The first book of the Bible I read when I was seriously studying the Word, was the Gospel of John. When I started thinking about writing this blog, I decided to start there again, now taking into account the knowledge I have gained through study since that first time.
Before I start reading this book again, I now know the following cool facts about this gospel that should help me understand the writings much better than before. John had several reasons for writing his gospel, and these influenced how he wrote, and which material he decided to include.
The biggest difference between John and the other gospels is that he did not write a chronological account of the events, but followed a systematic course, grouping topic that are the same together. He also writes a narrative, and immediately after this, the correct interpretation or lesson that we should learn.
The reason why John wrote this way (found in John 20: 30, 31) is that his intention for this gospel was to make people become believers (to convert unbelievers), and to make new believers believe more fully (help them grow stronger so that they will have eternal life). For this reason, John chose not to include everything the other gospels covered. He did not write about the birth or childhood of Jesus. He wrote nothing about the calling of the disciples into ministry, Jesus’ baptism or temptation, the missions of the disciples, the transfiguration, parables and exorcisms, or healings of possessed people. John also exclude any predictions of the death of Jesus, or teachings on the Kingdom of God. He also excluded calls to repentance.
Having said that, John include material that not found in other gospels. His logos opening is unique, as is his mention of Jesus participating in Jewish festivals, and how He and the disciples baptise believers. Only John speaks of the “beloved disciple”, the Nicodemus dialogue, the prayer of Jesus, the teaching on “Bread of Life” and the washing of the feet of the disciples. John chose to include several teachings on the Paraclete (Holy Spirit), more details on the trail and crucifixion, and the resurrection. In this account, Jesus first appeared to women, namely Mary and Magdalene. John alone gives account of the appearance to Thomas and the breakfast at the Sea of Tiberius. Narratives included by John, not found elsewhere are the Samaritan woman, the healing at the Pool of Bethesda, woman caught in adultery, and the healing of the man who was born blind.
John wrote his gospel to the world he lived in, and if I want to grasp his message completely, I need to understand who the people were that he had in mind when he wrote the material.
The first group was the Jews and gentiles. John wanted to show people who were not believers yet, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that they should believe and follow Him. He often includes references that Jesus was better than Jewish traditions and festivals.
The second group were new Jewish coverts. This group included two types of believers. The first group were new believers who left the Jewish tradition and the Temple and were openly following Jesus. This had serious consequences. The Temple played an important part in the lives of the Jewish community. At the Temple, you received a name; you were educated in reading, writing, religion, customs, and traditions. You are married, divorced and buried at the temple. The Temple was a network of business people with which you negotiated deals with men who were like brothers. Each family who came to the Temple had to present paperwork of their generations of recognised Jewish linage. Without membership to the Temple, you cannot have your children recognised as Jews, they will not have formals schooling, cannot get married to a decent Jewish family, or have a proper funeral. Temples were also places where people came for healing, to settle disputes, and to make an oath. Those who left the Temple openly, found themselves out in the cold. Since the movement was still a young one, official churches were still not available to believers. Small house churches were scattered around the city, but they were rare.
John also wanted to encourage another group of Jewish believers. They were secret believers, who did not want to leave the Temple. They followed Jesus’ teachings, but felt that without the Temple, they would not be able to exist. John wanted to give them courage to stand up for what they believed in, and join a new family with Jesus as their brother, and God as their Father.