of John begins in a unique way. Unlike Matthew
, John is not based on the work of Mark
, which starts with the prophesizing
of John the Baptist
. In contrast to Mark
who bases his writing on the eyewitness accounts of Peter
, John's words are those of a man professing his faith for all to see, instead of merely a recounting of events surrounding Jesus
John begins with words of intensity and beauty that only a faithful man can profess.
"What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:3b-5)."
Through out the entire book similar passages with romantic language can be found. Since the writers of John were in Asia at the time of the book's creation (Class Notes 5/2), and thus influenced by Greek culture, the language shows their motives; namely to seduce Gnostics with the beauty of the text while still preaching Jesus as Lord.
The Book of John not only differs from the other gospels in its use of language, it is also different in perspective. John is written in the third person with any references to the disciple John omitted. If John needs to be referred to, he is called "the disciple whom he (Christ) loved."
Thematically the gospel is based on the Word of God, and the use of light and dark to symbolize those who have experienced and believe the word and others who do not. Jesus himself puts very clearly his mission in these terms when he talks to a group of people just before the Last Supper:
The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you (John 12:35a). And, while you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light (John 12:36).
Another unique portion of John occurs at the Last Supper. In the ultimate act of humility Jesus
washes the feet of all of the disciples, including Judas Iscariot
. The act is meant to teach us that the lowest of society is no less one of God's children than the mightiest, and we should treat everyone the same. In the case of Judas
goes one step further telling us not only to treat those with low standing well, but also those who do us harm.
However the feet washing episode teaches us something more, it is a preparation for His ultimate death and resurrection. As John McKenzie and Paul Visokay put it:
If a person is to share in him, Jesus, if he is to be in communion with him and belong to him, he must accept the slave-service Jesus offers; in other words, he must accept the death of Jesus as a death that brings him salvation (McKenzie II, 24).
In John Jesus
has other humble
qualities. Another good example is when he weeps openly at the death of Lazarus
. One could ask why Christ would be overcome with emotion at the death
of one person, but this goes back to light and dark and sight and blindness. The purpose of Jesus
in John was not only to try to bring healing to the world. God sent him, so that God might also experience human suffering
. Had Jesus not wept at the death of Lazarus
, he would have missed a vital part of the human experience
and remained in the dark about it.
Staying out of the dark is the fundamental part of John, and through it's devotion to Jesus as a man and a savior, the book aims to bring the "light" and the "life" of the world to those willing to accept him.
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press 1989.
Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John. Volumes XIII-XXI. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1970.
Helms, Randel McCraw. Who Wrote the Gospels?. Altadena, California: Millennium Press 1997.
McKenzie, John L. New Testament for Spiritual Reading: The Gospel According to St. John. Volumes I-III. New York: Crossroad 1981.