5.21.17 ~ Introduction to the Gospel According to John
I am very excited to finally begin our study of John’s account of the gospel of Christ. Having said that, we will not begin our verse by verse study today, as there is some background information you need to be aware of before we begin.
The Book of John is set apart from the other three gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, in a variety of ways. Matthew, Mark and Luke are synoptic accounts (from a Greek word meaning “to see together”). The Synoptics follow a similar story line of Christ’s life, providing many of the same narratives and events, but each one through the eyes of the author that bears the name of that book.
John’s account does not contain any narrative parables, no list of the twelve apostles, no eschatological [last things] discussions.
Interestingly, the majority of the material found in John is not present in the Synoptics, most importantly: Christ’s pre-existence as God and the incarnation (putting on the flesh of a man) (1:1-18); His enlightening dialogue with Nicodemus (3:1-21); His interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well (4:7-26, 39-42); His healing of the lame man at Bethesda (5:5-17); healing the blind man near the Temple (9:1-41); His claim to be the living water (7:37-38); the resurrection of Lazarus (11:30-46); the washing of the disciples’ feet (13:3-15); and Jesus taught on the Holy Spirit more in John than in all of the Synoptics.
But understand this, there is nothing in John that contradicts anything in the Synoptics and nothing in the Synoptics that contradicts anything in John.
Also, it is important to note that both John and the Synoptics bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of Man, the Messiah (Mark 2:10; John 1:51), and He is the Son of God (Mark 1:1; John 1:34). All four gospels present Jesus as the Savior who came to save us from our sins by dying on the cross, that He was buried, and He rose from the grave on the third day.
The gospel of John doesn’t name its author, neither do the other three gospels; but the early church fathers (Irenaeus, Eusebius, Tertullian and Clement) unanimously named John as the author of this “Fourth Gospel”.
B.F. Westcott was a 19th century commentator and biblical scholar, he did a magnificent job of summarizing the evidence that would conclusive name John as the author of this work. The following is a summary of Westcott’s work:
1. The author had to be a Jew - He was very familiar with contemporary Jewish customs, traditions, and teachings of the Messiah (1:21, 25; 6:14-15; 7:26-27, 31, 40-42; 12:34); Jewish attitudes toward the Samaritans (4:9), women in general (4:27); wedding (2:1-10) and burial (11:17-44; 19:40) customs; the Jewish feasts of Passover (2:13; 6:4; 11:55), Tabernacles/Booths (7:2), Dedication/Hanukkah (10:22).
2. The author was a Palestinian Jew - He had a detailed knowledge of many of the local places only a resident of Palestine would know about. John describes at least three locations not mentioned in the Synoptics: the pool of Bethesda [5:2], the pool of Siloam [9:7], the Kidron Valley [18:1]; and John had a very detailed knowledge of the temple (2:14, 20; 8:20; 10:22-23) only one who was familiar with the temple would know this.
3. The author was an eyewitness to what he wrote - He gave specific details that were not necessarily important to the story; but these details were not from the Synoptics, because they were not recorded in them: the name of Judas Iscariot’s father (6:71; 13:2, 26); how long Lazarus was in the tomb (11:17, 39); that the loaves the boy had at the feeding of the five thousand were made of barley (6:9); that the fragrance of the perfume Mary poured on Jesus’ feet filled the whole house (12:3); that the branches held by the people when Jesus entered Jerusalem were palm branches (12:13); that Roman soldiers accompanied the temple guards to the Garden of Gethsemane (18:3, 12); that Jesus’ garment was seamless (19:23), and at the tomb of the resurrected Jesus’ His head cloth was folded up separate from the linens that wrapped His body (20:6-7).
4. The author was an apostle - He was intimately aware of the thoughts, feelings and actions of the Twelve (2:11, 17, 22; 4:27; 6:19; 12:16; 13:22, 28; 20:8-9; 21:12).
5. The author was the apostle John - John is mentioned over twenty times in the Synoptics, yet he is never mentioned in his own gospel. There is just no good reason why any other NT Christian, other than John himself, would have omitted John’s name when writing this gospel account. John was a very prominent figure in the NT Church, only his own humility would keep him from mentioning his name in the account he wrote.
Also, it would have taken a person of unquestioned authority to write an account of the gospel, that differed from the Synoptics, and have it universally accepted by the church, as is expressed by the early Church Fathers.
Instead of claiming to be written by John, it says it was authored by “the disciple whom Jesus loved”; at the Last Supper, only the twelve were with Jesus (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17-18; Luke 22:14); here in John’s gospel, there is no one else who could be referred to as the “beloved disciple” (13:23; 21:20).
John’s gospel was most likely written in Ephesus, AD 80-90, after the Synoptics were circulated in the church.
John is the only gospel writer who gives a statement in his writings as to the specific purpose of his writing, (20:31) “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
John used “believe” (and its derivatives) twice as much as the Synoptics did. From the very beginning, John’s purpose was to convince and convict his readers of the true identity of Jesus’ and the gift of forgiveness and eternal life granted to those who believe in Him, as:
God incarnate (1:1, 14), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (10:30), “I and the Father are one.”
Messiah (4:25-26), “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am He,’” (Mark 14:61-62), “the high priest asked [Jesus], ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One [Jehovah]? ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’"
Savior of the World (4:42), “this One [Jesus] is indeed the Savior of the world.”
John repeatedly gave testimony to Jesus’ miraculous signs as proof that He was the Son of God, Messiah, Lord and Savior, and John recorded eight of these specific miracles: turning water into wine (2:1-11), healing an official’s son (4:46-54), healing a lame man (5:1-18), feeding the five thousand (6:1-15), walking on the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21), healing a blind man (9:1-41), raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-45), providing a catch of 156 large fish (21:6-14), and the most convincing of all the miracles was Jesus’ own resurrection (20:1-9, 19-20, 24-29).
Next week we will begin working, verse by verse, through this great book that presents Jesus Christ as the eternal Word, the Messiah, Son of Man and yet, Son of God who, through His own death and resurrection has made available forgiveness [salvation] and eternal life, to all men, women and children of age.
As John said (John 20:30-31), “Jesus did many other miraculous 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 Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Pastor Mike <‘(((><