This is session three of the series using the Gospel of John. The series is 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 weekly reading plan 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.
We have already studied the prologue (the first 18 verses of the Book of John) which set out the themes and framework for thinking about how to live. It gives some fundamental criteria for what our worldview thinking, as Christians should be. The criteria are about deep-meaning and truth. One is the focus on the Son and the Father talking about love. Another criteria is about the incarnation, that God became man and lived among us. Above all we acknowledge that God is at the heart of all reality – there is no one greater than Him. We also need to understand the faithfulness of God – that no matter what we face in life his faithfulness does not rule out the big surprises. We should also seek to understand that God transcends the world and is free to do new things that may not conform to what we know already.
The prologue should be read in relation to every other chapter of the Gospel of John to help with the dynamic of learning through the book. It brings deeper meaning to the whole text.
Within the book of John there are guides to Christian living. The way John writes the gospel means that we are led continually into all the rest of the scripture as it refers back the old testament and also leads us into the other gospels and Paul’s writings. The central question is how we relate to the central person – Jesus.
Jesus Christ is like a totally new category in our worldview! We don’t have any category already there that can comprehend Jesus; we have to think in new dimensions. Jesus was and is one with God and one with man, the one through whom all things are made… Our minds just cannot comprehend this and it leads us to an ongoing learning journey as a disciple of Christ.
Looking at the farewell discourses (Chapters 13-17) we see that Jesus wants us to be learners with the help of the Spirit. It shows us not only how we should think, but also guides our praying and our living. The farewell discourse is given to prepare the disciples for what is to come. Jesus’ final prayer in John 17 gives the vision of what Jesus is laying down his life for; the fullest unity in love and peace. ‘I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ (17: 26) Jesus wants us to be sanctified in the truth and to be united in love with Him, with God the Father and each other – all of this for the sake of the whole of creation.
Chapter 12 holds an interesting verse, ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ (12:32) This is the crucifixion of Jesus, the death out of love which is the deepest attraction or the strange attraction of Jesus. This verse has a great resonance with Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 which is well worth reading in the context of Jesus being for all creation.
The book of John is important now because it shows readers a global horizon of how to live in a unified way within the desires of Jesus. Jesus wants unity with all people and all creation in love and peace.