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Introduction to the Gospel of John
Brief Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
A. The Purpose of the Gospel of John
In John 20:30, 31 is the actual stated purpose of the apostle as he lets us know
why he has written his gospel and why he has put it together as he has done. "And many
other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this
book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;
and that believing ye might have life through his name."
As you know, each one of the gospel writers seem to have a particular burden and
concern in the way he writes. None of the gospels are exactly alike. Matthew, Mark and
Luke which are called the synoptic gospels, are very much alike in their total outline. I
guess all but just a word or two of the gospel of Mark is literally reproduced in Matthew
and Luke somewhere.
But John's approach is considerably different, as we will see as we study it. Under
divine unction of the Holy Spirit, he specifically chooses to arrange certain information
from the life and ministry of Jesus and arrange it in a very special design in his outline.
The way he has written and the way he has done is mainly to demonstrate his purpose in
presenting Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
There are seven miracle signs that John has arranged somewhat in climatic
sequence in this gospel in such a way as to present the ongoing work and ministry of
Jesus Christ. He said, "And there are many other signs that are not written in this book,"
and he said, "I didn't take into account everything in the life of Jesus and ministry." As a
matter of fact he said in chapter twenty-one, verse twenty five, "And there are also many
other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose
that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
So John is very much aware of the tremendous responsibility and challenge that is
facing him to write the gospel and to tell the story of Jesus. He said, "I have necessarily
had to narrow down the scope because I have been the witness of what He has taught and
what He has done and I've had to pick and choose as the Lord would direct me and
arrange the gospel in such a way that I wanted to present those things that Jesus did and
the particular things that He said so that people would believe on Him and believe that He
is the Christ the Messiah the Son of God and believing this they would have life through
His name. That is my purpose."
I think it helps us when we know John's burden and his vision. Literally, that gets
us into an area where we start talking about some of the theological purposes of the
writer. He wants to present the gospel in a certain way. He is spir itually slanted and
narrowed in certain directions to meet the challenge of carrying out his own purpose.
This will become very evident as we go along and as we talk about this great gospel.
B. The Background of the Gospels in the Old Testament
1. The Old Testament is Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
By way of a few words of introduction to this gospel, let's just look back at the
background to the gospels just for a moment. As you very well know in studying the New
Testament, everything that is presented by the gospel writers and by those who wrote
letters like Paul and others have their foundation in the Old Testament. You can trace
very clearly almost every theme, every doctrine, and every idea back into the Old
Testament. We can see the Testament and how it lives and grows and works right on
through the fulfillment of what God has done in Jesus Christ. Everything that was
promised in the Old Testament, the New Testament writers interpreted and came to
understand that it was fulfilled beautifully in the life and ministry of Jesus and indeed in
the life and ministry of the church.
2. Prophets, Priests and Kings in Israel
Just as an example, in the Pentateuch the first five books of the Bible, we have
God's relationship to the patriarchs and the establishment of the priesthood system that
would set up a way by which offering for sin could be made and man could stand
justified before God. In the historical books, we have the story of the kingdom of Israel.
In the prophetical books, we have the messages of the prophets related to not only the
abominations of the nations round about Israel but specific corrections and warnings and
prophesies. We have pastoral prophecies as well as futurist predictions and prophecies as
it related not only to the people of God in Israel, but also to the church that would come.
There came a time however, when the priesthood system grew utterly and
absolutely corrupt and lost its efficiency. As a matter of fact, it would become the subject
matter of the prophets as they would simply try to correct the abuses and the sinfulness of
the priesthood system. The kingdom of Israel itself faded away into oblivion and the
Hebrew people were just lost, swallowed up and scattered throughout the nations of the
world. Finally the voices of the prophets themselves were silent.
But the need for all that – for God to have a priesthood people, for God to have a
kingdom that could be identified as the kingdom of the Lord, and for Him to have voices
of prophets – all the needs still persisted.
3. Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King
So because of the promise and fulfillment element that is just simply written in to
the word of God, all this came to focus and center upon the person and ministry of Jesus
Christ. In Him is represented indeed the great high priest. In Him is represented the voice
of the greatest prophet of all time. In Him is represented the King of Kings and Lord of
Lords. So that everything that was seen in the Old Testament comes to sharp focus and is
pinpointed on the life and death and resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What the gospel writers and what others would say is that the whole world hinges
around Him, even all creation; that the entire people of God are closely fastened to Him;
and that He indeed is the head of the church and the heart of the church. Everything
revolves around Him. He becomes the center and focal point of all worship – past,
present and future. Oh, hallelujah! To know that Jesus Christ is Jewish Messiah, Jesus
Christ is Son of God, Jesus Christ is Savior, this is the fulfillment of all that was prayed
for and longed for and hoped for by the people of the Old Testament times.
C. The Emphases of the Gospel
1. Mark – Jesus as the Ministering Servant
This can be demonstrated a little more clearly as we just take a real brief glance at
the main emphasis in each one of the gospels. For instance, in what is called the first
gospel, the gospel of Mark, it is indicated by one verse in particular what is really the
heart of the gospel of Mark. It is those words of Jesus when He said, "For even the Son of
man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for
These words indicate that Jesus Christ saw Himself, His ministry, His role as the
suffering servant of Isaiah, as the fulfillment for all the need for priest. So He came as a
servant priest – first of all to minister, to serve; and then as a priest who would offer up
sacrifices. Jesus the high priest would offer up Himself on the cross, the lamb slain from
the foundation of the world. Jesus was aware that He indeed was that lamb.
So in the gospel of Mark, the main burden that he seems to have is to tell us
quickly about the life of Jesus and His ministry. He moves through about half of his
gospel very quickly and keeps reminding us, keeps using a word that crops up just every
few verses. It is the word that is translated, "immediately" or "straightaway." He uses that
word forty some times in the gospel of Mark.
He is in a hurry. You know, it seems like he's just flashing these scenes one right
after the other of the ministry of Jesus because it seems as if he is in a hurry to get to the
central part of his gospel where not only Peter makes the great confession, "Thou art the
Christ the Son of the living God," but Jesus makes an even greater confession when he
says, "The Son of man must go to Jerusalem and he must suffer and he must die and be
raised again the third day."
In Mark He had to tell them that three times – three passion predictions and still
they did not want to believe that He was going to fill the role of suffering servant who
would lay down His life. They could never grow accus tomed. They said, "No, no, we
might die, we may lay down our lives but not you, Lord."
Jesus had to tell Peter and others when they tried to keep Him from becoming
high priest forever, "Get thee behind me Satan." Because anything that would hinder the
priesthood work of Christ is indeed Satan- like in its attitude. So he came hurriedly and
Mark spends the rest of his gospel (about ha lf of it) then describing the passion of our
Lord, the suffering, the laying down of his life, the resurrection and so on.
2. Matthew – Jesus as the King
When we look at the gospel of Matthew, the emphasis in that gospel is on the
King – the King of the Jews, the King of Israel – because the word kingdom is used over
fifty times in that gospel. It is one of the great emphases and perhaps the theological
center of the gospel of Matthew. What Matthew wants people to understand is that Jesus
is not only the suffering servant, but indeed He is Messiah. He is King. He is King of the
Jews. He is King indeed of the whole wide world and he keeps on piling up the emphasis
He traces in his birth narrative the lineage of Jesus so that it will be directly
connected to the Jews because His gospel seems to be a more Jewish gospel than any one
of the others. So he traces the lineage of Jesus back through King David, back to
Abraham so that he would tie Jesus in absolutely directly with the Jewish nation and the
Jewish people and all their heritage and all their hopes and all their promises.
3. Luke – Jesus as the Great Prophet of Love
The gospel of Luke takes a little different aim because it seems to be written from
a Gentile perspective that would show Jesus as the great prophet who would come and
present His message of love to the entire world. In the birth narrative of Luke, he also
traces the lineage of Jesus not only back to David, but on beyond David to Abraham and
on beyond Abraham to Adam, to every man because he wants the whole world to know,
not just the Jews. He wants the whole world to know that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the
4. John – Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God
But when we come to the gospel of John, the emphasis is mainly on Jesus the
Messiah, the Son of God. Yes, He will be seen as the great priest and we'll look at that.
He will be seen as the great prophet of all times. He will be seen in all of the many facets
of His ministry but as I have already read to you as far as John is concerned, His primary
purpose is that people would believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that
believing that they might have life through His name.
D. John’s Use of the Greek Word, “Logos”
So John doesn't even have a birth narrative at all that tells about the birth of Jesus.
When he starts to talk about the origination of Jesus and how He came into this earth, he
leaps over David, leaps far beyond Abraham, leaps on past Adam, he leaps out of this
world in fact and leaps all the way entirely into the eternal past and he says, "In the
beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." Hallelujah!
He doesn't tell the story of His birth. He tells the story of the incarnation of the Son of
God, the living eternal LOGOS, the word. He says, "He is from the beginning."
Now John arranges his gospel in such an order so that we might understand and
get the message first off that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God and
everything he's going to write will help to build that case. As a matter of fact in the
Prologue of the gospel, the first eighteen verses, he makes use of a special Greek word
that most all of us have come to be very familiar with by now and that is the word
LOGOS or word.
1. Logos and the Jews
When John used that word, LOGOS, he is with that one word able to
communicate with three different worlds in a very specific and wonderful way. Because
to the Jewish world that word meant the dynamic creative power of God just to speak
things into existence. To them LOGOS was the dynamic power of God that creates and
brings into existence.
2. Logos to the Greeks
To the Greeks the word LOGOS meant some divine supernatural principle that
they did not understand by which you measured all of your intellect and reason and
understanding. It was some principle that seemed hold the whole universe together and
although they could not quite identify it as Jesus and understand exactly what it was, John
came along and was able to accommodate them and say the LOGOS that you mentioned,
the divine principle of rationality and reason that indeed holds the universe together, that
is none other than Jesus Christ the Son of God that I preach. So it had a special meaning
3. Logos and the Early Church
To the early church LOGOS meant the preached word. What happens when the
word is preached? To them it was like the Jews, it was also very dynamic. They never
saw the word as static or necessarily as a scroll of a book. They didn't worship a book.
They worshiped a dynamic God who operated in the words of the book. Oh, I want to tell
you as John used that word then, he was building a bridge to three different worlds.
So John just simply does all kinds of things to make sure that he reaches his world
and they understand. So he is going to reach the Jews and the Greeks and the church by
the use of this one same word and he's going to say that LOGOS, the word, was in the
beginning with God. Not only that, but it was God. That is the way he starts the story of
Brief Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, John
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