John is the Gospel of the Son of God. Much of it is symbolic, some say apocalyptic, yet it is widely thought to be the easiest for a new believer to understand. In John's presentation there is little doubt that Jesus is the divine son of God. A critical concept in Christian theology. The other three Gospels are called the synoptic Gospels as they share much material in common and tell the story in more concrete human terms.

The four Gospels emphasize a different facet of who Jesus is. Except for Mark, which presents Jesus as a servant (and you don't care much about the heritage of a servant), the Gospels begin with a genealogy but the one in John is not a list of humans. Matthew presents Jesus as the king from the royal line of David through Solomon. Luke gives us Mary's human line from Adam through David and Nathan, David's the third son with Bathsheba. That line is royal but not in direct succession to the throne. 

Rhetorical triangle

John's gospel simply begins "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God (John 1.1)." John begins by telling us that Jesus is God and was present "in the beginning." The Greek word is logos (λόγος) is traditionally translated 'word' but it can also mean discourse, or reason. Aristotle gave logos a technical meaning, making it one of the three principles of rhetoric. The other two being ethos (ἔθος) and pathos (πάθος). While for Aristotle logos describes an appeal to reason, in Christian theology Logos becomes a title for Jesus. But maybe title is not a strong enough word. John continues; "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth (John 1.14 KJ21)." If logos is the intelligent organizing property of the universe, this says alot about Jesus as God incarnate and the very center of all existence.

Why we should believe that is supported by the other parts of Aristotle's rhetoric triangle. Ethos (ἔθος) appeals to the writer's character. In this case the traditional view is that this gospel was written by John the Apostle who was an eye-witness to the life and ministry of Jesus. Ethos can also be thought of as the role of the writer in the argument, and how credible his argument is. Ethos can also mean "character" and it is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The ethos of western civilization is that the world is indeed ordered and understandable. That is certainly what the Greeks thought as often credit them with the notion that the world could be understood through observation. For the Jew God spoke to world into existence in Genesis 1. John connects the Greek appeal to reason with the Word of God. 

Pathos (πάθος) appeals to the emotions. It can also be translated as pain or struggle but it also points to beliefs and values. Pathos can also be thought of as the role of the audience in the argument. Facts are important but they can be dry and unmoving. Learning about the Law of Moses, organization of creation or even the ministry of Jesus must be accepted at a deeper level than just intellectual ascent. In all of the Biblical narrative there is the tension between an external notion of obedience to the law and an internal commitment to walk with God. Jeremiah finds that the nation around him have the law on tablets but not in their hearts through him God tells us "...I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. ..."I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31.31; 33)."  

To have that covenant written on the heart you must be open and surrendered to God. The preaching about Jesus must be accepted just as the person of Jesus must be accepted. We see through all of the gospels that Jesus' teachings and person was hard for the Jewish leaders to accept. But he had more than a message that they would not or could not understand, there was also the matter of his parentage. Luke 1.26-38 records what is called the Annunciation, that is Gabriel's visit to Mary to tell of her call to bear the messiah, Matthew 1.18-25 records the similar announcement to Joseph in a dream. They both would have known the stigma that would be attached to their family. (Although it is hard to believe that Jesus would have been the only person of questionable parentage in the community.) Mary and Joseph also knew they were on a divine mission. Through John's Gospel Jesus refers to God as his father, while this is not unique to John's presentation, it is striking as to how often he does it (by some counts 30 times). He talks about being sent by the father, that he is teaching the things her heard for His father. By chapter 8 opposition in building to Jesus' ministry and in the following exchange the Jewish leaders question Jesus' parentage in 8.39.  

Dispute Over Jesus' father and whose offspring Jesus' Opponents Are

31 ... "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

33 They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34 Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father."

39 "Abraham is our father," they answered.

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father."

"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

Jesus' Claims About Himself

48 The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"

49 "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death."

52 At this they exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"

54 Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

57 "You are not yet fifty years old," they said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"

58 "Very truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8.31-46 NIV)

The Seven "I am" Statements - The Identity of Christ

  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 door" (John 10.9)
  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, the truth, and the life" (John 14.6)
  7. "I am the true vine" (John 15.1)

The Gospel begins by presenting Jesus as the son of God, it quickly builds to conflict and finally to His crucifixion and resurrection. In this lengthy exchange we see Jesus' opponents make some startling claims about never being slaves, having God as their father and that Jesus is a Samaritan and demon possessed. They neglect the 400 years of bondage in Egypt, the problems in the wilderness where God was going to live in their midst. As far as Jesus' parentage goes in verse 41 could be a metaphorical as the claim of Abraham as the notion of a spiritual father would be. Jesus being a Samaritan would also be an insult as the Samaritans were of mixed parentage and their traditions about God were also mixed. Mutual accusations of being demon possessed and sons of the devil were not terribly diplomatic. This discussion does not end on friendly terms as they picked up stones to stone him (v. 58). But Jesus had just told them "before Abraham was born, I am!." In that phrase he basically used the name of God to refer to himself (see Names of God).

That is not the only time that He does this. The traditional list of the seven "I AM" statements is given in the box at right. People who count such things have found many such sevens in John's gospel. The seven "I am" statements speak of Jesus identity as God incarnate. All of these statements have come out of some sort of conflict as above. If the beginning of the gospel is presenting Jesus as the Son of God, much of the rest of the gospel is the conflict that arises because of that claim. 

Jesus is presented as being an observant Jew of His time. In the gospel He attends feasts seven times, three of these are Passover but also feasts that are likely Purim and Hanukkah although these two are not named. Passover celebrates God delivering the nation out of slavery in Egypt, Purim is the feast of Esther and recalls how Esther became queen of Persia, the feast of dedication of Hanukkah recalls the re-dedication of the temple under the Maccabees. All of these are calling the people to remember the deliverance of God.

The 7 Miracles of Jesus recorded in John

  1. Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2.1-11)
  2. Jesus heals an official's son at Capernaum in Galilee (John 4.43-54)
  3. Jesus heals an invalid at Bethesda (John 5.1-15)
  4. Jesus feeds 5,000 plus women and children (John 6.1-15)
  5. Jesus walks on water (John 6.16-21)
  6. Jesus heals a man born blind (John 9.1-12)
  7. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in Bethany (John 11.1-45)

There are only seven miracles recorded in the gospel. The first is turning water into wine at a wedding, turning the water usually used for ceremonial washing into the wine for the celebration of a wedding--the celebratory relationship we are to have with God. The second miracle (John 4.46-54) He demonstrated that He was able to heal from a distance--that he is with us everywhere. 

The man at the pool of Bethesda was trusting on the "angel" of the pool. Jesus healed him without the pool or the angel. In the feeding of the 5,000 He see to the people's physical needs. Just as in the walking on the water He shows that He is in control of nature.

The man born blind presents a problem for the disciples about the connection of sin and infirmity. Jesus tells them "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." Jesus heals the mans physical blindness but the spiritual blindness of many around them remained.

In raising Lazarus Jesus foreshadows his own resurrection. Resurrection was an issue amongst the Jews at the time as many did not believe in anything supernatural.

The miracles are not John's primary point but in the end he tells us:

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,  and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20.30 NIV)




John Overview and Outline: 12/30/22

The seven feasts in John's Gospel: 12/31/22

Logos: 12/31/22

The Rhetorical Triangle: Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos: 12/31/22