The Gospel of John is written in such a simple way that even a child can read and understand it. Nevertheless, beneath the surface of its simplicity lie complexity and deep spiritual implications that are so rich in depth and meaning that it can boggle the mind.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” As the chapter continues it is made obvious that the “Word” is Jesus Christ. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (v.14)
The preposition “with” in this verse is from the Greek word “pros” which means face to face. One cannot be face to face with one’s self. This is a glimpse of the Triune God which reaches far beyond human comprehension.
At the end of the Gospel John makes it clear that he is the author. He further declares, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
Therefore, the words and events recorded in John’s Gospel were selected from a massive anthology of things that Jesus said and did which is why we approach it with such awe. With each verse one has to wonder why John chose it from everything else he had available to him.
It is made perfectly clear by John at the very beginning that Jesus is God in the flesh and Creator of all life. He then goes on to introduce John the Baptist (the voice of one crying out in the wilderness) who bore witness to Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” At the river Jordon when Jesus was baptized, John, who was considered a prophet by everyone at the time, proclaimed that Jesus was the very Son of God.
“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (1:32-34)
The disciples are introduced (We have found the Messiah!) and Jesus performed his first miracle in Cana by turning water into wine.
In chapter 3 Jesus explained the process of being born again to Nicodemus who couldn’t quite get a handle on it. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
It is widely believed that Nicodemus finally came to the knowledge of salvation. His involvement with the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion was a very bold act considering his position in the religious community.
Chapter 4 begins with Jesus and the disciples leaving the Jordon to go through Samaria where he interacts with the woman at the well. This is truly a remarkable story about a Samaritan woman who was considered unclean by the Jews (mixed breed) and was probably ostracized by her own people as well. She had been married five times and wasn’t married to the man she was living with.
Just as with Nicodemus, the woman didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to tell her. Nevertheless, Jesus used this woman to save a whole village. “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” (4:29)
Jesus traveled back to his own hometown where he healed a man’s son then he traveled from town to town and even fed a group of 5,000 people with just a small amount of fish and bread. The people wanted to crown him king but for all the wrong reasons. They focused on his miracles rather than on him.
Then Jesus told the people they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. This is when many turned and walked away. They didn’t understand that he was the bread of life (the source of all life). His words were spiritual but the people were of the flesh and couldn’t grasp the meaning. “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
In chapters 7-8 Jesus confronts the religious leaders on several occasions about their self-righteousness and false religious system. He boldly told them that had they really known God they would have known him as well.
“If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.” (John 8:42-47)
In chapter 11, Jesus got word that his beloved friend, Lazarus was very sick. Raising Lazarus from the dead is probably one of the most popular miracles of Jesus’ ministry. He loved Lazarus but when he heard that he was seriously ill he waited two days before going to Bethany. Had he gone immediately people could have said that Lazarus was merely resuscitated rather than resurrected.
The raising of Lazarus truly exposed the corruption of the religious leaders. They didn’t doubt it. They knew it was true. They also knew that only God has the power of resurrection which meant that God was with Jesus yet they began plotting his death.
Chapter 12 is where Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem but despite all of his words and miracles many still did not believe in him. He appealed to the crowds and shouted his message out to the people.
“If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” (John 12:44-50)
Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in chapter 13 and Peter refused at first to allow it. “When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Jesus tells the disciples at this time that one of them will betray him and that Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows.
Chapters 14-17 are probably some of the most precious writings in all the Gospels. Jesus was about to be tortured, humiliated, and murdered yet he turned to comfort the disciples and prepare them for what was about to happen.
He told them that he was going to go away and said, “Where I go you cannot come.” He was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and would return to get them. This had to be difficult for them because they believed, like any other Jew at that time that the Messiah would be a political leader who would liberate them from the oppression of Rome. They weren’t expecting a suffering Messiah.
Thomas spoke up and said, “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.” Then He said something that must have sounded incredible to them at the time. “From now on, you do know him (the Father) and have seen him!” Jesus is saying here, If you know Me you know God.
Then Phillip daringly said, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” It sounds a lot like he’s saying, “I’ve had enough of this. Just show us the Father right now so we can get this all out in the open.”
In the next verse (14:9) Jesus makes a claim that simply blows them away! “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?”
Jesus is plainly saying I am God. To know Me is to know God. The disciples had been with him for three years. They’d seen his miracles and heard his sermons. They believed he was the Son of God but when he said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” they were totally silent.
Apparently, the disciples knew and believed that he was from God but the full reality of his deity hadn’t registered in their minds. Of course, after the resurrection it all came together. Even Thomas the doubter said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” and Jesus did not correct him.
But at this point they had no idea what Jesus was talking about. “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative- that is, the Holy Spirit- he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (14:25-26)
But the only thing the disciples could focus on was that Jesus was going away. He wasn’t going to set up the Kingdom which is what they thought was going to happen. He was going away and they didn’t really understand where or why.
The Lord felt their sorrow and confusion. In verses 27-29 he tried again to comfort and reassure them. “So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.”
He knew they were going to desert him and be scattered. He knew also that Peter would deny him. He knew that it was going to be one of the most difficult times in their entire lives. They had forsaken all to follow him.
When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied three times that he knew him. There aren’t many who don’t relate to Peter. He had given up three years of his life to a man he believed to be the Son of God only to see him captured and hauled away like a common criminal.
John stayed through the crucifixion and as Jesus neared death he charged John with the care of his mother. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
John ends his Gospel by saying, “These are written so 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 20:31)
The Gospel of John is a comprehensive work of deep spiritual truths and worthy of a much deeper study than has been given here. It should be read, reread, and studied by all.