The Gospel of John - Background
The Gospel of John is different from the other three gospels. Over 90% of this book is unique to this gospel. John doesn’t include a genealogy or record of Jesus’ birth, anything about His childhood, temptation, transfiguration, His parables, ascension or Great Commission!
This book was written so that we could have clear evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing in Him we may have eternal life.
John 20: 30-31 says Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John used the word signs for miracles. Every miracle John selected is a sign that points to eternal truths. The word appears 20 times in this book. The word “believe” appears 80. And “life” as in eternal life, appears 50 times. Why does he stress these three words? Because eternal life comes only through belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the signs reveal.
Faith in Christ is the only way to live life to the full as God intends for people to live. The responsibility to believe and receive life is ours. Belief is not simply intellectual knowledge – it means to commit, deliberately and personally, not only to a set of facts, but to a living person. Jesus Christ, Son of God, equal TO God, is in Heaven right now in his resurrected and glorified body, as real as any of us here!
No other writer reveals Jesus as intimately as John. While there are things John doesn’t cover, there are many things in this Gospel which aren’t in the other three. While all four Gospels focus on the cross and resurrection, John, writing 20 to 30 years later gave special emphasis on what Jesus meant. And he particularly emphasized the relationship between Jesus and His Father.
He wanted to show the divinity of Jesus. We see His power over everything created and we see His love for people.
Also this is the only Gospel that states its purpose.
Gospel means “good news.” Which is kind of an understatement, isn’t it? Some people say it’s the good news that answers the bad news that we’ve all sinned and are therefore separate from God. The Gospel is the life-changing power of God that brings salvation and eternal life to all who believe.
After Jesus returned to Heaven, the apostles preached the Gospel. In a unique way the Holy Spirit brought Christ’s words to their minds. Later they wrote God’s truth. As the church grew, spreading far from Jerusalem, the apostles recorded the four accounts to circulate among the churches. 60 years may have passed between the cross and John’s writing of this book, but they only served to deepen John’s insight.
By the year A.D. 100, the New Testament had all the books in it we have today. In the early 20th century, some doubted so early a date for John’s Gospel. However in 1935, the discovery of a fragment of John 18 proved the Gospel was already widely distributed soon after A.D. 100.
A little bit about John:
John and his older brother, James, were Peter’s partners in the fishing trade in Galilee, in northern Israel. Their father Zebedee was a prosperous fisherman. Their mother Salome also followed Jesus when they did. John’s family also had connections to the wealthy and influential high priest.
John was a disciple of John the Baptist, but when John the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God John immediately turned and followed Jesus. And his life was never the same! Later, he, James and Peter became Jesus’ inner circle.
On the cross Jesus entrusted His mother, Mary, to John to take care of. John shepherded churches in Ephesus, where he wrote this Gospel as well as three New Testament letters.
He had some flaws – because of his fiery nature, Jesus called he and James ‘sons of thunder.” But his close proximity to Jesus transformed him into the apostle of love. By the time he wrote Revelation he was very humble. “A servant of God.”
Jesus transforms those who follow Him.
So we should read the Gospel of John not for information, but for transformation. God isn’t impressed that we memorized the great commission if we never share the Gospel. And He’s not impressed that we know what the Golden Rule is if we don’t help people.
Do we live like we believe the Bible? Jesus gives us an invitation to salvation, eternity and abundant life. And we can be secure in Him! He promises us unity with God!