The Gospel Of John

The early first century was a time of great darkness for God's chosen people living in Galilee. Under the rule of Herod Antiphas in AD 30, and with authority still subject to the Roman Empire, there was great corruption among those in power, social oppression by tax collectors and soldiers of the military, and the suffocation of God's Word under the self-righteous teachings of the Phariseeic Law.

There came a man who was sent from God, "a lamp that burned and gave light"; his name was John the Baptist. By his example, as he preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and rebuked the evil practices of his age, we catch a glimpse of the first bold witness for Jesus Christ. Moreover, from the life of the one who came after John the Baptist, namely Jesus Christ, "the true light that gives light to every man," we learn the courage and love to ourselves become shining lights for God.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16)."

Textual Background

The Gospel of John is the last of the four Gospels recorded in the New Testament that document the life of Jesus Christ. Due to slight differences in content (inclusion of certain miracles in Jesus' public ministry or lack thereof), linguistic style and terminology, the Gospel of John is set apart from the three preceding synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). More significantly, the Gospel of John places heavy theological emphasis on Christology, teaching at length regarding then nature of Jesus Christ as Savior, and declaring Him to be God.

The writer of the Gospel of John is traditionally accepted to be John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John was one of Jesus' inner three, along with James and Peter, and is referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" in the Gospels. Moreover, he was among the first of the disciples to believe and testify that Jesus was risen (John 20:1-10).

Most theologians agree that the Gospel of John was written with an evangelistic purpose. As the writer himself attests, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written 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 20:30-31). And what is this life, this abundant life, that is promised to all who receive Jesus and believe in His name? "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men" (John 1:4).

Theological Focus

The Gospel of John is generally structured into five parts:

I. Prologue (1:1-5) — The prologue identifies Jesus as the eternal Word (Greek 'Logos') of God that existed before Creation, and asserts His divine nature as being one and the same with God.
II. The Book of Signs (1:6 to 12) — The first half of the Gospel of John recounts Jesus' public ministry from the time of His baptism by John the Baptist to its close. Seven major miracles or "signs" are emphasized, and Jesus gives discourses that identify Himself with symbols of major significance in the Christian belief, including "the light of the world" (8:12).
III. The Book of Glory (13 to 17) — The second half of the book presents Jesus in intimate dialogue with His disciples, and His final prayers for them.
IV. Crucifixion and Resurrection (18 to 20) — An account of Jesus' crucifixion and His resurrection appearances is given.
V. Appendix (21) — The Gospel of John concludes with Jesus' final words on earth with His disciples, and the the claiming of authorship of the book.

The word "Gospel" is derived from Old English to mean "good news". Indeed, the Gospel of John contains the words of life of the good news of Jesus, for "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). It is important that we, as Christians, hold fast to and hold out the Word of Life that is Jesus Christ to our perishing generation. And what better way to learn what it is to "shine" for God than by learning and following the example of the true "light of the world," namely Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel of John, we can study the life of Jesus and of those His love permeated and empowered, from the long-time believer Nicodemus, to the spiritually dying Samaritan woman and adulteress. From one man came the many glowing lights of changed lives, the glimmers of hope in our depraved world. And today, the light shines brighter than ever, in the hearts and lives of a generation on fire for Jesus from the inside out.

Shine on.

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