This morning we begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is a special book. J.C. Ryle said of the Gospel of John: “No one of the four Gospel writers has given us such full statements about the divinity of Christ, about justification by faith, about the offices of Christ, about the work of the Holy Spirit, and about the privileges of believers as we read in the pages of John.” Let us begin our series with some introductory remarks about the book as a whole.
Who was John?
We can have confidence in internal and external evidence that this book was written by the Apostle John who was a Galilean fisherman (Matt 5:21) and an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ ministry (John 19:35). He is the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). He was one of the three closest disciples to Jesus: along with Peter and James (Mark 9:1; Luke 8:51). He and his brother James were the sons of Zebedee (Mark 10:35) and were given the nickname by Jesus “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17; see also Luke 9:54). John serves as a vital witness to the life and ministry of Jesus. John also wrote the biblical books of 1-3 John and Revelation. He later served as an important leader in the Church in Jerusalem (Gal 2:9).
When did John write this Gospel?
It is believed that John wrote this Gospel around 85-90 AD. We can have confidence in a date this early because the earliest copy we have of part of the Gospel of John is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52. This is a Greek papyri manuscript of a section of the Gospel of John written around 100-150 AD. The front of the manuscript contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38. If a copy of a section of John exists around 100-150 AD, then the original must be earlier, even as early as 85-90 AD.
Why is it very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke?
We have four Gospels in the Bible and when we examine them we see a consistency in the presentation of Jesus. The four Gospels fundamentally agree with and complement one another with Matthew, Mark, and Luke being the most similar. All four Gospels present Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God who lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death so that we may have our sins forgiven and receive eternal life and be reconciled to God.
The Gospel of John is different in a few key ways. First, John’s Gospel does not include parables, there is no account of the transfiguration, no record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, no report of Jesus casting out a demon, no mention of Jesus’ temptations. This should not cause concern because John admits: “And there were also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one after the other, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Second, John includes a large amount of Jesus’ teaching that is not found in the other Gospels (see John 14-17).
Why did John write this Gospel?
Why did the Apostle John write this Gospel? He tells us near the end of this book: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also did in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). John specifically wrote this Gospel in order to present seven signs (miracles that attest to Jesus’ identity) that provide a sound basis for belief in Jesus as the Christ.
What is a “sign” in the Gospel of John?
Good signs deliver the intended message with clarity. For example, a good ‘Stop’ sign is properly placed and clearly visible. Good signs in a restaurant let you know where to locate the restroom (and which one is which!). The Lord gave Moses two signs (Exodus 4:8) in order to authenticate to the Jews that God had sent him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The plagues upon Egypt were also signs from God (Joshua 24:17) to demonstrate that the Lord was indeed calling His people out of bondage in Egypt.
In the Gospel of John, there is a strong emphasis on the signs of Jesus. Signs were public events (usually miracles) that were meant to authenticate Jesus’ claim to be the Christ, the Son of God. The signs were verifiable proof that Jesus was sent from God (John 3:2). Jesus did not perform miracles haphazardly; His miracles were signs meant to testify of His identity. What are the seven signs in the Gospel of John?
- Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)
- Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
- Healing the lame man (John 5:1-15)
- Feeding the multitude (John 6:1-15)
- Walking on water (John 6:16-21)
- Healing the blind man (John 9)
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11)
Signs So that You May Believe
These signs were written down by John in this gospel so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. John 19:35 says, “And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” We can have confidence that what the Bible says about Jesus is true.
Signs So That You May Have Life
These signs were written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name. In John 3, Jesus made it clear to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:15-16). Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you have life in His name?