Jesus and Abundant Life

 

A Bible Study of the Gospel of John

 

The gospels are not biographies of Jesus. It’s been estimated that if you took all the words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke and read them aloud that it would only take about three hours. Jesus lived until age thirty three and ministered for three years. [1] What we have in the gospels is only a small sample of what Jesus said and did. John himself states:

 

·         John 20:30 - 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;

 

·         John 21:25 - 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

 

Each gospel gives an account of the life of Jesus from a different perspective. Like individual witnesses testifying of what they saw at an event from their position and perspective the gospel writers were inspired and led by the Spirit to record God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. The word “gospel” (Greek euangelion) means good news. The united focus of the gospels is the good news of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross and risen from the dead. That is in all four gospels.

 

Who wrote the gospel of John? Of course the gospel was inspired by the Holy Spirit and so therefore the supreme Author is God. But God worked through human agents to record His revelation. Unlike the epistles (or letters) of the New Testament, the gospels do not identify their human authors. But through examining indirect evidence in the gospels we can identify who these human authors were.

 

The gospel of John was written by John based on the following internal evidence. John 21:24 attributes authorship to a disciple. This disciple is identified as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7, 20). This disciple whom Jesus loved is among seven disciples named in John 21:2 – Simon Peter, Thomas the Twin, Nathanael of Cana of Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other unnamed disciples. The disciple whom Jesus loved was seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper (13:23-24). Therefore he must have been one of the Twelve since only the Twelve attended the Last Supper with Jesus (Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). John was closely connected to Peter in the gospels and one of the inner three (John 20:2-10; Mark 5:37-38; 9:2-3; 14:33). James the brother of John died in 44 AD and can be eliminated as the author (cf. Acts 12:2). In John 18:15-16 “the other disciple” is connected to being “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” “The disciple whom Jesus loved” was at the cross (19:26) and is identified as the one giving the gospel testimony (19:35). In John 1:14 the writer of the gospel says “We have seen his glory” identifying himself as an eye witness (cf. also 1 John 1:1-4). External evidence to John as the author of this gospel is based on the testimony of early church fathers such as Polycarp (69-155 AD), Irenaeus (130-200 AD), Polycrates, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and others all who attested to John as author of this gospel. That John is the author of this gospel is well attested to by the early church and that John wrote this gospel from Ephesus. John also was inspired to write 1, 2, and 3 John and the book of Revelation.

 

John was the last of the original twelve apostles to die. He was part of the 70 sent out with authority by Jesus. He was among the 120 in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. He was one of the innermost three (Peter, James and John) that Jesus took with Him to the Transfiguration, Gethsemane, to see Jesus raise the dead. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”  (John 21:20).

 

John and his brother James were nicknamed boanerges or “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). But his contact with Jesus would transform him into the Apostle of Love. He spoke powerfully in the Spirit and he literally had a booming powerful voice. He was nicknamed bronto phonos because of his thundering voice. He, not Paul, was considered by some early church fathers to be the lead theologian of the apostles. Into his old age he was transported from town to town on a stretcher to minister to people. When people would ask him what the most important thing in life was he would tell them with tears in his eyes, “Little children, love one another.”

 

What is the purpose of the gospel of John? Jesus said He came to give people abundant life – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). John said he wrote his gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). The gospel of John has a vocabulary of about 600 words. The average 2 ½ year old has a vocabulary of over 600 words.  John wrote to be understood. But make no mistake about it, John’s gospel is profound. As we study this gospel we will therefore be looking to learn about Jesus and Abundant Life.

 

Abundant life involves Abundant Belief. The key word in the gospel of John is “believe” (Greek pistĕuō) which occurs 101 times in this gospel. The word “faith” (Greek pistis) does not occur in this gospel. That pistĕuō occurs in the Present Tense and in Participle forms indicates in the original language an action that is ongoing. John emphasizes a continuous, consistent ongoing, enduring belief in and vital trust of Jesus. John was inspired to communicate in his gospel that abundant life comes through abundant belief in Jesus.

 

Abundant life is a transformed life.  John is known as “the Apostle of love.” The word “love” (Greek agape) occurs 57 times in the gospel of John. “love” occurs 53 times in 1, 2 and 3 John (cf. e.g. 1 John 2:8-10; 3:14; 4:1-12), another 7 times in Revelation. But John wasn’t always known for his love. There was a time when he and his brother James were known as “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was prejudiced against those outside his group (Luke 9:49-50). When Jesus passed through Samaria and the Samaritans did not receive Him John was quick to ask Jesus, “Are you going to call down fire on them like Elijah?” John’s mother brought her boys to Jesus asking for a special place of prominence in Jesus’ kingdom (Mat. 20:17-21). It isn’t clear, but it could be that James and John put their mother up to this. Prejudiced, power hungry and proud are not qualities of a disciple of Jesus. Jesus rebuked John for these attitudes.

 

When was John changed and transformed into the apostle of love? It was likely at the cross. John was the only disciple to stay close to Jesus at the cross. And when John records his presence at the cross he refers to himself with the words, “the disciple Whom He loved” (John 19:26). It was at the cross where John really saw and knew in a life changing way just how much Jesus loved him. “For God so loved the world,” and that included John, you and me! (John 3:16). It was at the cross where Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John. It was at the cross where Jesus poured out His love for John and the entire world. Paul wrote that looking at Jesus has a life altering, life transforming impact (2 Cor. 3:17-18). John later wrote that when we see Jesus we are made like Him (1 John 3:2). The purpose of this gospel is that we see Jesus and experience the abundant life He exemplified and spoke of. This abundant life is a transformed life, like going from a prejudiced, power hungry, pride to that of selfless love in Christ. That is abundant life.

 

Abundant life is all about Jesus. The gospel of John is different than the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) that focus on the Galilean ministry of Jesus. Matthew was written to Jews to demonstrate Jesus as the promised Messiah who fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. Mark was written to Romans and portrays Jesus as a servant. Luke wrote the gospel to the Greeks and portrays Jesus as the Son of Man emphasizing the incarnation. Matthew has a genealogy showing the connection between Jesus and King David. Mark doesn’t have a genealogy because a servant doesn’t have one. Luke’s genealogy goes back to the original man Adam. The synoptic gospels provide us with a historical record of the Jesus. John introduces us to Jesus; Jesus as God; Jesus as Man; Jesus as God-Man, our personal Savior.

 

John writes with intent; that people would come to know and believe in Jesus and find life, eternal life in Him. John writes in a way that demands a verdict from the reader; a decision. He writes as though saying, “This is who Jesus is, do you believe in Him?” When you read this gospel it brings you to a point of decision. Either you walk away with eternal life based on belief in Jesus, or you walk away condemned with a much darker eternal destiny before you. John is not apologetic about this. He lays out the truth and trusts the Holy Spirit to convict and save the reader.  

 

The gospel of John does not have a genealogy of Jesus; he starts literally at the beginning of existence showing Jesus’ eternality. John’s gospel also doesn’t have a record of Jesus’ birth or baptism. It does not include the 40 day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. It doesn’t have Jesus casting out demons, teaching in parables, His transfiguration, instituting the Lord’s Supper, His agony in Gethsemane or His ascension. In the gospel of John the emphasis is on Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem and during the feasts of the Jewish nation. The gospel of John records personal one on one contact between Jesus and individuals (e.g. John 3-4; 18:28 – 19:16). John’s gospel pulls the curtain away revealing a personal Jesus. We especially see this in His interaction with His disciples (John 13-17).

 

John includes seven miraculous “signs” that identify Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. These sign miracles are:

 

1.      Changing water into wine – John 2:1-11

2.      Healing an official’s son in Capernaum – John 4:46-54

3.      Healing a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem – John 5:1-18

4.      Feeding 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee – John 6:5-14

5.      Walking on water on the Sea of Galilee – John 6:12-21

6.      Healing a blind man in Jerusalem – John 9:1-7

7.      Raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany – John 11:1-45

 

These signs all demonstrate the otherworldliness, eternal truth, and the deity of Jesus. Accompanying these recorded sign miracles of Jesus are explanatory discourses from Jesus detailing the significance of the signs such as after His feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:25-35).

 

John also exclusively records seven “I am” statements of Jesus. These are significant because they directly link and identify Jesus with God’s most holy name, “I am” as given by God to Moses in the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 3:14). The “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel are:

 

1.      “I am the Bread of life” – John 6:35

2.      “I am the Light of the world” – John 8:12

3.      “I am the Gate of the sheep” – John 10:7, 9

4.      “I am the Good Shepherd” – John 10:11, 14

5.      “I am the Resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25

6.      “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” – John 14:6

7.      “I am the True Vine” – John 15:1, 5

 

John is an inspired wordsmith. He uses the word “Father” 139 times, more than the rest of the New Testament combined. He uses the word “God” 85 times, the word “Lord” 43 times, and the phrase, “the Word” 20 times. He uses “Son of God” 10 times and the name “Jesus” 256 times. This is a gospel about God and in particular Jesus.

 

John’s gospel was written later than the other gospels (early 90s AD). And it would appear that John, rather than reiterate what the other gospels already recorded, chose to focus on the identity of Jesus and material that was not included in the other gospel accounts. It’s as though he states, “The good news or gospel is a gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to truly profit from and experience the gospel you need to grasp who Jesus is.” One commentator states, “John begins with a theological prologue. It is almost as if John had said, “I want you to consider Jesus in His teaching and deeds. But you will not understand the good news of Jesus in its fullest sense unless you view Him from this point of view. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, and His words and deeds are those of the God-Man.”[2] If you want to know Who Jesus is the gospel of John is a good place to start.

 

The gospel of John can be outlined as follows:

 

I.                   Jesus’ Prologue: Who is Jesus? Jesus is God, the Word made Flesh – John 1

II.                Jesus’ Proof: Seven Signs Identifying Jesus as God – John 2 - 11

III.             Jesus Personally – John 12-17

IV.             Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection – John 18-20

V.                Jesus and Peter – John 21

 

 



[1] Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:271

 

 

[2] Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:271

 

#ChapterTitleListen
1John 1Who is Jesus? Jesus is God, the Word made Flesh  
2John 2The First Sign – A Wedding and Water Turned to Wine  
3John 3Three Musts  
4John 4 The Samaritan Woman and the Second Sign 
5John 5Do you want to be made well?  
6John 6A Boat Ride with the Bread of Life  
7John 7 Torrents of Living Water 
8John 8Light of the world  
9John 9True Vision  
10John 10Jesus the Good Shepherd  
11John 11 Wait and Be Raised 
12John 12 Through Triumph and Trouble, Still Truth 
13John 13Willing to Wash Feet  
14John 14Help for Troubled Hearts 
15John 15 Relationships 
16John 16Stumble-Proof Your Life  
17John 17Jesus Prays  
18John 18 The Cause of Christ 
19John 19 The Cost of the Cross of Christ 
20John 20The Resurrection Confirmation of the Cross of Christ  
21John 21Jesus and Peter