This is session two of the series designed to encourage you to read the book of John as a group or individually. It uses the wonderful commentary from David Ford – The Gospel of John, to guide us through this Gospel of abundance. Each session is designed to generate discussion after a week of reading. There is also a video to watch each week recorded by David Ford to bring to life the main themes of the readings. As you read through the plan in the week, use the commentary from David Ford to assist deeper understanding.
The heart behind this course is that you would become habitual re-readers of John, so that you might more deeply have relationship with Jesus.
The first point and overarching theme of John is that it is a gospel of abundance, like the gift that keeps on giving. Each time you read and re-read the gospel it offers deeper and deeper revelation of who God is and His love for each of us. The abundance of the book of John is as John himself writes in 1:16 ‘Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.’
The second point is that this gospel is written in easy Greek which means it is accessible to the beginner, but it also has the capacity to go on to challenge the mature believer. John is a teaching gospel which wants us to meet Jesus but them also abide in Him. John teaches us to be learners, prayers and have a life of inspired loving.
The third point to understand is the structure of John . It starts with a prologue where it gives a big framework for God and all reality. It them moves onto the ongoing drama of Jesus, which is the central part of the book. Finally it move into the ongoing drama where we live now in the spirit and in community with each other.
John says more about the Holy Spirit than any of the other Gospels. It is a theme that runs right the way through the book of John. One of the key verses that describes how Jesus interacts with the spirit is, ‘For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the spirit without measure.’ (3:34) It is amazing to think that we are in a world where the spirit is without measure.
Jesus describes the spirit as being like the wind later on in chapter 3 when talking to Nicodemus. The word in Greek is pneuma, meaning, wind, breath or spirit. John plays on this and says the spirit will blow where it wants – it brings energy and surprises.
When Jesus is at the temple, and is trying to teach, there is division about who He is. Jesus says, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’ (7: 37-39) At the time Jesus said this there was no Spirit as Jesus was not yet glorified. The Spirit is given to the disciples after the crucifixion and resurrection, the place of glory for John.
The imagery surrounding thirst is a core part of the book of John. It speaks of a desire to know God; answers a central question of what are we looking for? Throughout the gospel we are invited to be more like Jesus, to desire what He desires. Thirsting for the Spirit is right at the heart of this desire. This gospel is about a basic understanding and practise of how to form our desires.
The farewell discourses are the climax of the teaching of the Spirit in John. One of the themes is that the Spirit will lead us into all the truth. The scripture says, ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.‘ (16:13) This truth is part of our spiritual formation in knowing who Jesus is and affirmation of God as Trinity.
In the final exchange with Jesus on the cross he exclaims, it is finished, and gives the Spirit up. The literal Greek is that he handed over his Spirit. The Spirit is then finally handed over to us as a gift to empower and come alongside us to carry out the works.
Reading John’s gospel is seen as way of receiving the Spirit. ‘But these are written so that you (plural) may come to believe, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through that believing you might have life in His name.’ (20:31). Just as the breath of Jesus carries his words, His words carry his breath and the Spirit!