Sunday, December 4, 2011
Scripture Sunday: The Gospel of John
John is the last of the four gospels dealing with Jesus' life on earth, and it's the most "different" of the four in my opinion, because it isn't synoptic--it's less of a recounting and more of a close personal account of Jesus' deity and his message. The first three gospel open with a genealogy of Christ (Matthew), the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry (Mark), and the circumstances in Jesus' earthly family before his birth (Luke), but John starts out with theological statements:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:1-5)
The Word means Jesus. He always co-existed with God, and he was part of the force of creation. I find it interesting that God spoke the world into existence ("let there be ___") instead of making it through other means, and here we see that verbal theme coming up again when John describes Jesus as being THE word.
John feels more personal partly because it is unconcerned with establishing strict chronological events ("this happened, then this happened, in this order"), and instead focuses on what Jesus says about himself. There are seven notable miracles in the book of John, and they're all leading up to Jesus' long discussion with his disciples over the Passover dinner. Chapter 13 is when the passover dinner begins, and Jesus uses this gathering as a way to establish some important truths about himself. In chapter 14 verse 6 he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." This was a very big change from the teaching of Judaism of the day, which said that you could get close to God by obeying the extensive religious laws of their community. Through this teaching, a personal relationship with Jesus becomes the way to obtain a good standing with God the father. The end of John also has a very personal feel to it, and the very last verse of chapter 21 testifies to the enormity of what occurred during Jesus' ministry on Earth: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."