What would your life look like if you deliberately set aside time each day to spend with God?’
Join us as we spend the next 21 days reading the book of John! 21 chapters about Jesus in 21 days! It’s going to be a great journey with lots of discovery, insight and fun.
When you sign up, you will receive an email with “John” in the subject line for the next 21 days. (You can also check FB or this BLOG each day too) Each day’s email will contain expanded thoughts, some background, and commentary for each chapter in John. Also each day’s email will also serve as an encouragement as I will be praying for you. Your life will change after 21 days in God’s word.
For those who like to read introductions this next section is for you. Here is general overview of the book of John. Although it was written in the past be sure to see the sections, “Importance for Today”
He spoke, and galaxies whirled into place. He spoke again, and the waters and lands were filled with plants and creatures. Again he spoke, and man and woman were formed, thinking, speaking, and loving—words of personal and creative glory. Eternal, infinite, unlimited—he was, is, and always will be the Maker and Lord of all that exists.
And then he came in the flesh to a tiny spot in the universe called planet Earth—the mighty Creator becoming part of his creation, limited by time and space and susceptible to age, sickness, and death. Propelled by love, he came to rescue and save, offering forgiveness and life.
He is the Word: he is Jesus Christ.
It is this truth that the apostle John presents in this book. John’s Gospel is not a life of Christ; it is a powerful argument for the incarnation, a conclusive demonstration that Jesus was, and is, the very heaven-sent Son of God and the only source of eternal life.
John the Apostle, son of Zebedee and Salome, and younger brother of James.
Thunder evokes fear and images of a pending storm. We would expect someone nicknamed Son of Thunder to be powerful, loud, and unpredictable. That’s what Jesus named two of his disciples—Zebedee’s sons, James and John (Mark 3:17)—for he knew their tendency to explode. Sure enough, when Jesus and the Twelve were rebuffed by a Samaritan village, these rough fishermen suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy the whole village (Luke 9:52-56). Just before that incident, John had told Jesus that he had tried to stop a man from driving out demons because he was not a disciple. Jesus had explained that he didn’t have an exclusive club (Luke 9:49-50).
In addition to being forceful and angry, James and John also seem to have been quite self-centered. They requested seats of honor and power in the Kingdom. When the other disciples heard about what James and John had said, they became indignant (Mark 10:35-44). Yet Jesus also saw potential in these thundering brothers—he knew what they would become. So Jesus brought both, with Peter, into his inner circle, allowing them to see him transfigured on the mountain (Mark 9:2-13). And as Jesus was dying on the cross, he entrusted Mary, his mother, to John’s care (John 19:26-27).
John was following in his father Zebedee’s footsteps as a fisherman when Jesus called him (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19-20). His mother was Salome (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40). His brother, James, was also one of the Twelve and the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2). They fished on the Sea of Galilee with Peter and Andrew.
One might predict that someone with a personality like John’s would self-destruct. Certainly this person would die in a fight or in a clash with the Roman government. At the very least, he would be discarded by the church as self-seeking and power-hungry. But such was not the case. Instead, John was transformed into someone who was strong but gentle, straightforward but loving, courageous but humble. There is no dramatic event to account for John’s transformation—it must have come from being with Jesus, being accepted, loved, and affirmed by the Lord, and then being filled with the Holy Spirit. So overwhelmed was John by Jesus that he did not mention himself by name in the Gospel that bears his name. Instead, he wrote of himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20, 24). What a humble change for one who, at first, had wanted power and recognition.
John stands as a great example of Christ’s power to transform lives. Christ can change anyone—no one is beyond hope. Jesus accepted John as he was, a Son of Thunder, and changed him into what he would become, the apostle of love.
Date and Setting:
Written between a.d. 85–90 from Ephesus, after the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) and before John’s exile to the island of Patmos
The Gospel of John contains no references concerning where it was written. But according to the earliest traditions of the church, John wrote his Gospel from Ephesus.
We don’t know how old John was when Jesus called him. But assuming that John was a little younger than Jesus, John would have been in his eighties when writing this Gospel, which was quite old for a time when the life expectancy was much shorter. And considering the fact that all the other apostles had died as martyrs, John was indeed the church’s elder statesman. We can imagine him teaching and counseling the Christians in this well-established church, as well as doing some writing.
New believers and searching non-believers
John does not reveal his audience directly, but several characteristics of the book provide insight into the people he was trying to reach.
- The Gospel of John differs greatly from the other three Gospels in content and approach. Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) present much historical data with few explanations or interpretations. John, however, selected key events and took time to explain and apply them. In addition, John chose to write about a few important, miraculous signs (20:30-31) in order to give a clear picture of the person of Christ.
- John illustrates the tension between faith and unbelief and emphasizes the importance of responding to Christ. He states this fact at the very beginning and carries it throughout the book (1:12).
- John uses simple vocabulary but chooses special words and loads them with meaning—for example, word, truth, light, darkness, life, and love.
- John repeats four main points: the true identity of Jesus, the necessity of responding to Christ in faith, the gift of eternal life, and the church’s mission to the world.
John presents the evidence for Jesus as the God-man and the Savior of the world, and he challenges readers to follow his Lord. So we can conclude that John wrote to unbelieving Asian Jews and Gentiles.
But John also wrote to Christians, to help strengthen their faith. John was the last surviving apostle and one of the few still living who had seen Jesus in the flesh. It would be easy for young believers—removed from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by a generation and surrounded by a hostile government and unbelieving neighbors—to have doubts and second thoughts about their faith. Remember, this is the late eighties, after the terrible persecutions by Nero (a.d. 54–68) and the total destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70). The church had flourished under persecution, but believers needed reassurance of the truth of Christianity. John, the venerable eyewitness to all that Jesus had done and faithful follower of his Lord, would give that assurance through his personal account of the gospel story.
Occasion and Purpose:
John gives a clear and straightforward statement of his purpose for writing this book: “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life” (20:31). To achieve this purpose, John shows, throughout the Gospel, that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ, the Son of God, the prophesied one, and the only source of salvation. This is the dominant theme of the entire book.
The Gospel of John was written to convince those who had not seen Jesus to believe in him, to help believers deepen their faith, and to convince unbelievers to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. In addition, John had several other emphases worth noting. John showed that the Jewish leaders were completely wrong in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. John continues this emphasis throughout the book. John also emphasized that Jesus is much greater than John the Baptist. It may be that some followers of John the Baptist were still claiming that he was more important than Jesus. Whatever the reason, John declared the preeminence of Christ and John the Baptist’s special role in preparing the way for him (see 1:6-8, 15-18, 19-27, 35-38; 3:25-30).
John focused on the deity and humanity of Jesus. It is possible that he did this to confront a heresy promoting the false notion that Jesus only seemed to be living a human life—that he was not fully human. John also mentioned Jesus’ family ties (2:12; 7:3-5), stated that Jesus became tired (4:6), and showed that Jesus really died on the cross (19:33-34). John clearly presented Jesus as the God-man. John also described the work of the Holy Spirit, assuring believers of the presence of the risen Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians have Christ with them; they don’t have to face life alone. John spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit more than any other Gospel writer.
John reminded the believers that unbelief and opposition to God and his plans do not surprise God or thwart his purposes. This includes the betrayal by Judas (foretold by prophets and known by Jesus—6:64; 13:18; Psalm 41:9), the death of Jesus on the cross (a necessary part of God’s salvation plan—3:14-18), and the rejection of Christ by unbelievers (1:10-11). Although conflicts are inevitable, God is sovereign and in control, and his goals will be accomplished.
Because of John’s special purpose for writing this book, he described many incidents in the life of Christ that are not recorded in the other Gospels. These events include: John the Baptist declaring Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus turning water into wine, Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night, Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus healing a government official’s son, Jesus healing a lame man by the pool, Jesus’ brothers ridiculing him, Jesus healing the man who was born blind, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus teaching about the Holy Spirit, Jesus teaching about the vine and the branches, and Jesus appearing to Thomas and reinstating Peter after his resurrection.
John discloses Jesus’ identity with his very first words, “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2); and the rest of the book continues the theme. John, the eyewitness, chose nine of Jesus’ miracles (or miraculous signs, as he calls them) to reveal his divine/human nature and his life-giving mission. These signs are (1) turning water to wine (2:1-11); (2) healing the official’s son (4:46-54); (3) healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-9); (4) feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fish (6:1-14); (5) walking on the water (6:15-21); (6) restoring sight to the blind man (9:1-41); (7) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); (8) Jesus’ own resurrection (20:1-29), and, after the Resurrection; (9) giving the disciples an overwhelming catch of fish (21:1-14).
In every chapter Jesus’ deity is revealed. And Jesus’ true identity is underscored through the titles he is given—the Word, the only Son, Lamb of God, Son of God, true bread, life, resurrection, vine. And the formula is “I am.” When Jesus uses this phrase, he affirms his preexistence and eternal deity. Jesus says, I am the bread of life (6:35); I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5); I am the gate (10:7); I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14); I am the resurrection and the life (11:25); I am the way, and the truth, and the life (14:6); and I am the true vine (15:1).
The main themes in the Gospel of John include: Jesus Christ, Son of God; eternal life; believing; Holy Spirit; and resurrection—because John’s purpose was to convince people to believe in Christ, it’s not surprising that his message follows the themes listed here. In order to trust Christ, a person must understand Jesus’ true identity, the promise of eternal life, the necessity of faith, and the resurrection of Christ. And to live for Christ, a person must understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, Son of God (1:1-18; 2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:5-14; 6:16-21; 9:1-12; 11:1-44; 19:1–20:30). Because this is a “Gospel,” the entire book tells about Jesus. But in relating the life of the Lord, John chose nine “signs” (miracles) that illustrate and prove Jesus’ true identity as God’s Son. These chosen signs (seven miracles plus the Resurrection) display Christ’s glory and reveal his true nature: (1) turning the water into wine (2:1-11); (2) healing the royal official’s son (4:46-54), (3) healing the invalid by the pool at Bethesda (5:1-15); (4) feeding the 5,000 (6:5-14); (5) walking on water (6:16-21); (6) healing a man blind from birth (9:1-41); (7) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); (8) rising from the dead (20:1-29); (9) giving the disciples an overwhelming catch of fish (21:1-14). John shows us that Jesus is unique as God’s special Son, yet he is fully God. Because he is fully God, Jesus is able to reveal God to us, clearly and accurately.
*Importance for today. Because Jesus is God, he has the nature, ability, and right to offer eternal life. When he died on the cross, he was the perfect sacrifice and only mediator between God and people (14:6). Because Jesus became a man, he identified fully with us, enduring temptation, persecution, hardship, and suffering. Through the Incarnation, the infinite, holy, and all-powerful God demonstrated his love for us. As believers in Christ, we must affirm both sides of his nature and not exclude or diminish one side in favor of the other. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Eternal Life (3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39-40; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 58; 8:51; 10:10, 27-30; 11:25-26; 12:25, 49-50; 20:30-31). Jesus came to bring us life, eternal life. This life begins now, on this earth, through faith in Christ. Jesus said, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (10:10). The life that Christ offers also continues beyond death. Obtaining eternal life is not automatic or magic. People aren’t saved just because Jesus became a man and died and rose again. Individuals must believe in Jesus; they must trust in him. John presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (10:11, 15, 17). His death is said to be a saving death—he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29, 36). But his sacrifice is applied only to those who repent and believe (1:12; 2:11; 3:15-16, 18, 36; and many other passages).
*Importance for today. Life on earth is short, and filled with struggles, suffering, and hardships. Of course, there are moments of ecstasy and joy, but for many those moments are very few. And because all human beings are mortal, eventually everyone dies. That description is not mere pessimism, but truth. But God offers hope amidst the suffering—eternal life. Through faith in Christ, we have abundant life now and life unending after we die. The assurance of eternal life gives hope, meaning, and purpose as we live each day. Jesus offers eternal life to us. We are invited to begin living in a personal, eternal relationship with him that begins now. Although we must grow old and die, we can have a new life that lasts forever by trusting Jesus.
Believing (1:12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:15-18; 4:39-42, 48-53; 5:24-47; 6:30, 47, 64; 8:24, 31; 9:38; 10:25-42; 11:25-27; 12:37-46; 14:11-14; 16:9; 17:8, 20; 20:25-30). Belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God is the central theme of this book and the desired response from all who read it. Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life is available only through him, people must believe in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The first step toward eternal life is to believe the facts about Jesus. But having saving faith (“believing”) involves much more than mental assent to the truth. John emphasizes Jesus’ strong teaching that those who truly believe in Christ turn from their sin, follow him closely, and obey his teachings. The person who puts his or her faith in Christ (believes the facts about him, trusts him, follows close to him, and obeys his commands) is forgiven and gains eternal life.
*Importance for today. Believing is active, living, and continuous trust in Jesus as God. When we believe in his life, his words, his death, and his resurrection, we are cleansed from sin and receive power to follow him. But we must respond to Christ by believing. This believing begins with the facts about Jesus, but it must go deeper, involving total commitment to him. Do you truly believe in Jesus? Remember, too, that we also live in a world of skeptics. Most people won’t believe that something is true simply because we tell them, especially regarding religion. They need to see Jesus in action, to read about his claims and his miracles, and to understand his teachings. As we explain to relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers about how they can have eternal life, we need to present the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and their only hope.
Holy Spirit (1:32-34; 3:5; 6:63; 7:39; 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:7-15). The first mention of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John is John the Baptist’s statement at Jesus’ baptism: “I saw the Holy Spirit descending” (1:32). He adds that Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). We know, therefore, that Jesus possessed the Spirit. The main teaching about the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John, however, describes him as the Counselor. This Holy Spirit would come and abide in the disciples after the departure of Jesus, to teach them, remind them of his words (14:26), and show them the truth (16:13). The Holy Spirit would bear witness to Jesus through the disciples before the world (15:26-27) and will do his convicting work in the hearts of men and women in the world (16:7-11).
All of these actions of the Holy Spirit are parallel to the work of Jesus on earth. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life (14:6), and he preached about sin (8:24), righteousness (8:42-47), and judgment (9:39). Jesus taught his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come after he left the earth. The Holy Spirit would then indwell, guide, counsel, and comfort those who follow Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ’s presence and power are multiplied in all who believe.
*Importance for today. God has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to draw people to himself and to work in the lives of believers. As we read and study God’s word, the Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth (16:13), helping us understand about Christ and about God’s principles for living. One of our responsibilities as believers is to testify about Christ in the world (15:27), passing on what the Holy Spirit tells us (15:26). As we do this, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will be working in the lives of men and women, convicting them of their sin and their need to trust Christ as Savior (16:7-11). We must know the Holy Spirit to understand all Jesus taught. We can experience Jesus’ love and guidance as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.
Resurrection (20:1–21:23). The greatest sign presented by John of the divinity of Jesus is his resurrection from the dead. Just as Jesus really lived as a man on the earth, he really died on the cross. The witnesses to Jesus’ death were many: the Roman soldiers (19:23-24, 32-34), the chief priests and other Jewish religious leaders (19:21), the crowd (19:20), a small collection of his loyal followers (19:25-27), and those who buried him, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (19:38-42).
But Jesus’ death was not the end of the story. He arose, triumphant over death. Mary Magdalene, John, and Peter found the tomb empty (20:1-9). Then Mary Magdalene met the risen Christ face to face (20:10-18). Later, the disciples saw Jesus alive (20:19-29; 21:1-23). The fact of the Resurrection changed the disciples’ lives—from fearful men who fled danger to courageous witnesses who took the gospel to every corner of their world, from discouraged and disillusioned followers to hopeful and joyful “Christ-ones” (i.e., “Christians”—ones belonging to Christ). The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the foundation of the Christian faith.
*Importance for today. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is important for us for several reasons. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that he is, in fact, the Son of God and that all he taught is true. Jesus taught that whoever believes in him will have eternal life (3:16-18). Because Jesus is God and truthful, we know that his promise of eternal life is also true. Jesus is alive, therefore we worship and serve a living Savior. We can be changed as the disciples were and have the confidence that some day our bodies will be raised to live with Christ forever. The same power that raised Christ to life can give us the ability to follow him each day.
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Source: Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary