The Gospel of John is unique among the other gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The “synoptic” gospels each see things the same way as the other two. They are different in many ways but all follow the same path. They see the birth, life, work, death, and resurrection from about the same angle. John is presented in contrast to the first three gospels. There are a few reasons why this is true.
First, a bit about John the human author. John had a very close relationship with Jesus and is referred to in the gospel he wrote five times as “the disciple Jesus loved”. John, was the son of Zebedee, and a disciple and apostle of Jesus. (Most scholars agree that John was the youngest of the disciples.) John could write confidently as an “eyewitness” of the person and work of Jesus. For example, in 1 John which he also wrote he said this.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you… 1 John 1-3a
The apostle John had person knowledge of much of what he wrote, especially in John, and 1,2 and 3rd John. Of course, he as all other human writers of Scripture, were inspired by the God the Holy Spirit.
Not only was John a confidant and close associate, as well as an eyewitness to much he wrote about, he was the oldest of the gospel writers by far. Now old age can be both a blessing and a curse but most people agree that many years of observation and personal experience make one more knowledgeable and more wise. John was possibly 90 to 95 years old when he penned the gospel of John about 95 ad. For many years, perhaps as many as 30 years, John lived and labored in the city of Ephesus. John was an apostle and elder statesman in the Christian community in that great city of about 250,000 people.
In addition to having lived and worked in gospel ministry for perhaps 60 years since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, John had almost certainly been able to read the other gospel writers, the epistles of Paul, Peter, and the writings of others. Of course we know that Paul was instrumental in planting the church in Ephesus. He along with Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, and young Timothy and I assume many others unnamed had made a huge dent in the godless culture of this thriving Asian city. I am very convinced that John had read over and over again Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. So, John had years of doctrine and theology to think about and to study that the earlier gospel writers did not. Maybe this is at least part of the reason the gospel of John is often referred to as the “spiritual gospel”, or as I referred to it, “the gospel of grace”.
Matthew’s perspective of Jesus is mainly to the Jews and presents Jesus as Messiah, King of the Jews. His focus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
Mark’s picture of Jesus is that of the obedient Servant of God. His focus was on what Jesus did.
Dr. Luke gave yet another view of Jesus as Son of Man. Luke focused on the humanity of Jesus, what he felt.
King, Servant, Son of Man. Then comes the Gospel of John, Jesus Son of God. John emphasized the deity of Jesus and his focus was on the spiritual side of Jesus. From these four gospel writers we get a full view of the Christ who alone is the arbiter of eternal life and judgment.
One of the reasons I love the Gospel of John is that it is so packed with doctrine and theology. For some reason that escapes me, many preachers today turn up their noses at theology as if there is something inherently wrong about the discipline. The word is comprised of two words, “theo” (or “theos”) which means God in Greek and “ology” which means study. I don’t see any danger in studying about God. And, it is quite clear that followers of Jesus are to give attention to doctrine. I don’t hear many sermons on the great doctrines of the Bible these days but they would be helpful.
I’ll close this post with two observations from the text of John.
They key verse of the Gospel of John is chapter 1 verse 14.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The purpose of the book is unambiguous and very clear and concise. In chapter 20 verse 31.
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
I love the book of John, I really love it! I can’t think of a better place to resurrect this blog than to study and then write my thoughts on this important gospel book. I hope I don’t get distracted. Two jobs and other things that compete for my time are obstacles that I must manage to get where I want to be.
Your comments, encouragement, and yes, even your correction will be graciously received.