Engaging John’s Gospel

For the past few weeks our Sunday Gospel readings have been from John. Since we will continue to be in John throughout May, I thought I’d give you a few tips for reading John.

Matthew, Mark and Luke share many similarities. Granted, each is unique and has particular emphases, but generally, scholars recognize that the authors of these gospels drew from similar sources. While John also has some of the same stories and themes, it is quite unique. Below are a few things to keep in mind when you’re reading John for study or devotion.

1.  The first key to understanding John’s approach to the story of Jesus are the first 18 verses of the gospel. In John, Jesus is not simply one who speaks and acts for God. He is the Word incarnate: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (1:1, 14) If words are a way of communicating, John’s confession is that Jesus himself embodies God’s eternal Word in a singular way.

2.  The second key to understanding John is tucked away in chapter 20:30-31. There John states explicitly the purpose of the book: “…Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples…these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

Other key themes in John:

-Believing: belief / trust in John is for a specific purpose, “that you may have life…”

-Abiding: in John 15, Jesus gives us images of vines and branches to understand      what it means to “abide” in him as he “abides” in us.

-Spirit: the Spirit plays a much bigger role in John than in the other gospels. In John  Jesus gives the Holy Spirit by breathing on the disciples after his resurrection. In John the Spirit accompanies (14:16) teaches and reminds (14:26), testifies (15:26),  and guides believers (16:13).

What are the themes you notice?