Know Your Bible: Gospel of John

The Gospel of John takes on the task of telling us who Jesus of Nazareth is from an inherently reflective perspective. Written by the youngest of Jesus' apostles, he takes a look back to describe Jesus. What is it about the Gospel of John that makes it so important, and how is it actually different from Mark, Matthew, and Luke?

Who is John?

John played a significant role in Jesus' life. He was the youngest of the apostles, and was witness to his ministry.

He was with Peter and James to witness Jesus' transfiguration with Moses and Elijah. He did not flee when Jesus was arrested in the Gethsemane. Instead he waited to hear Jesus charged with blasphemy and insurrection, and he was at Gogatha where Jesus was crucified. He was also the one entrusted with Jesus' mother, Mary, when Jesus died on the cross. He was the first apostle to witness the empty tomb after the women's discovery, and he was there to see Jesus ascend to Heaven. He is often referred to as "the one whom Jesus loved."

What Does the Gospel of John Actually Say?

While John was the youngest of the twelve apostles, he waited until late in his life to tell the account of what he saw and heard. It appears that John's purpose was to show who Jesus is and to demonstrate the truth of Jesus. Some scholars believe John gave his account in a theological manner, because he felt the other gospels to be inadequate or misleading.

He specifically covers seven statements and signs that Jesus is the Messiah. John's goal was to take those that thought Jesus was just a prophet, teacher, and miracle maker and prove that he was far more.

It is in this gospel that Jesus refers to himself in a divine manner. Often John describes conversations where Jesus revealed his divine role only to his disciples, which gives the reader a sense of being brought inside the inner circle of understanding.

There is a great emphasis on Jesus' miracles, but only in a way that emphasizes His divinity rather than just to discuss a miracle, and it does not contain the parables and exorcisms as found in other gospels.

How is John Different from the Other Gospels?

John's gospel account was written late in life, giving the book a reflective and spiritual feel. He had time to think about the things he heard and saw, and wrote from a place of maturity and life experience. He takes the writing to a deeper, spiritual place, allowing the reader to delve deeper into the life of Jesus, rather than just taking the story literally.

The gospel of John is often described as the most ecumenical. It does no make any attempts to reconcile other religions, thus it is where we find the statement, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:16). As he himself had a relationship with Jesus, John's gospel puts forth a need for each individual to have their own personal relationship with Him. It written in a way to make the reader focus on eternity and accepting Jesus as our personal Savior.

John also put a great deal of emphasis on the last teaching of Jesus and His death.

He describes Jesus washing the disciples feet. Unlike the other gospels, there are over five chapters that deal with the death of Jesus. He preferred to focus on snippets of Jesus' life and death like this rather than His genealogy. Through these stories, John gives us the person of Jesus as the son of God. He allows us to see the connection and unity of Jesus as Son and God as the Father.