Overview of John – Part 1.

John is known as the most theological gospel writer, though his name is never mentioned in the book as the author. Luke calls John an apostle in Luke 6. Polycarp, a direct disciple of the Apostle John, testified to knowing that John had written this fourth gospel while in Ephesus. Six times within the book, John is referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Matthew tells us that John and his brother James were known as the sons of Zebedee. Jesus named them "sons of thunder" in the book of Mark. One of the three most intimate associates of Jesus during His earthly ministry, John writes of his own spiritually close relationship with Christ (1 John 1:1-4). After Christ’s ascension, John became a leader in the Jerusalem church (Gal. 2) and ministered with Peter all through the book of Acts. He was living in Ephesus when the gospel of John was written before Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. The Roman government exiled John to the island of Patmos where his final work, Revelation, was written.

As the final gospel writer, John writes with a unique birds-eye view of the life of Christ. He writes with a necessary perspective of the life of Jesus, supplying material not found in the other three gospels. John offers information that helps us fill in the gaps and understand more clearly the first three gospels. For example, the first three gospels begin with Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and imply that He had a prior ministry. John 3-4 describes this prior ministry in Judea and Samaria. In Mark 6, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus urged the disciples to cross the sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. John 6 explains how the people had wanted to make Jesus the king because of His miracles.

The book of John is known as the most theological gospel, beginning in John 1:1-18 with a clear message of the eternal nature of Jesus, the God-man. John writes of the necessity of being born again, literally "born from above" (John 3). He identifies the deity of Jesus twenty-three times by including Jesus’ description of Himself as the "I Am" (Exodus 3). Jesus describes His nature in seven of those "I Am" statements by connecting temporal metaphors to His eternal personhood: I am the bread of life (John 6), I am the light of the world (John 8), I am the door (John 10), I am the good shepherd (John 10), I am the resurrection and the life (John 11), I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and I am the vine (John 15). John writes with larger narratives compared to the synoptics and has the most material of any gospel when it comes to information about the Holy Spirit (John 14, 16).

Because of his simple writing, John is the easiest author of the New Testament to understand; however, he is also the most theologically challenging. It has been said that what Psalms is to the Old Testament, the book of John is to the New Testament. Both books provide encouragement and truth that ministers to the needs of our souls regardless of the circumstances.

John is the only gospel writer among the four who explicitly tells us why he wrote the book, that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life in Him (John 20:30-31). There are seven specific miracles performed by Jesus and recorded in only the book of John to demonstrate that Jesus is the eternal Son of God:

  • In John 2, Jesus changes water to wine, teaching us that He is the source of life.
  • In John 4, Jesus heals the nobleman’s son, teaching us that Jesus is the God over distance.
  • In John 5, Jesus heals a lame man, teaching us that Jesus is the God over time.
  • In John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand, teaching us that He is spiritual nourishment, the bread of life that our souls need for eternal satisfaction.
  • In John 6, Jesus walks on water, teaching us that He is the master over all of nature.
  • In John 9, Jesus heals the man who was blind from birth, teaching us He is the light of the world.
  • In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, teaching us that He is the Son of God who has power over death.

These specific miracles were recorded by John for the purpose that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life in Him.

Application Points

  • Do you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Has this belief brought you into a right relationship with God through repentance of your sin and faith in what Jesus did for you on the cross? Have you submitted to Him as Lord and Savior of your life?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Ezekiel 37:1-10; John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:3, 23 – Born Again/Regeneration
A Quote To Ponder

Martin Luther said of the gospel of John, “Never before in my life have I read a book written in simpler words than this, and yet they are words inexpressible.”

A Hymn To Encourage: "Hallelujah, What a Savior!"

Man of sorrows, what a name
for the Son of God who came,
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
spotless Lamb of God was he,
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah, what a Savior!