Friday, February 05, 2016

Gospel of John, Part 1

I began my third course through Liberty University on January 18th. In 2014 when I took their introductory course on Life Coaching, I think I shared some of my previous assignments here on Facing the Waves. I hope to do the same in the next few months with my assignments from this course on the Gospel of John.

Writing Prompt:
It is often said that John is the Gospel to the world (and Matthew to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, and Luke to the Greeks). But in 1924, Israel Abrahams said, "To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!" What is in the Gospel of John that would cause a Jewish scholar to say this? If it is true, why do many people tell new converts to begin by reading John?

   The Gospel of John is centered on proclaiming the deity of Christ while offering life to those who believe on His name. [1] While Matthew’s Gospel was written primarily for a Jewish audience [2], Israel Abrahams claimed that John was the most Jewish of the four gospels, and John’s record of Jesus’ life gives good proof of this.

   The three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tend to focus on Jesus ministry in Galilee, while John focuses on His Judean ministry.[3] The Messiah had been long promised to come from the tribe of Judah[4], so a Jewish scholar would have understood the references to a Messiah in the numerous prophecies from the Old Testament Scriptures.

   John also records many of Jesus’ appearances and events in Jerusalem, the capital city of the Israelite nation. The Jewish festivals, imagery, and symbols of the culture would not escape a Jewish scholar’s notice either[5], for the Gospel of John is more completely understood in the context of its culture and history. The Passover was a notable event for the Jew to celebrate, and John records four Passover events[6] in the life of Christ[7].

   John lists seven specific “I AM” sayings of Christ.[8] These also allude to many Old Testament references. For instance, by saying that He was the true vine, the good shepherd, and the light of the world, Jesus was claiming to be no other than the Jehovah God of the Israelite nation[9]. In the eighth “I AM” statement (recorded several times throughout the Gospel of John), Jesus directly identifies Himself with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. He was claiming equality with Yahweh and John uses these statements to prove Christ’s deity.
 John also uses over 20 titles for Jesus in the first chapter of his Gospel.[10] These titles alone, if nothing else were written about Christ, would reveal the Jewish symbolism, history, prophecy, and significance of this Gospel.[11] Titles such as the Suffering Savior, the Passover Lamb, the Shepherd-King, and the Greater David describe characteristics and meanings  of Christ deeply rooted in Jewish history and prophecy.

 Jesus also directly interacted with His Jewish culture. He knew the times He was living in and He confronted the outward religious actions that demonstrated a lack of heart knowledge. John records Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus in John 3, giving us some of the most well-known verses in the Bible[12]. One of the reasons Christians today encourage new converts to read John’s gospel is because it clearly and simply presents the salvation message[13]. While Jesus does indeed battle the external show of Judaism in His day[14] using references to Old Testament references to sacrifices, rituals, Levitical laws[15], Christ’s message of rebirth, renewal, and repentance is timeless and just as applicable for people today[16]. The mission of John’s Gospel was specifically for a Jewish nation, but yet Christ’s words held eternal life—life that spanned every background, ethnicity, culture, and society. Today there is also a great show of outward religion in our culture, and John’s “believe and live” message strikes at the heart of the Gospel, offering a clear explanation of redemption to all mankind.

   He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:11-12, ESV)

[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, xi.
[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV, 1341
[3] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV, 1341
[4] Genesis 49:10
[5] Craig S. Keener, Gospel of John, 171
[6] John 2:13, 5:1, 6:4, 11:55
[7] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, xix
[8] John 6:35, 8:12, 10:9, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5, 8:58
[9] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, xiv
[10] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, 6
[11] Craig S. Keener, Gospel of John, 174
[12] John 3:15-16
[13] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, viii
[14] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 56
[15] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 54
[16] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, viii

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