John, the Evangelist, had seventy years to mull over what he witnessed before he contributed his portion of an eyewitness account to the New Testament. This forty-third book of the Bible completes the biographical picture of Jesus with John’s describing Christ’s nature and origin right from the start with John 1:1. The apostle John writes about the mystery of Jesus’s DNA, being both human and divine, from his eyewitness account. His specific DNA is known simultaneously as the Son of Man and the Son of God.
John was one of the first apostles called by Jesus, he and his brother James, with Peter and Andrew following next. These four men could be considered the full-time disciples as they left their fishing trade for their calling (Matt. 4:21-22). They were nicknamed Sons of Thunder by Christ. John was the youngest of the twelve disciples. Referring to himself as Jesus’s beloved in the Gospel. He was the only disciple who was in proximity to Jesus, at his trial, and crucifixion. When Jesus was dying, He told His mother at the foot of the cross, “Woman behold your son.” referring to John (who may have been a cousin to Jesus through Mary’s sister Salome, wife of Zebedee, Mk. 15:40, Matt. 20:20-21) would now look after her (Jn. 19:26). He was the first to reach the resurrected Jesus’s tomb seeing the linen cloths left behind. John did not die a martyr’s death as the other disciples did. He was the last of the twelve to die, his brother James was the first.
John writes from a post-resurrection point of view, is more reflective on how he saw his time with Jesus while writing this Gospel (along with his four other letters to include Revelation) at the end of the century versus how he saw it when he was an eyewitness. It complements and harmonizes with the Synoptic Gospels. Over ninety percent of John’s content is not in the other Gospels, there is no nativity narrative here. He begins however poetically in a prologue about Jesus’s deity, the preexistence of the incarnate Christ since before time eternal. Where Matthew wrote to the Jews about Jesus being the messianic king, Mark wrote to the Romans about Jesus servant attitude, Luke wrote with emphasis on the son of man, John writes about Jesus as the son of God. He introduces Jesus as the logos, the word of God. John also introduces the thoughts of eternal life as both already and not yet (Jn. 5:24), which leads to the Kingdom of God here on earth mentioned in Luke 10:9 and Rev. 1: 6; already here but not yet finished. Some argue that another John wrote these things referring to John the elder. Not much can be found about this other John other than an obscure reference to the other disciple. (Jn. 18:15)
The prolific author minister Max Lucado describes Jesus as the omnipotent who made himself breakable. John presents Jesus’s deity and teaches more than the Synoptic Gospels about the Holy Spirit He left behind when Jesus returned to God the Father.
He includes fewer parables or pithy statements than the other Gospel writers providing instead seven conversations that Jesus had. For example, there is the contrast of between the discourse with Nicodemus and with the Samaritan woman. In both, Jesus talks about the Spirit – being born of the Spirit with Nicodemus, and the living water of the Spirit with the Samaritan woman. And in both, He speaks of eternal life. The uneducated, unknown, outcast, notorious sinner understands and gets what Jesus is saying quicker than the educated Pharisee. Nicodemus later comes fully into faith in Jesus later, even helping at the end with the burial arrangement. John gives a more detail description of the account of the crucifixion scene. John speaks of the Holy Spirit than any other Gospel writer.
Statements about Jesus cannot be watered down by saying say He was supernatural, god-like, or a divine being. He is God manifest in the flesh. Most people, throughout history, acknowledge Jesus lived. Unbelievers usually casually refer to Him as a teacher, prophet, miracle worker, or a kind, nice guy. When comparing Christianity with other major religions, none can boast they originated as God incarnate. Their founders are dead although I recognize they may have had some gifts of prophecy. Jesus is the only one who can claim to and is confirmed by history to have been alive, died then resurrected. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam cannot touch that.
The last account of signs John shares was the raising of Lazarus from the dead, this event was the tipping point for the Pharisees. It was from this time forward (Jn. 11:43-53) that they were intent on killing Jesus. The shortest verse in the bible is in John about Jesus: He wept (11:35).
Today, I am more unapologetic about any similarities I have with Martha’s personality. In the book of John, verse, 11 is about Jesus raising Lazarus, Martha and Mary’s brother, from the dead. Martha was her usual outspoken self when Jesus deliberately came late to her request for Him to heal Lazarus. Later, she admitted, in her confession of faith to Jesus, that she “believed he was the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.”
She then, by faith, obeyed His order to remove Lazarus’ burial tombstone, after being sealed three days. I discovered from this narrative that I was a more doer kind of a person versus someone who sits at Jesus’s feet. He also uses doers to get His job done. Pleasantly, I am aware of coming full circle as I find myself “sitting” more at His feet, listening to Him and not quite so caught up in my taskers.
For the most part, I can relate to Martha. I was always busy making sure things got done, into the details of showing hospitality and helping to make others comfortable. Many people have biblical life verses. Mine are telling because they are along the organizing and planning side of doing God’s will (cf. Ps. 90:12, Prv. 2:12). My dysphoria when I didn’t exemplify Martha’s sister Mary more. Luke 10:38-42 tells how Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet, listened to Him one day when He came to dinner. Martha, meanwhile, was distracted by all the preparations to be done. When Martha complained about not having Mary’s help, Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I cannot count the number of times while I was preparing to entertain that I would be so exhausted, physically aching, that when the actual event happened I could not enjoy it as fully at that moment. During preparation for one event (my daughter’s wedding), I intentionally decided to be more a part of it and enjoy the celebration rather than be in the background, planning and working it. Maybe, if lucky, even be in a candid wedding picture or two. I organized a cadre of friends to help me. Unfortunately, the key person I had coordinated to oversee behind-the-scenes work on the wedding day backed out a week prior. I ended up being more “Martha” than I wanted on the wedding day of my daughter. Fortunately, the rest of the cadre was still in check, and one sweet angel in the group stepped up spontaneously to take charge of things and instructed me to go. I at least made it for the family portraits.
If there is one book in the Bible that is considered the most important to understand, it is the Gospel of John. And if there is a book in the Bible to “get,” it is this one because once you can get a glimpse of what it means, everything in the Bible makes sense. Often it is encouraged for new believers to begin by reading John’s Gospel then to read Psalms. That’s a lofty assignment, but John gives the essence of who Jesus is with the Psalms teaching how to worship and pray to this God incarnate. The audience written to in this book of John is not bound to any geographical area. Many think this book was written after the fall of Jerusalem.
This begs the question, why is this the first book recommended to people to read when they begin the Bible? Part of that answer is the striking feature in its opening statement. It is about identifying Jesus who was there before the beginning of all time.
Jesus’s part in the plural pronouns “we” and “us” (of the triune God), is found in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22. John mentions this great mystery of the holy triunity before the beginning of Chronos time. I think of the Trinity God as three in one depicting the Deity, his incarnate in a human body, followed by the essence of a spirit all in triunity. Not three separate entities in one but all part of one, a triunity of a trinity, that have been together since before time as we know it. In a chronological Bible, John 1:1-3 is listed as the first verse. When I first perceived the mysticism of John’s writing, it was more about the character and nature of God that captured my attention along with thoughts about time eternal. These thoughts on the wholly other worthiness of an eternal triune God is a mystery for man, who is so human-centered. John also wrote another book, Revelation, which has visions that sound like as if from the Old Testament prophets. This mysticism of his, in general, caught the attention of the Gnostics at the time which in turned embellished about having more insight into these things than others. It was one of the reasons for the scholarly scrutiny of John’s writings that it was the last Gospel to be included in the canon.
God is like no other even if we assign the highest human virtue to him, we still fall short of knowing who he is. Sometimes I think we find God is in the gaps of two paradoxes about Him is as the closest we get to understanding his transcendent magnitude and omniscience.
I say, “To the first miracle,” is my favorite, go to wine toast. The miracle is only found in John 2: 1-11, which involves Jesus turning water into wine. He takes the empty water containers when it is discovered that the fermented juice was gone, has them filled with H2O then miraculously changes it into wine for a wedding. Jesus is known for filling up empty containers, food baskets, jars, cups as well as an empty, unfulfilled human.