John: The Gospel of Life

Most Christians and even many unbelievers are aware that the four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament are biographical sketches of the life of Jesus Christ. These four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—have a fundamental similarity; they are all concerned with the life story of the same man. But why tell the same story four times?

Each of the Gospels presents Jesus Christ in a particular way:

  • Matthew, which repeatedly mentions “the kingdom of the heavens” (thirty-two times, to be exact), reveals that Jesus is the King, the One anointed by God to bring the kingdom of the heavens to the earth. Accordingly, Matthew opens with a detailed genealogical record (Matt. 1:1-17) that traces Christ’s lineage from the kingly line of David.
  • Mark’s record shows us that Jesus came as a slave to serve fallen man (Mark 10:45); hence, Mark’s gospel has no genealogy, since the heritage of a slave is unimportant.
  • Luke, seeking to show us that Jesus is a genuine and perfect man, highlights His human virtues and presents His ancestry all the way back to Adam, the first man (Luke 3:23-38).
  • John demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, becoming a man in the flesh so that man may receive the life of God (John 1:1, 12-14).

Since we are beginning the semester by reading the Gospel of John, let’s consider John’s emphasis in more detail.

The Word, who is God, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

Jesus embodied the life of God.

John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Greek word for life in this verse is zoe, which indicates not the physical human life (in Greek, bios) or the life of the soul (in Greek, psuche), but the eternal, divine life.

Jesus Himself is life.

Not only was there life in Jesus as the incarnated God; He Himself is life. In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Jesus came that we may have the life of God.

Jesus is the divine life, but even more, He was incarnated that we might have this life as well. In John 10:10 He said, “I have come that they may have life [zoe] and may have it abundantly.”

The Gospel of John reveals Christ’s death as a life-releasing death.

Christ shed His blood for us on the cross that we might be redeemed by God and forgiven of our sins. However, the Gospel of John is unique in showing us not only the redemptive aspect of Christ’s death, but also its life-imparting aspect.

In John 12:24 Jesus spoke of His death in a way that makes no reference to sin; rather, it is an analogy that concerns the imparting of the divine life into man. Jesus said, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Here He compared Himself to a seed; if a seed is never planted (that is, never “falls into the ground and dies”) it remains a single seed. However, if it is planted in death, it will bring forth many grains in resurrection (“if it dies, it bears much fruit”).

In the account of Christ’s death on the cross, John includes detail that is not found in the other Gospels. John 19:34 says that after Jesus died, “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.”

The blood that flowed out from the Lord’s side we readily recognize as the precious blood of the Lamb of God that washes away our sins (John 1:29). The water signifies the life of God imparted into those who believe into Jesus, making them the children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:15). The believers as the “many grains” mentioned in John 12:24, are the church, the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17).

So, as you read through the Gospel of John in the next few weeks, pay attention to this One who is the eternal life and who desires to impart His life into us!