Introduction to John

That you may believe

Jesus revealed as the Son of God, full of grace and truth

How to read John

In Jesus’ day, as in ours, there were many competing belief systems—all trying to connect with a spiritual reality beyond ourselves. One major religion features a god of power and revenge; another worships one that is silent and indifferent to the suffering of people; still another offers a god that is mysterious and unknowable, absorbing all of humanity into a great cosmic ocean of oneness. Some people worship “gods” of possessions, fame, and entertainment. Only one faith—Christianity—worships an amazing, personal being known primarily for his sacrificial love. This book profiles that unique God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ—God in human flesh.

In this account of Jesus’ life, you will be confronted with some astonishing claims about who he is and what he came to do. John tells us that he has selected only a few of the many noteworthy things Jesus did in order to help us understand who Jesus is. He records only seven miracles, climaxing in Jesus’ resurrection. For John these signs give indisputable proof that Jesus is the Son of God. There is more, John says, but “the world itself wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written” (Joh 21:25) had he recorded all of Jesus’ mighty signs. So why has he told us these select stories? To elicit a response of faith in our hearts, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Joh 20:31).

Note some unique features of John’s gospel. He uses the images of light and life to describe God’s activity in the world. He includes several of Jesus’ sermons not found in the other gospels (3:10-21; 5:19-47; 9:41-10:5; 10:7-18; 10:25-30; 13:7; 13:8; 13:10; 13:12-20; 13:21; 13:26; 13:27; 13:31-35; 13:36; 13:38-14:4; 14:6-7; 14:9-21; 14:23-16; 16:19-28; 16:31-33; 17:1-26). He highlights Jesus’ many “I am” statements. Jesus declares he is the Messiah, the bread of life from heaven, the one sent by God, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the Son of God, the resurrection, the life, the way, the truth, the true vine, and the King of the Jews. These statements should give you ample reason to believe!

Who wrote this book?

John, the apostle—one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus.

When and where was it written?

Sometime between AD 80 and 95 (although some scholars argue that the book can be dated as early as the 50s and no later than 70). John was probably in Ephesus, a city located in modern-day Turkey.

To whom was it written?

Non-Jewish followers of Jesus, particularly those struggling with Greek philosophies, which taught that salvation comes through special knowledge and that Jesus was divine but not truly human. John insists that salvation is received by believing in God’s Son, Jesus, who came in human flesh.

Why was it written?

John himself clearly states his goal (see Joh 20:31). His writes the gospel with an evangelistic objective. He wants people to have eternal life by knowing Jesus Christ.

SourceView Insights

In John, three of the twelve disciples have no speaking part: Matthew-Levi, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot (see the introduction to Matthew). Nine do in John—much more than the other three gospel accounts. The disciple with the smallest speaking part is James—his own brother! Isn’t that typical of a sibling?

Note the number of words attributed to each disciple within each gospel:

Mat Mar Luk Joh
Simon Peter 157 120 155 130
Andrew - 20 17 30
John the Disciple 3 100 65 8
James the Disciple 3 77 38 7
Philip the Disciple - - - 55
Nathaniel-Bartholomew - - - 25
Thomas - - - 50
Judas-Thaddaeus - - - 18
Judas Iscariot 40 16 - 14

In all four gospel narratives, Simon Peter has the lead speaking role among the disciples. After him Judas Iscariot follows in Matthew; John the Disciple follows in both Mark and Luke; but Thomas has that honor in John. In light of John’s stated purpose (Joh 20:31), Thomas’ struggle to believe that Jesus rose from the dead was a key way for John to underscore the importance of faith and the trustworthiness of the testimony of those who were the first eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. We are often too harsh on Thomas, nicknaming him “doubting” (20:25) when in fact he also modeled radical commitment. He was the first to express his willingness to lay down his life for the Lord. His statement, “Let’s go also, that we may die with him.” (11:16) may not have been overly optimistic and hope-filled, but it certainly expressed a willing, committed heart! To what lengths will you go in your walk with Jesus?

World English Bible (WEB)
a Public Domain Modern English translation
of the Holy Bible.

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