John seems so different from the other gospels because it is. Much of the material in John is not shared with the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The content focuses on themes of light and darkness, Jesus as a cosmic phenomenon called The Word or Logos. Signs to Jesus transcendent identity are arranged with growing intensity in the text and Jesus’ words are recorded with incredible detail. Is this because they were made up after the fact, are these the fanciful creations of a playwright who wants to entertain with a story on a par with a primitive Jesus Christ Superstar? The text leads us to believe that John wrote the book with is named after him. There are similarities in style with John’s epistles and with the Revelation of John. John was one of the inner group of disciples who was privy to much of Jesus’ personal thoughts and reflections. He was ideally positioned to write a book like the gospel of John which covers many details not related already.
The question of inspiration is an important one here. Did the Holy Spirit lead John to remember what he had heard in this great detail? Unlike us, many ancient people developed their ability to memorize. We have technology like books and computers which help us record what we have seen and heard, in the ancient near east a pencil case or a computer would be impossible to find. Jesus’ disciples would have memorized large sections of the Old Testament, they would have memorized local stories, and they would have memorized much of Jesus’ teaching. It also seems as though Jesus repeated his teachings with slight variations according to his audience, so the idea that John and others memorized so much is not out of the question. However, there is the problem of how John recalls such detail of a private prayer made by Jesus shortly before he died. John may have been present, but whether he was or wasn’t, for centuries Christians have believed that God can inform people supernaturally of the truths he wants them to communicate. By faith we accept that the book of John is a contrasting perspective to the other gospels, but it is none the less true.
Why do we have this book? We have it so that we might believe. Christians can gain insight into the author and perfecter of their faith, Jesus. Their faith grows with knowledge and depth of insight. Those who do not know Christ are introduced to him through the eyes of one of his closest disciples and in so doing might come to a new faith. This is why the gospel of John is often handed to those who do not know God or who are new to the faith.
Help me to love you in a similar way to the author of this book. Help me to walk in a vibrant way that shows I have a growing faith. Grow my faith through the inspired words of your servant.
- How many times have you read John?
- What are some of the things you remember about John’s gospel?
- Read an introduction in a study Bible – what is new to you?
- What do you expect to gain from reading John’s gospel?