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The Gospel of John Ė An Introduction That You Might Believe

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(1/9) Do any of you remember the old Jimmy Dean song, Big Bad John? I couldnít stop thinking of that song as I was studying for this lesson. We are embarking on a new Series of Studies through the Gospel of John. This will be a verse by verse study of Johnís Gospel. Over the last 35 years I have preached a lot from the Gospel of John but have never preached through the book. But for the time we have together that is what we are going to do.

Today, I want to re-introduce you to the author and to the Gospel that bears his name. He is John the Apostle and Christ follower. You might remember some of this from 3 years when we study his first letter.

John is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Jonah; just as Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Letís meet reacquaint ourselves with a man named John.

I. The Background of the Man

A. Younger brother of James

B. John was part of Family Fishing Business that partnered with Peter and Andrew as Luke 5 mentions. John was a seasoned and hardened waterman, not some wimpy little guy that some artist have portrayed him to be.

C. John was from a well to do family, as they had hired servants (Mark 1:20).

D. Father is named Zebedee

E. Motherís name seems to be Salome and she may be a sister to Mary the Mother of Jesus. If we look at the accounts of all the women who ministered to Jesus and were at the cross when He died, two accounts have these details. John, himself says this in John 19:25, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His motherís sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Mark 15:40 says this, "There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,"

If this is true, and I think it is, then several things make sense. First, the mother of James and John, Auntie Salome, according to Matt. 20:20 came to Jesus to ask a favor on her sonsí behalf. These were grown and hardened men, they didnít need their motherís intervention. But, in this case, blood may have been thicker than water.

It also makes sense that He would ask John to care for His mother when He died (John 19). Mary would have been Johnís Auntie.

F. John and His brother James were known to be impulsive, loud, ambitious, explosive, and zealous. They were nicknamed, "The Sons of Thunder," in Mark 3:17. That means that their character resembled that of the thunder, loud, & earth shaking. Along with the other 10, they were extraordinarily ordinary, and unlikely candidates to become world changers.

G. We have only one recorded statement from Johnís lips in the New Testament, and it was impetuous. I will share that with you in a few moments.

H. He or his family may have owned a home in Jerusalem as His mother was there and he may have cared for Mary there until she died.

I. He had some affluence as he had access to the High Priestís home and courtyard and knew His servants which implies that He had connections with the leadership in Jerusalem. When our Lord was arrested it was John who got Peter into the High Priestís courtyard, where he warmed himself by the fire and denied our Lord 3 times (John 18:15ff).

J. John is the only Apostle that we know for sure was at the cross when Jesus died. The others were likely hiding in fear of Jesusí fate becoming their own. Maybe it was Johnís connection with the High Priest that made him less fearful, but regardless he was likely the only one of the 12 who was there.

K. Was probably the first Apostle to believe Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:8)

L. Tradition says, that after Mary died, John moved to Ephesus where he served as Pastor until he was arrested.

M. Tradition says that the Roman Emperor Domitian tried to kill John by putting him into boiling oil but he was not hurt at all, so Domitian had John exiled to a small Penal island off the west coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea called Patmos, where John lived in a cave and wrote His Revelation of Jesus Christ.

N. When Domitian died John was allowed to leave Patmos and He returned to Ephesus where He probably wrote the Gospel and His 3 letters, all of which were a Holy Spirit directed refutation of a cult that was spreading in Christianity called Gnosticism which we will talk about in the near future.

O. He was probably the only one of the original 12 to die from old age and did so between the year 98, and 100 A.D. John was probably near 100 when He died. He lets us know at the end of the Gospel that bears his name that our Lord hinted that he might not die until Jesus returned (John 21:23).

II. The Character of the Man. I identify a lot with Peter. Peter wasnít afraid to

make a mistake or speak his mind. He was an ordinary guy who was able to do extraordinary stuff. I admire Paul, with his education, his willingness to work, his fearless desire to share Jesus and his willingness to suffer for what he knew to be true and all that He went through in his journey to become a follower and leader for Christ.

But, John was different than Paul. I have a lot of respect for John. Johnís writing is simple and at the same time perhaps deeper than Paulís. John was a no-nonsense, black or white kind of guy. He had zero tolerance for compromise, no room for middle ground. It was either A or B and no room for middle C. John came to be known as the Apostle of Love because he wrote more about love than any other Bible writer. But love was a learned and not a natural behavior for John.

James and John were known as the Thunder boys.

They had a reputation of being brash, intolerant, ambitious, and maybe ready to brawl or fight. They were not afraid to stand up for what they believed. Let me show you. Turn to Luke 9. Notice 3 things

A. Vv. 46-48. Mark 10 and Matthew 20, tell us that James and John were at the center of this dispute. They made no bones about it. Whether it was because they were family or that Jesus included them and Peter on several occasions to with Him when no one else was invited, they felt they deserved it, and were ambitious to be the top dogs in Jesusí administration.

B. Notice in Vv. 49-50, that the only time we have John speaking is when he confesses to telling a Christ-follower to stop his ministry because he didnít travel with Jesusí and the 12. We donít know if this was a proud or regretful confession. What we do know, is that John had zero tolerance for anyone not dotting their Iís as he did. This guy could not be a true Christ-follower if he didnít travel with the band. By the way, itís a problem many Christians have today. If someone doesnít go to our church or belong to our denomination, we canít believe they have a real relationship with God. There are many who have the, we are the only right church mentality.

C. Same chapter, vv. 51-56. Johnís favorite hymn was, Give Me That Old Time Religion, it was good enough for Elijah and its good enough for me. They had been up north near Syria and Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem. So they took the shortest route which meant they had to go through Samaria rather than travel the beltway as most Jews did around Samaria. When one town was rude and forbid them to travel through their streets, John remembered Elijah. Elijah called down fire on Mt. Carmel and Elijah killed 450 prophets of Baal and other gods (1 Kings 18). When the king sent soldiers to get Elijah in 2 Kings 1, Elijah called down fire from heaven and fried the soldiers, and not just once but on two separate occasions. The Thunder boys believed that is what they should do here. They would show people that you donít mess with Jesus freaks. None of these 3 incidents were very loving. All three brought life lessons and rebukes from our Lord.

But 50-60 years later when John would be led to write his Gospel and 3 letters, he speaks of love over 80 times. Maybe it was when He, more than once, spoke of love as being the two greatest commandments, and spoke of the good Samaritan. Perhaps it was when He gave the new commandment after washing their feet. What changed this man? Maybe it was Jesusí compassion for sinners and outcasts. Maybe it was when John was at the cross and heard Jesus asking forgiveness for those who condemned Him, and were killing Him. Maybe it was when He gave a dying criminal the promise of life with Him that very day. Maybe it was when he sat by a breakfast and re-affirmed Peter, who John heard deny Jesus 3 times. I donít know which, but I do know Jesus changed this loud brash man into a man who marveled at the Love of God. Sometimes he marvels at Godís love for us. Sometimes he speaks of Godís love for the world, or of the Fatherís love for the Son, but mostly he speaks about us loving each other as Jesus loves us. In fact, John is the only one of the Bible writers to say that Godís very nature is love. I John 4 is the only place in the Bible to say God is Love. John records how God loved the world in John 3:16 and 1 John 3:15, and 4:9-ff. Several times he refers to himself as, "The disciple whom Jesus loved." It is as if he marvels that God could love Him so much. John knew what he had been. Yet, Jesus loved Him, called Him, forgave Him, and used Him to change the world. (1John 3:1)

John learned the lesson that Paul also learned. Truth without love is hypocrisy. Truth without love is powerless. To speak of Jesus without love is to cripple the Gospel. This is why Paul wrote 1 Cor. 13, that we call the love chapter. Then in Ephesians 4 Paul would remind us that truth must be delivered with love.

Early church writers said that as he neared the end of his life, he had to be carried to church services and when asked to speak, he would only say, "My little children, love one another." One day, he was asked, "Why do you always say that?" He replied, "It is the Lordís command and if this alone be done it is enough." Karl Barth was a noted Neo-Orthodox German theologian of the early 20th century. Once while lecturing in America, he was asked what he thought was the most profound of all the Biblical doctrines? His response is said to have been this, "The most profound Biblical doctrine is, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

III. The Gospel of John Ė Why a 4th Gospel? Why did the Holy Spirit direct John to write a fourth account of Jesusí life? Good questions. Each of the 4 have a different emphasis of Jesusí life that is unique.

A. Matthew was writing primarily to a Jewish audience and his emphasis was on Jesus being the Messiah, the long awaited and prophesied king that was to come. Matthew refers to fulfilled prophecy. The King was here but we missed and rejected Him, but He is coming back.

B. Mark wrote primarily to a Roman or Gentile audience to show that the Messiah came and lived for the benefit of man. Mark wrote of the servant King. Mark says less of what Jesus said and more about what Jesus did than the any of the other writers. The Greeks and Romans knew no god that cared for the welfare of mortals. They were selfish and had to be appeased, but not Jesus. (cp. 10:45)

C. Luke wrote to show the tender humanness of Jesus. The Messiah that cared about women and children. The God-man that needed to eat, drink, rest, and to pray. Luke wanted people to see the compassion of God toward even one lost soul (cp. Chs. 15, and 19).

These first 3 gospels are called synoptic, because even though they are different, they are very similar in the events they talk about.

D. Johnís gospel is 75% new material, not covered in the other 3. It didnít take long after the resurrection ascension of our Lord for Heresies to begin. Some said that Jesus was just a spirit being, no real body, others said, that Jesus was just a man upon whom the power of God came when He was baptized and left when He was crucified. You will see as you focus on Johnís gospel that John, guided by the Holy Spirit wrote to show from beginning to end that Jesus is God who became flesh. Ch.1 The one who was before creation, the one who created all things, is the very one that took on flesh and dwelt among us. He laid down His life and He took it up again. He rose from the dead physically and completely the God-man. Yet, like Luke, john shows us the God who is a compassionate friend.

IV. The Purpose of the Gospel of John Ė I believe there are 5.

A. 20:30-31, "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." The first, is that you would believe that Jesus is the God who created you and cares enough to save you. He is Immanuel -God in the flesh. The visible presence of God, God the Son.

Now Johnís Gospel is not written in a running chronology like a movie. It is more like a photo album showing various portraits of Jesusí life. John chose 7 signs, 7 acts of Jesus by which can authenticate or confirm Johnís premise that Jesus is God in the flesh. He also chose about 10 times (more or less) when Jesus verbally claimed to be God, by saying, "I AM," or calling God His Father, or saying that He is the Son of God, and one with God. The last being His resurrection and Thomasí touching Him. Jesus is not just a man, not just a teacher, not just a religious leader. He is God in the flesh, (cp. C.S. Lewis).

John wants you to believe that. This word, Believe, implies more than head knowledge, it implies heart trust. I believe it and I am acting on it. I am trusting in the fact of it.

B. and that believing you may have life in His name. John wants those who read this to trust what he says so they can have the life that Jesus came to give. This is why we usually ask inquirers or new Christians to begin reading the Bible by starting with Johnís gospel. The first 12 chapters are almost entirely evangelistic (John 3:16; 5:24; 10:27-28). Jesus makes it very clear, one needs a new birth to be a child of God. This life comes when we trust in Jesus with our hearts not just our heads.

But John also makes it very clear, that without Jesus there is only condemnation and hell (John 3:18-36)

C. To encourage Christians. Chapter 13 the emphasis shifts from evangelism to encouraging Christ-followers. J. Vernon McGee said its as if God places a sign here that says for believers only. The words are largely in red and are directed to Christians to remind us of what our lives are to be about and that we will have a super-natural aid in the Holy Spirit to enable us to do what He calls us to do and to have a connection with the Father through prayer in Jesusí name. We have a home, we have help, and we have hope as long as we stay connected to the vine.

D. He gave us a new command to obey and an example to follow. Ch 13. To love and serve each other, even laying down our lives for each other (13:1-17; 34-35; cp. 15:12-14). Christians are too quick to fight, take sides, argue, quit, sulk, or to isolate ourselves from each other. Jesusí example is that we tear down walls, serve each other with humility and grace and forgive each other as He did Peter and you.

E. The last reason is that we might have assurance.

1. Of life Ė John 3:16

2. No Condemnation Ė 5:24

3. Heaven Ė John 14:1-6

4. Answered Prayer Ė 14:13-14

5. Godís Children -1:12-13

6. Never Alone Ė Chs. 14-16

Read and meditate in this Book. 3 chapters a day and you can read through it in a week.

Want to know who about Jesus read this book, pray about what you read.

Discouraged, tired, troubled, read this book and rest in its promises.

If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman