Understanding the Gospel of John
- Wednesday, April 14, 2004
About the Biblical Text
For many readers, both ancient and modern, John is the “spiritual gospel,” signaled by the initial emphasis on Jesus as the one who descends from God at the beginning of the account and returns to God at the end.
The first half of the gospel consists of lively and well-crafted dialogues between Jesus and individuals, such as the Samaritan Woman; Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night; and the blind man, all of whom do not appear in other gospels.
It stands apart from Matthew, Mark and Luke in that when it records the same events, as in the case of the “cleansing of the temple,” the incident appears at a dramatically different moment chronologically. It includes long discourses by Jesus, whereas the other gospels tend to have Jesus speaking in short statements or parables. It weaves Jesus’ ministry around seven “signs” or miracles: the changing of water to wine; healing the nobleman’s son; healing the lame man; walking on water; feeding the 5000; healing the blind man; and raising Lazarus. Unlike Matthew, Mark and Luke, it records no exorcisms.
In these same gospels, Jesus goes only once to Jerusalem, implying a one-year ministry. In The Gospel of John, Jesus makes a number of visits spread over a three-year ministry. He is recognized from the beginning as the Messiah in John, while in the other three gospels, that recognition comes slowly.
The Gospel of John is the only gospel that explicitly mentions why it was written. Toward the end, the author states that the purpose is to show that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” John’s gospel uses stylish literary techniques to communicate this conviction, making a limited range of points repeatedly, so that the gospel can be appreciated at a variety of levels. The author does not hesitate to use dramatic and emotional moments to drive home his core messages.
Perhaps what impresses most about The Gospel of John is its breathtaking sweep, which bridges from “before the world was created” to future generations who will “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer
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