46 Psalm 34:20) and "They shall gaze on Him whom they pierced" (Zechariah 12:10). He is taken for burial in a new, clean tomb and wrapped in linen cloth, in fulfillment of the Unleavened Bread in the Passover meal.
On the third day, He is the Resurrection and the Life, breathing Himself (by the Holy Spirit, John 20:22) into His disciples, coming INTO them that they may have life (John 10:10) and that He and the Father may dwell IN the disciples (John 14:20,23), to become the fulfillment of the Father's house with many dwelling places (John 14:1).
Thomas, often called doubting Thomas, was not present when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the disciples. He does not believe: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). Eight days later, for Thomas' benefit, Jesus appears to all the disciples, entering the room bodily through locked doors. He beckons Thomas "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answers "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:26-29).
"Truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) the Son of God, and that believing you may have (eternal) life in His name" (John 20:31).
Time and again in John's gospel Jesus says to people "Believe in Me", or more literally, "Believe INTO Me"; this is made clearer by considering the Tabernacle. The writing is simple enough, but there are depths beyond depths in the understanding and experience of Jesus Christ that John portrays in his gospel account.
"God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in(to) Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Page authored by Martyn Barrow.