On April 6 we met for a look at the gospel of John. We quickly reviewed some significant learnings about the other gospels. Mark is the shortest, the oldest (written around 70 AD), and most rugged in writing style. The word “immediately” features prominently and frames a breathless narrative that tears through the life of Jesus at breakneck speed. Luke is poetic and beautiful. Luke crafts a story that features the marginalized as especially beloved by Jesus. Some of our best loved parables like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are only found in Luke. Like Matthew, Luke uses Mark for primary source material–but then adds a unique body of work to fill out the story. Matthew is a bridge between the Old and New Testament and is the most Jewish of the gospels, with the most references to Hebrew scripture. It is a systematic treatment of what it means to live in the kingdom of God, and it includes parables that describe the Kingdom of God. Like Luke it was written around 85 AD.
John has a whole different take on the life of Jesus. John does not use parable, but instead lifts up major themes to illustrate the life of Jesus. Themes include light and dark, life and death, the Word made flesh and the Father-Son relationship. It is the newest gospel written around 100 AD. The fourth Gospel is not meant for a specific culture, but rather for the whole world–especially believers. A notable difference between John and the other gospels is that Jesus is presented as the Messiah at the outset…he does not evolve into that role as in the other gospels.
We discussed the signs by which John points to the Father, through the Son. There are the seven signs of works: water changed to wine 2:1-11, the nobleman’s son healed 4:46-54, the healing at Bethesda 5:1-9, feeding of the 5000 6:1-14, Jesus walking on the sea 6:17-21, blind man healed 9:1-7, Lazarus raised 11:1-46. Then there are the seven signs by words or the “I am” statements: I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the living gate, the good shepherd, the way the truth and the life, the true vine, the resurrection and the life. These signs point to a reality beyond themselves, as things done under the authority of God. The signs lead to faith, not faith in a wonder-worker, but rather faith in Jesus as the revelation of God’s glory and the one who bestowes life.
All the signs point to the one great sign: Jesus’ death and resurrection. With his “I am” assertions, Jesus is identifying himself as God’s agent of salvation and eternal life. Jesus links himself in an intimate way with God’s work and John uses the term “Father” for God over 120 times. Father and Son characterizes the relationship most vividly in John’s telling of the story. It is Jesus’ claim to authority that typically belongs to God alone that most gets him in trouble with the religious authorities.