Where the world comes to study the Bible

An Overview of John in Retrospect

Introduction

If someone were to ask you what the Gospel of John is all about, what would you say? How would you sum up the message of this Gospel? Dr. S. Lewis Johnson214 has said that we ought to be able to think our way through the argument of every book of the Bible, chapter by chapter. I’m not able to do that yet, but I can do so with a few books, like Romans, for example. Romans is easy to reason your way through because Paul is so logical in his argument. But a Gospel like John is a completely different matter. How can we think our way through this Gospel, in a way that gives us a clear sense of what it is all about?

This lesson is the result of the recommendation of a friend, Marvin Ball, who suggested that I needed to end this series in the Gospel of John with some kind of summary or overview of the book. It was a good idea. And so, having reached the end of John’s Gospel, we now take the opportunity to glance back in the rear view mirror, so to speak, for one last look at this great book.

It has not been an easy task, but I think I have finally settled on an approach to this Gospel that works for me, and perhaps it will be of help to you as well. To begin with, we must have a fairly good grasp of the nature of this Gospel. In the introductory lesson to this series, I described some of the characteristics of John’s Gospel, which you may wish to review. For one thing, I pointed out that most of John’s material is original. Over 90% of John’s material is not found in any of the Synoptic Gospels.215 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes this statement concerning the few events John shares in common with the Synoptic Gospels:

In relation to the Synoptics, the differences are great, but more surprising is the fact that the points of contact between these Gospels and the Fourth Gospel are so few. The critics to whom reference has been made are unanimous that the writer or the school who compiled the Johannine writings was indebted to the Synoptics for almost all the facts embodied in the Fourth Gospel. Apart, however, from the Passion Week, only two points of contact are found so obvious that they cannot be doubted, namely, the feeding of the 5,000, and the walking on the sea (Jn 6:4-21).216

The next thing we must keep in mind is the high level of selectivity John has employed in choosing the material he will include. He himself indicates this at the end of the Gospel:

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 20:25).

Having read these verses many times, I still did not sense their full impact. It was these comments on John in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia which finally got my attention:

… the first thing that strikes the reader is the small amount of the real time filled up, or occupied, by the scenes described in the Gospel. We take the night of the betrayal, and the day of the crucifixion. The things done and the words spoken on that day, from one sunset to another, occupy no fewer than 7 chapters of the Gospel (John 13 through 19). Apart from the supplementary chapter (21), there are 20 chapters in the Gospel, containing 697 vs, and these 7 chapters have 257 verses. More than one-third of the whole given to the ministry is thus occupied with the events of one day. … If we continue to follow the clue thus afforded, we shall be surprised at the fewness of the days on which anything was transacted. …

We make these remarks, which will be obvious to every reader who attends to them, mainly for the purpose of showing that the Gospel on the face of it does not intend to, at least does not, set forth a complete account of the life and work of Jesus. It gives at the utmost an account of 20 days out of the 1,000 days of our Lord's ministry. This is of itself sufficient to set aside the idea of those who deal with the Fourth Gospel as if it were meant to set aside, to supplement, or to correct, the accounts in the Synoptics. Plainly it was not written with that purpose.217

The Gospel of John is not a sequential presentation of most of the events of our Lord’s three-year ministry, but a mere sampling of a few of these events, essentially in chronological order. The Gospel of John focuses on a few events, which occur during a very few days, most of which are not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. These observations not only underscore the uniqueness of John’s Gospel, they also provide us with some helpful clues as to the organizing principle John employed in the writing of this great Gospel.

I have read a number of commentaries on the Gospel of John, and each of them seeks to present some kind of structure or outline of this Gospel. That is all well and good, but few seem to agree about the structure of the Book. I would suggest that the key to the structure of this Gospel is to be found when one identifies the Gospel’s organizing principle. In the Book of Romans, Paul’s organizing principle is logical. In Genesis and many other historical books of the Bible, the principle is chronological.218 In John, with so few days and so few events described, we must find another organizing principle. After considerable thought (and, I confess, agony), I think I have settled on the organizing principle which underlies the structure and argument of the Gospel of John.

The key is found in our Lord’s repeated visits to Jerusalem. These are:

John 2

Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem, when He cleanses the temple

John 5

Jesus’ second visit to Jerusalem, when He heals the handicapped man

John 7

Jesus’ third visit to Jerusalem, when He cries out on the great day of the feast

John 11219

Jesus’ fourth visit (almost), to Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, where He raises Lazarus

John 12

Jesus’ final visit to Jerusalem, beginning with dinner at Bethany, followed by the triumphal entry, and then the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord

This is a marked contrast to the organizational scheme of the Synoptic Gospels. A substantial portion of these Gospels is devoted to the Galilean ministry of our Lord.220 In Mark, for example, it is not until chapter 11 that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the first and last time in this Gospel. This is the case with the other Synoptics. They give much attention to the Galilean ministry of Jesus because this is where Jesus spent most of His time. John, on the other hand, alternates between our Lord’s Galilean ministry and the Jerusalem campaigns, for a very important reason. John’s Gospel, more than the Synoptics, reflects the strategy of our Lord in dealing with the nation Israel. John pictures our Lord making several appearances in Jerusalem, each of which produces additional revelation about the person and work of Jesus, with each visit ending in questions or conflict. This conflict then prompts our Lord to retreat from Jerusalem in order to allow the situation to cool. The effect is a very carefully calculated one. Each visit to Jerusalem served to raise the “temperature” of the Jews (and especially the Jewish authorities), until it finally reached the boiling point at His final appearance. The Jews in Jerusalem are virtually forced to arrest and crucify Jesus during the Passover, which was “His time.”

John is an excellent historian. I have had my share of history classes, and to be perfectly honest, most of them weren’t that great. I can summarize what a bad history teacher is like: “First this happened, and next this happened, and then this, and this, and so on and on and on …” A bad historian simply retells history in its proper chronological order. Such historians are worthy of the label “boring.” A good historian is one who does not give equal weight to every event in history, but who focuses on what I would call the “turning points” of history. Whether it be World War I, World War II, or some other war in history, each war usually has many battles, but only a few turning points. A great historian is one who helps us understand the events of a certain period by focusing on a handful of key “turning points” in that period of history. John is a great historian. He does not attempt to repeat, once again, an account of the same events which are reported in the Synoptic Gospels. He presents original material,221 focusing on those critical events which were the turning points in our Lord’s ministry to the nation Israel.

Think about some of the great “turning points” in the Bible. The fall of man in the Garden of Eden was the first great turning point in the Bible. After this event, everything changed. Knowing about the fall in Genesis chapter 3, we can understand what follows—the death of Abel at the hand of Cain (Genesis 4), the sin of the whole world which required the flood (Genesis 6-9), the tower of Babel (Genesis 11), and so on. Abraham’s departure to an unknown land (Genesis 11 and 12) and the offering up of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22), were also great turning points, not only in his life, but for all mankind. The exodus of Israel from Egypt (The Book of Exodus) was another great turning point in the history of Israel.

The greatest “turning point” in the history of the world since the fall of man was the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, followed by His triumphant resurrection and ascension. The cross and resurrection are the climax of all the Gospels, but John’s Gospel is laid out in a way that shows us all of those smaller “turning points” which inevitably led to the rejection of Jesus by the nation Israel, culminating in the cross of Calvary. A turning point often begins with our Lord’s appearance in Jerusalem, resulting in some very significant miracle, action, or discourse (or a combination of them). The result is an even more pointed declaration of who Jesus is, and a more heated and animated rejection of Jesus by many of the Jews, and by most of the Jewish leaders. With the exception of His final appearance in Jerusalem, Jesus then leaves for Galilee or some more remote place, to let things cool off until His next visit to Jerusalem.

Let’s attempt to apply this organizing principle to John’s Gospel and see if it helps us to trace the development of John’s argument. At the end of the lesson, we will focus on the “bottom line” of the book, to see just what John wishes his readers to do with his message.

Prologue: John’s Introduction to This Gospel
The First Turning Point
(John 1:1-18)

Unlike Matthew or Luke, John does not start with the birth of Jesus or even with the ministry of John the Baptist (Mark). John starts at the beginning, at creation. Our Lord has no true beginning, because He is God. He was already there when the earth was called into being. In fact, according to John, He was the One who called the world into being (John 1:1-3). John 1:1-18 describes our Lord’s incarnation in a very different way than Matthew and Luke do. John does not write of angelic messengers announcing the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus. We do not read of the mystery of the virgin birth, as important as it is—the mechanism of our Lord’s incarnation. Instead, we are told in the clearest of terms that the eternal Word, Who was in the presence of the Father and Who called the world into existence, broke into time and space in the form of a man, a man named Jesus. In John’s words, “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father” (John 1:14).

Can we not say that the incarnation of our Lord was one of the greatest turning points in all of human history? God came down to earth, adding sinless humanity to His perfect and undiminished deity. The world would never be the same. Here is the great divide between the Old Testament (covenant) and the New. What a turning point it was! And lest one should suppose that our Lord came to earth, expecting that He would be received and welcomed as Messiah, John makes it very clear that Jesus came to be rejected by men (John 1:9-11).

Beginning in Galilee
(John 1:19–2:12)

John the Baptist was baptizing beyond the Jordan River (on the East side of the Jordan) when Jesus came to him to be baptized. The baptism of our Lord is another turning point in our Lord’s life and ministry. It is at our Lord’s baptism, that God indicates to John that Jesus is the promised Messiah, of whom he has been speaking. Shortly afterward, two of John’s disciples begin to follow Jesus. It was at His baptism that Jesus commenced His ministry as Israel’s Messiah. Jesus then goes to Galilee where He calls His other disciples. Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and it is there that Jesus performs His first sign, turning water into wine. How better to demonstrate that Jesus is the Creator? And yet, due to the way our Lord performed this sign, only His disciples knew what He had done. Jesus was not yet ready to publicly disclose His identity to those outside the circle of His disciples.

There is a very interesting “turning point” indicated by John in the course of his account of this first sign. It is obvious that this wedding was somewhat of a family affair. We know that our Lord’s mother was at the wedding (2:1), and it would also seem that some of His half-brothers were present as well, since they all left Cana and went to Capernaum (2:12). Mary was the one who pointed out that the wine was running out. She was the one who looked to Jesus to do something about it. At this early stage of His ministry, Jesus was still fairly closely associated with His family. Our Lord’s words to Mary are a pointed (but not impolite) message to her that His relationship to His earthly mother has changed. His ministry will not be directed by her. Never again will Mary seek to suggest to Jesus how He should minister. Never again (until after His death and resurrection) will our Lord be close to His brothers, for they do not believe in Him as the Messiah (as is evident in John 7:1-5), at least not until after His resurrection (see Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19).

The Lord’s First Appearance in Jerusalem222
(John 2:13–3:21)

Virtually every visit of our Lord to Jerusalem was in conjunction with a Jewish feast.223 No doubt, this was because these feasts were directly related to our Lord and to His ministry (Colossians 2:16-17). But another reason would be that during such festive times the population of Jerusalem would swell considerably with pilgrims, so that He would have maximum exposure during the feasts. On this occasion, it was to celebrate the Passover that Jesus went up to Jerusalem. His introduction was indeed unique. When He went into the temple He threw out those who were making God’s house a place of business rather than a place of prayer. John informs us that this fulfills the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 69:9. It certainly gets the attention of the Jews, who challenge Jesus to produce some sign, to prove His authority to act as He has. In His response, Jesus makes a claim that no one understands at the time:

18 So then the Jewish leaders responded, “What sign can you show us, since you are doing these things?” 19 Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20 Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken (John 2:18-22).

There were those who saw and heard Jesus on His first visit to Jerusalem who “believed in His name” (2:23). Even so, Jesus was not willing to commit Himself to them. There was too much they did not know about Him and about the purpose of His earthly visitation. They were not fully committed to Him, nor could they be at this early stage in His ministry. Potentially, this could have been a “turning point” in the ministry of our Lord, but He purposefully avoided it as such.

While Jesus was there in Jerusalem, a Jewish Rabbi named Nicodemus sought Him out by night (3:1ff.). Nicodemus was no ordinary Rabbi; he recognized something in Jesus which made it apparent that God was with Him. When he began to inquire into our Lord’s ministry and message, Jesus stopped Him short with the words, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). It would seem that our Lord’s words to Nicodemus went way over his head, leaving him virtually speechless and silent by the end of chapter 3. There was much he needed to ponder, so we are not surprised to see him again later in John. In this interview with Nicodemus, Jesus did reveal a great deal about His mission and message:

12 “If I have told you people about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God” (John 3:12-18).

Back to Galilee
(John 3:22–4:54)

Jesus’ retreat from Jerusalem is not a hasty one, nor is it necessitated by angry Jews who are seeking to kill Him—not this time, anyway. His retreat is a more subtle one. Jesus first leaves Jerusalem and journeys about the land of Judea, teaching and baptizing (3:22). John the Baptist seems to have been doing the same, and a comparison between Jesus and John could not be avoided. Jesus and His disciples were now more popular than John. While this did not bother John at all, Jesus knew that word of His success would reach the Pharisees, and that this would trouble them greatly (since they already seem to perceive Him as a threat). Jesus therefore returns to Galilee. The Jerusalem Jews do not perceive anything or anyone from Galilee as posing a threat to the Jerusalem power structure (see 7:52).

Jesus was determined to journey from Judea to Galilee through Samaria (4:3-4). The words of verse 4 suggest that His appearance in Samaria was deliberate. Our Lord’s journey through Samaria marks another turning point in our Lord’s ministry. It sends the message that the salvation He was bringing was inclusive rather than exclusive (racially speaking).224 This is implied by our Lord’s words to the “woman at the well”:

22 “You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24).

After this Samaritan city had come to faith, Jesus continued His journey to Galilee, where He was warmly welcomed, particularly by (and because of) those who had been to Jerusalem at the time of His first visit (4:43-45). They had witnessed His power at work in Jerusalem; now they were hopeful that His ministry in Galilee would be accompanied by many similar miracles (4:45). For this sign-seeking, they were rebuked (4:48). While Jesus was in Cana of Galilee (where He had turned water into wine), a royal official arrived to plead with Jesus to come to his home in Capernaum and heal his son. Jesus did not go to Capernaum, but told the royal official to go home, assuring him that his son would live. This “second sign” (4:54) was again performed in such a way as to minimize excitement among the Galileans,225 but this calm was soon to end.

Jesus’ Second Appearance in Jerusalem
(John 5:1-47)

It is not certain exactly which “feast” brings Jesus to Jerusalem for the third time. John simply informs us that it was a226Jewish feast” (5:1). Near the Sheep Gate was a pool called Bethesda, at which a disabled man had lain for some time, unable to walk for 38 years. This man (who is never named) did not expect to be healed, nor did he ask for healing. Looking upon the man as He passed by, Jesus had compassion on him and asked if he wished to become well. The man wished to be healed, but his hope was in being able to be the first one into the pool after the waters were troubled. Jesus simply commanded the man to stand up, take up his mattress, and go his way. The man obeyed, was healed, and went his way. So did Jesus.

When the “Sabbath police” (the Jews) saw this man carrying his mattress on the Sabbath, they immediately rebuked him. His only explanation was that the man who had healed him had commanded him to do so. This wonderful miracle should have signaled the presence of the Messiah among them:

18 John’s disciples informed him about all these things. So John called two of his disciples 19 and sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many people of diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and granted sight to many who were blind. 22 So he answered them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Luke 7:18-23).

Instead, these Jews were incensed that anyone would instruct this man to violate the Sabbath by carrying his mattress. There seemed to be nothing these Jews could do because Jesus had slipped away in the crowd (5:13), and the healed man had no idea who his healer was. Jesus was not willing to let this matter drop, however, and so He sought this man out in the temple. When He found him, Jesus warned this fellow not to persist in his sin, lest something worse happen to him (5:14). Instead of giving heed to this warning, the man seems to have been offended, because he immediately went to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus who had made him well (5:15).

This leads to the first major confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, who immediately begin to harass Him (5:16). Their initial grievance is that Jesus has violated the Sabbath by healing this man, and to make matters worse, He instructed this fellow to violate the Sabbath as well. In the Gospels, Jesus responds in several different ways to the accusation that He has violated the Sabbath, but He does not employ any of His usual defenses here. Instead, He makes an incredibly bold statement, which sets His adversaries back on their heels:

16 Now because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish authorities began persecuting him. 17 So Jesus told them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason the Jewish authorities were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God (John 5:16-18).

This immediately escalates the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities to a much higher level. Jesus’ defense to the accusation that He is a Sabbath-breaker is that He can and must act as He has because He is the Son, and therefore He does what His Father does. Now, Jesus is no longer viewed merely as a man who has broken the Sabbath, but as a man who has brazenly claimed to be equal with God. To them, this is blasphemy, and they will not tolerate it!

Jesus is not intimidated by their hostile opposition. Instead, He turns the tables on them, accusing them of refusing His testimony because they do not have God’s Word residing in them. Jesus is not condemned by the Law of Moses, as they insist; rather, it is they who in the judgment will be condemned by Moses:

“You people have never heard his voice nor seen his form at any time, 38 nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. 39 You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me; 40 but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life. 41 I do not accept praise from people, 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe, if you accept praise from one another and don’t seek the praise that comes from the only God? 45 Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:37b-47)

They maintained that Jesus had sinned by claiming to be God. Jesus insisted that they had sinned by refusing to believe that He had come from God. With this stinging rebuke ringing in their ears, Jesus left Jerusalem and returned once again to Galilee (6:1).

Back to Galilee
(John 6:1-66)

In John’s Gospel, this return to Galilee is the beginning of the end, so far as our Lord’s Galilean ministry is concerned. It is His last public teaching and healing tour in Galilee. John 6 is certainly the “turning point” for Galilee in terms of their response to Jesus and His claim to be the Messiah. When He returns from Jerusalem, Jesus is welcomed by large crowds attracted largely by the miraculous signs Jesus had been performing. With His disciples, Jesus withdrew to the mountainside across the Sea of Galilee (6:3). John notes that the Jewish feast of the Passover was near (6:4). It was here, in this remote place, that Jesus fed the 5,000. This great miracle was all it took to convince these Galilean Jews that they wanted Jesus to be their Messiah, and they were ready to make Him king by force, if necessary (6:15). Jesus sent His disciples away and then retreated up the mountainside alone. Jesus no longer had transportation back to the other side of the lake, since earlier He had ordered His disciples into the boat to return to the other side. And so it was that Jesus walked on the water, and finally got into the boat with His disciples.

The word was now out. Those present at the feeding of the 5,000 told others, and soon there was a great multitude of those who were looking for Jesus. Eventually they found Him in the synagogue at Capernaum. Jesus saw through their eagerness to be with Him. He knew that they were not looking for Messiah as much as they were a meal. And so Jesus delivers His great “Bread of Life Discourse” in chapter 6. Jesus taught that He was greater than Moses, and offered Himself as better bread than that which God provided through Moses. To enter into eternal life, they would have to “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood” (6:53). This was too much for most of His audience, and virtually all the crowd slipped away, never again to follow Jesus. Only His disciples were left, knowing it was He who possessed “the words of eternal life” (6:68).

This is really the last chance for the people of Galilee to accept Jesus as their Messiah. This is the place were Jesus was raised, and where nearly all of His disciples lived. It is where the vast majority of our Lord’s time was spent in ministry. And yet when all is said and done, they were willing to follow a miracle-worker, but they were not willing to follow the Christ of the cross. When Jesus revealed the centrality of the cross and the necessity of personally partaking of His atoning death, these half-hearted “disciples” would hear no more. John seems to indicate that our Lord continued to minister in Galilee for a time (7:1), but for all intents and purposes, the Galilean ministry of our Lord is over. Jesus is rejected by the masses in Galilee in John 6, and by the masses in Jerusalem in chapter 12, as we shall soon see.

Our Lord’s Third Appearance in Jerusalem
(John 7:2–10:39)

With the mention of another feast comes another visit to Jerusalem (7:2). This time it is the feast of Tabernacles. Passover was celebrated in the Spring, in March or April; Pentecost in May or June; the feast of Tabernacles was observed in the Fall, in September or October. It was our Lord’s brothers who first urged Jesus to go to Jerusalem and “make His move” (7:3-5). They did not say this out of faith, but in unbelief. If Jesus was the Messiah, as He claimed, then it was time to (pardon the crass language, but I think it conveys the spirit of our Lord’s brothers at the time) “put up or shut up.” Jesus declined to go up with them, but urged them to go ahead. He gave them little reason to expect Him to make an appearance.

But after His brothers had gone up to the feast in Jerusalem, Jesus followed, but in a way that would not attract a lot of attention (and thus a lot of resistance and opposition). Jesus was clearly the topic of the day in Jerusalem, and the Jews were very much divided in their response to Him. Because the people feared the Jewish authorities, no one dared to speak of Jesus openly (7:12-13). Midway through the feast, Jesus went up to the temple and began to teach (7:14).

It is important to take careful note of John’s words in chapter 7 (as we would in every chapter of the Bible!), because here John distinguishes between the Jewish religious leaders and the crowds. The crowds were divided over Jesus, but the leaders did not even want Jesus to be spoken of. The religious leaders predictably began to oppose Jesus. They were amazed at His command of the Scriptures (7:15-19). But when Jesus spoke of the Jewish authorities wanting to kill Him, the crowd who heard this accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon (7:20). Others knew that the rulers of the people did want to kill Him (7:25-27). It is important to recognize that at this point, even the crowds are beginning to turn against Jesus. The healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda still seems to be on their minds, as can be seen from our Lord’s defense in 7:21-24.

On this visit to Jerusalem, our Lord precipitates a good deal of turmoil. We must remember that because this was one of the three major Jewish holidays, there were many pilgrims present in Jerusalem who had not yet seen Jesus personally, but who must have heard many of the rumors about Him, both good and bad. While the pilgrims couldn’t believe that some were trying to kill Jesus (7:20), those who actually lived in Jerusalem knew better (7:25). The Jerusalemites were amazed that the Jewish authorities were actually allowing Jesus to teach publicly. They knew the Jewish authorities were intent on putting Jesus to death. Jesus boldly claimed to have come from the Father, accusing those who would not believe in Him of not believing in the Father either (7:28-29). Nevertheless, He did invite those who would to come to Him (7:37-39).

The Jewish religious leaders wanted to silence Jesus. They sent some of the temple police to arrest Jesus and to bring Him to them. They did not want Jesus to teach publicly in the temple because there were many who were believing in Him. Much to the dismay of the Jewish leaders, the temple police returned empty-handed. This was not because Jesus could not be found, but because these officers were so impressed with Jesus’ teaching that they didn’t arrest Him. The religious authorities were disgusted by the “gullibility” of these men and marveled that they had been as easily deceived as the Galileans. They pointed out to these officers that none of the Jewish leaders had been taken in by Jesus (7:45-49).

Well, almost none, anyway. Nicodemus was virtually forced to come out into the open. He did not forthrightly say that he believed in Jesus. Perhaps he had not come that far as yet. But he did come to our Lord’s defense by pointing out that their course of action was illegal. In terms of today’s legal language, it did not give Jesus “due process of the law.” They were ready to condemn Jesus without obtaining a formal indictment, without holding a public trial, and without affording Him the opportunity to defend Himself. He was being denied His constitutional (the constitution being Jewish law) rights.

Previously, I had thought of Nicodemus’ protest here as pathetic. In my mind, Nicodemus had rather meekly protested, and when His peers “put him down,” he quickly changed his tune, or just kept quiet. I had concluded that his words hardly phased the other members of the Sanhedrin, even momentarily. I now see this failed attempt to arrest Jesus and the protest of Nicodemus as a very significant turning point for our Lord and for the Jewish leaders who opposed Him. Since chapter 5, the “crime” for which Jesus was accused by the Jews was blasphemy. By His claims, Jesus made Himself out to be equal with God (John 5:18; 10:33, 36; 19:7). The biblical punishment for blasphemy was stoning, which the Jews had unsuccessfully attempted on several occasions (8:59; 10:31-33; 11:8). In John 18, we find not only the Jewish leaders, but also a crowd and a squad of Roman soldiers coming to arrest Jesus (18:3; see Luke 22:47). In John, when Jesus is arrested, He is first brought before Annas; then He is taken to Caiaphas; and finally He is accused before Pilate, who caves in to the pressure applied by the Jews, and hands Jesus over to the them to be crucified.

We know that it was God’s plan for our Lord to be crucified, and not stoned, and to be rejected and put to death by the Gentiles as well as the Jews. But how did this come to pass? What caused the Jews to ask for Roman involvement, rather than to simply stone Jesus themselves? I think chapter 7 is the turning point. It is here that the Jewish authorities make an official attempt to take Jesus into custody, so that they can kill Him away from the crowds. They send temple police officers to seize Jesus, but these men come back without Him. The officers were so impressed with the way He taught they could not bring themselves to arrest Him, even though they were ordered to do so. The Jewish Sanhedrin was the driving force behind this effort to arrest and execute Jesus, but one of their own members (Nicodemus) objects because the way they are dealing with Jesus is illegal. It was one thing to have a divided opinion among the masses; it was quite another for members of the Sanhedrin to be divided among themselves. I believe that what we see in chapters 18-20 is the direct result of the Jewish authorities’ failed attempt to seize Jesus—including Nicodemus’ protest—in chapter 7. Having miserably failed to arrest Jesus (let alone to kill Him), the Jewish leaders seem to have decided to take a different approach the next time they attempt to arrest Jesus. They are determined that next time they will not fail. They will do whatever is necessary to secure the success of their mission, even if this means humbling themselves to ask Rome for its help. John 7 therefore is a turning point in the Jewish approach to doing away with Jesus, and so this chapter sets the stage for the events of chapters 18-20.

But wait; there’s more (as the television commercials always say). While the method of our Lord’s arrest and execution are largely determined, the motivation for doing so must still intensify. And so it does in chapters 8 and 9. The incident with the woman taken in adultery plays an important part in this intensification. The Jews intend to kill Jesus, but they would very much like to discredit Him, to shame Him publicly, so that the public sentiment is in their favor, not His. They use this poor woman in their attempt to show Jesus up as one who is unwilling to keep the Law of Moses. They put Jesus on the spot, virtually daring Him to refuse to take part in having her stoned. They well knew He is gracious and compassionate, and thus inclined to forgive. And they, like the Prophet Jonah of old, hate grace, as all legalists must. Instead of Jesus leaving that encounter with His head down, shamed by these religious authorities, every one of them leaves silently and in shame. Jesus prevailed over His opponents once again. The impact of this blow to their pride can hardly be overestimated.

Jesus then declares that He is “the Light of the World” (8:12), which brings an immediate objection from the Pharisees. The debate gets even uglier, to the point that they accuse Jesus of being an illegitimate child whose father is unknown (8:41). Jesus counters by indicating that their “father” is known, and he is the devil (8:44). They are like him, who is both a liar and a murderer (8:44). This is why they will not believe what He says to them, and this proves that they do not belong to God (8:45-48). They then call Jesus a demon-possessed Samaritan, only to have Jesus say, “Before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (8:58). The Jews exploded, taking up rocks to stone Jesus, but He slipped away from them. They were now more determined than ever to kill Him. You could almost hear them mumbling to themselves, “Just you wait, Jesus, just you wait.”

I remember the story of the scientist who lectured all over the country. His chauffeur had driven him to these lectures, and thus he had heard the same speech many times over. One day the chauffeur told the scientist that he had heard his presentation so often that he knew it by heart, and could deliver it himself. And so the two men changed places. The chauffeur took the scientist’s place, delivering his lecture, while the scientist served as the chauffeur. The chauffeur gave a flawless presentation, but then a man in the audience stood and asked a question the chauffeur had never heard before, for which he had no answer. He was quick on his feet, however, and responded to the questioner, “Why, sir, that is indeed a most elementary question. It is so elementary that even my chauffeur can answer it. …”

Something like this happens to the Jewish leaders in chapter 9. It was one thing for Jesus to have handled every confrontation with the Jews in such a way that they always ended up with “egg on their faces.” It was another thing for a beggar to take them on and win. This man had been blind all of his life, and he made his living as a beggar. When Jesus saw him, He had compassion on him and healed him. He did so by placing mud (made with dirt and spit) on the man’s eyes, and having him wash in the pool of Siloam (9:7). The man came away healed, but because of the way Jesus performed this miracle, he never really saw Jesus, and so he could not identify Him to the Jews. It was the Sabbath, and rather than rejoice in this miracle and see it pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, the Jews attempted to achieve some measure of “damage control.” If they could not prevail against Jesus, they could surely win their point by taking on this beggar. They tried, and they failed. Again.

Never before had a man born blind been given his sight. The Pharisees first attempted to discredit the miracle by showing that it was a hoax. They set out to prove that the man who claimed to have been healed was not the man who had been born blind. When this effort failed, they sought to force the healed man to make some statement which would discredit Jesus. Instead, this man “saw” through their hypocrisy, and he turned his interrogation around, making them look foolish, again. Jesus later returned to this man, and led him to faith in Himself as the true Messiah (9:35-38), but He also indicted the Jews for their blindness (9:39-41). Things were now heating up. The Jewish authorities were more than motivated to do away with Jesus.

But the animosity of the Jews is still not yet sufficiently intense, and so John records the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in this visit to Jerusalem (John 10:1-39). There seems to be no real break between the events of chapter 9 and those of chapter 10. Jesus speaks of Himself as the “Good Shepherd,” contrasting Himself with “strangers,” “thieves,” and “robbers.” These words draw upon Old Testament texts such as this one in Jeremiah, which condemns the Jewish religious leaders for being wicked shepherds, and which also promises the coming of Messiah, the Good Shepherd:

1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD. 3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking," says the LORD. 5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

There is no way the Jews could fail to grasp the implications of our Lord’s words. He was claiming to be the Messiah and was, at the same time, identifying them as wicked shepherds, destined for divine judgment. Jesus was also speaking of His sacrificial death on the cross, by which He would bring about the salvation of His flock. Not only did He indicate that He was going to voluntarily lay down His life, but He also declared that He would take it up again. Jesus quite openly spoke of His death and resurrection. These words once again divided our Lord’s audience (10:19ff.). Some wrote these words off as the ravings of a demon-possessed man; others found it difficult to set aside the fact that the One speaking these words had just given sight to a man born blind.

In John 10:22, John refers to yet another feast, the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Feast of Lights or Hanukkah. During this feast, Jesus was in Jerusalem,227 walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews surrounded Him, and pressed Him to publicly declare Himself. If He was the Messiah, then let Him say so now, clearly! Jesus insisted that He made His declarations, not merely with words, but by His works. They bore witness that He was indeed the Messiah (10:25). The problem was not that were was insufficient evidence; the problem was that Jesus’ opponents would not believe. And, in another sense, they could not believe, because they were not of His sheep. Those who are His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. He gives eternal life to His sheep, life which no one can take away.

Jesus could have stopped here, but He chose to press on with a statement He knew would be inflammatory: “The Father and I are one” (verse 30). This was all the Jews could take. They began to take up stones to kill Him. Jesus pressed them for an explanation. He had performed many good works among them. For which of these good works was He being stoned? They said that it was not for His good works that they were seeking to stone Him; it was for blasphemy, for claiming to be God (verse 33). Jesus offered an explanation, but they would have none of it. They attempted to seize Him, but once again He evaded them.

Jesus Seeks Seclusion
(John 10:40-42)

Things were now “white hot” in Jerusalem, but it was not yet “His time.” His “time” would come at Passover, a few months later. This time, Jesus does not return to Galilee, as He has done before. The Galileans had already rejected Him (John 6), and so His ministry there was virtually over. Instead, Jesus went beyond the Jordan, to the place where John the Baptist used to minister. As people learned that Jesus was there, they came out to Him, as they had gone out to John. They noticed something different about Jesus, the very thing which John himself had constantly emphasized: Jesus was greater than he. The people took note of our Lord’s miracles, and remembered that John performed none. Many came to believe in Jesus there in this remote place beyond the Jordan.

Bethany: As Close to Jerusalem as One Can Get
(John 11:1-57)

Technically speaking, after retreating beyond the Jordan, Jesus returned to Jerusalem only one last time—when He made His triumphal entry into the city. But in chapter 11, Jesus gets as close to Jerusalem as one can get without actually entering the city. And in spite of the fact that He did not enter the city of Jerusalem, His visit to Bethany had a great impact on the people of Jerusalem, especially the Jewish authorities. This visit would certainly prove to be a major turning point in the life and ministry of our Lord.

The disciples must have been delighted to “keep a low profile” beyond the Jordan. They realized that another visit to Jerusalem would be very dangerous (11:8). But when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that His friend Lazarus was seriously ill, it was apparent that these sisters expected Him to come, immediately. Jesus delayed, much to the relief of His disciples, and to the regret of the sisters. Then, when He was ready to set out for Bethany, Jesus explained to His disciples that He had delayed so that Lazarus would be good and dead, but that He would now go and “awake” him (11:11). In spite of the danger, the disciples decided to accompany Him, but they feared that it might be the death of them all (11:16).

We shall not repeat the story of the raising of Lazarus, except to point out that since Bethany was a relatively short walk from Jerusalem, many of those who came to mourn with Martha and Mary were from Jerusalem (11:18-19). When these folks from Jerusalem witnessed the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, many of them came to faith in Jesus (verse 45). But there were others who did not believe. These folks hurried to Jerusalem to inform the Jewish religious authorities what had happened (verse 46). An emergency session seems to have been called by the Sanhedrin. The Jewish authorities had to reluctantly admit that Jesus was winning the nation over. They had to do something to stop Him, and they had to do it soon! It was Caiaphas who unwittingly prophesied that one person must die to save the nation (11:49-51). And so the Sanhedrin agreed together to put Jesus to death (11:53). They put the word out that anyone who knew the whereabouts of Jesus was to report this to them, so that they could arrest Him.

A Last Retreat
(John 11:54-57)

Do you notice that as John alternates between Jerusalem and more remote places, each subsequent visit to Jerusalem seems to be longer, and is reported in greater detail? On the other hand, the reports of His retreats to Galilee or other remote places get shorter and shorter. Now that the Sanhedrin was actively seeking to arrest and kill Jesus, our Lord “went underground” (as we would say). He would no longer go out in public where He might be identified and arrested. He went out into the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and remained there with His disciples until the time came for His last appearance in Jerusalem.

The Final Assault on Jerusalem
(John 12:1–20:31)

Six days before the Passover was to begin, Jesus made His way to Bethany. His last appearance at Bethany certainly paved the way for this visit. The raising of Lazarus had not gone unnoticed. And so when a dinner was prepared for Jesus, with Lazarus attending, it rekindled the excitement this great miracle initially created. A very large crowd of Jews from Jerusalem was attracted to Bethany where they came for a look at Jesus and Lazarus, and as a result, many came to faith in Jesus.

But there was also the opposite effect. The anointing of Jesus with the expensive oil of nard was a significant turning point for Judas. He complained that the ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds used for the poor. But John tells us that his real motivation was greed, since it was his practice to steal from the money box, which was entrusted to him. We know from the Synoptic Gospels that it was this event which was the “last straw” for Judas, who went to the chief priests (Matthew 26:14), where they agreed on a price for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. The Jewish leaders leaped at this opportunity to privately get their hands on Jesus, setting the stage for the final events of our Lord’s life. And when it became apparent that Lazarus was also a threat to them, the chief priests agreed that they should kill Lazarus also (John 12:10-11).

The Jewish authorities had determined they did not want to arrest Jesus publicly, or during the feast. This would attract too much attention, and would run the risk of inciting the people to riot (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:2). Several things occurred which forced the Jews to change their plans and to arrest and crucify Jesus during the celebration of Passover. The first of these compelling factors was the triumphal entry. The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem set the Jewish authorities into a panic. Those who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus were telling everyone about it. I would think that this would have been of special interest to the pilgrims who were just arriving to celebrate Passover. And so as Jesus approached Jerusalem, not only did many congregate to greet Him along the way, but a great crowd was also there to welcome Him in Jerusalem. It was the sight of these crowds which terrified the Jewish authorities:

17 So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it. 18 Because they had heard that Jesus had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him. 19 Thus the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has run off after him!” (John 12:17-19)

When some Greeks sought an audience with Jesus (12:20), Jesus did not directly answer. Instead, He began to speak about the need for Him to die:

23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life. 26 If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:23-26).

His impending death caused Jesus great distress, but He would not ask the Father to spare Him. And it was at this point that God Himself spoke from heaven:

27 “Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard the voice said that it had thundered. Others said that an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice has not come for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.) (John 12:27-33)

Somehow, the response of the crowd to these words did not impress me until now. It is the opinion of some, that the Jewish authorities were primarily responsible for the rejection and crucifixion of our Lord. I have frequently heard teachers say that it was the leaders who bullied the crowds into calling for the blood of Jesus. I have heard others say that the “crowd” that stood outside Pilate’s residence, crying for the crucifixion of Jesus, was “rabble,” enticed or even bribed to play their role, while the devout folks were still asleep, unaware of what was taking place. I don’t believe it. At the very beginning of the Gospel of John we are told:

10 He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him (John 1:10-11).

Throughout the Gospel of John, the author speaks of “the Jews” opposing Jesus. There are times when John speaks specifically of the Jewish authorities, of the chief priests, or of the Pharisees. The leaders did pressure the people to reject Jesus. But it must also be seen that the crowds also rejected Jesus on their own. John 12:34-43 describes the rejection of Jesus by the crowds, a rejection for which they are responsible. It is also a rejection which Isaiah the prophet had foretold, as we see in verse 40 (a citation of Isaiah 6:10). In spite of the unbelief of this crowd (12:34-43), Jesus made one last appeal to the people to believe in Him (12:44-50). In John’s Gospel, these words are our Lord’s final public appeal to the Jews before His death.

The early part of John 13 is another turning point in this Gospel. It is the second major contributing factor which virtually forced the Jewish authorities to make their move against Jesus during the feast, even though they were determined not to do so. The agreement to betray Jesus had already been reached with Judas. The plan was for Judas to wait for an opportune moment, when he would quietly hand Jesus over at a time when Jerusalem was not swelling with pilgrims who were running over with messianic enthusiasm. Judas almost certainly planned to wait until after the Passover, but Jesus caught him completely off guard in the Upper Room, when He not only indicated that He would be betrayed, but even by whom. It was almost unbelievable that the other disciples didn’t figure it all out. But Judas knew, and he couldn’t get away fast enough. This was his only chance to hand Jesus over. Either he betrayed Jesus right now, on this very night, or he would never get another opportunity. Both Judas and the Jews seized the moment, and in so doing, the perfect plan of God for the crucifixion of Jesus as the Passover Lamb was set in motion.

Our Lord’s dealings with His disciples in chapters 13-17 play an important role in the Gospel of John. The Upper Room Discourse of our Lord is a turning point in and of itself, because here Jesus plainly tells His disciples what lies ahead. (They still don’t comprehend it all, but they will in time.) The substance of our Lord’s words to His disciples is that He has now come to a great turning point in His ministry, as they also have in theirs. He will no longer live among them, as He has for these past three years. He will return to the Father. Nevertheless, He will be present with them through the Holy Spirit, Whom He is about to send. And what a turning point it is. After Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit, the disciples become new men, and they minister in a way they would never have imagined earlier.228

Chapters 18-20 depict the arrest, trials, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. We can sum up the central theme of these chapters in few words: “the cross of Christ.” After the fall of man, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest turning point in all of human history. Satan, sin and death were defeated. The penalty for sin was paid, and the assurance of eternal life was achieved for all who believe.

Chapter 21 is another turning point. At the beginning of the chapter, Peter and some of his fellow-disciples have gone fishing. It was almost as though they were contemplating going back to their former way of life, before Jesus had sought them out as His disciples. Jesus focuses on Peter, instructing him to demonstrate his love for his Master by caring for the Master’s sheep. Chapter 21 describes the turning point when the disciples are transformed from fishermen to fishers of men. One can especially see how the events of this last chapter of John’s Gospel proved to be a major turning point in Peter’s life. The one who denied his Master three times will boldly declare Him as the promised Messiah. He will not be silenced again.

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

There is some discussion among the scholars as to what John’s purpose was in writing this Gospel. Many believe that John’s Gospel was written to believers, to better inform their faith, and perhaps to head off certain doctrinal errors already appearing in the churches (such as gnosticism). Others believe that John’s Gospel is written to unbelievers, and that its purpose is primarily evangelistic. I believe that John’s Gospel was written for both purposes.229 I view chapter 20 as John’s conclusion for unbelievers:

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

I believe chapter 21 is John’s second conclusion, aimed at believers. Jesus did not spend three years pouring His life into Peter and the other disciples, just so they would come to faith. He called them to be His disciples. They were soon to be His apostles. John is written so that unbelievers may believe, and thus obtain eternal life. John is written so that believers may believe (more fully), and take the message of the gospel to others, so that they may have eternal life. Why is it that we do not sense the nearness of our Lord’s return, or the desperate need of our neighbors to be saved? I would suggest that it is, in part, due to an inferior belief. If we really believed the gospel, we would be compelled to share it with the lost. John’s Gospel truly is the “Gospel of Belief,” a Gospel written for both unbelievers and believers alike.

John’s Gospel depicts the great turning points in history, related to the person and work of Jesus Christ. It was written to serve as a turning point in each of our lives. Have you come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the only Way to obtain eternal life? If so, have you come to see that we have been saved in order to serve our Lord by serving others, to seek out lost sheep, and shepherd His lambs? I pray that this study has been, and will continue to be, a turning point in your life.


214 Dr. Johnson was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years and also a Bible teacher at Believers Chapel, where my wife and I attended during my seminary days. I taught at “the Chapel” for several years until Community Bible Chapel was established, with the blessing and assistance of the elders at Believers Chapel.

215 “Thus John’s distinctive portrait of Jesus contains 93 percent original material in comparison to the Synoptics.” Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.), 1983, 1985. “John,” en loc.

216 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, General Editor (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), electronic copy, “The Gospel of John”, en loc.

217 ISBE, “The Gospel of John,” en loc.

218 And so in Genesis, we begin with the creation of the world and of man, then move to the fall, and then to men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. This is essentially a chronological scheme. A book like Proverbs has an entirely different ordering principle, one which I am still seeking to identify and understand.

219 Technically speaking, this was not an official appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem. Jesus did not go into Jerusalem, and there was not an official feast of the Jews at this time (though it was near—John 11:55). Nevertheless, John makes it clear that this visit has a great impact on Jerusalem (11:18-19, 45-46), and especially upon the Jewish religious leaders (11:47-53).

220 This past month my wife and I were privileged to travel to Israel for the first time. As we were making our way across the Sea of Galilee in a boat, the tour guide commented, “This is Galilee, where 90% of our Lord’s ministry was conducted.” These words struck me since I had nearly completed this study in the Gospel of John, which describes very little of our Lord’s Galilean ministry.

221 By “original material” I mean biblical events which the other Gospel writers have not used.

222 Obviously, Jesus had been in Jerusalem as a child (see Luke 2:41-51), but this was His first public appearance as Messiah.

223 John 2:13, Passover; 5:1, “a feast of the Jews”; 7:2, the “feast of Tabernacles” (or booths); 10:22, the “feast of the Dedication”; 12:1; 13:1, the “feast of the Passover.”

224 In Luke 4, Jesus conveys the same message to those in His hometown of Nazareth. His coming was intended to bring salvation to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. It was yet another issue between Jesus and the Jews.

225 Notice the words of verse 44. Jesus purposed to go to the place where He would not be honored, so that He would not prematurely fuel the fires of Messianic hope, and thus precipitate an untimely reaction from the Jerusalem Jews.

226 “Some manuscripts read, “the Jewish feast” (referring to Passover).” NET Bible note at John 5:1.

227 It is difficult to determine with certainty whether John 10:22-39 is a separate visit to Jerusalem or not. We do not find a reference to intense opposition in 10:21, but rather in 10:39, which results in our Lord’s retreat to a deserted place (10:40-42). This gives the impression that John wishes us to view Jesus’ appearance(s) in Jerusalem in 7:1–10:39 as a whole.

228 The Book of Acts more fully describes this great turning point. Not only is the church born, but the gospel is preached first to the Jews, and then to the whole world.

229 A friend, David Schlimme, contributed a very interesting insight after I preached this message. He said that it is his conviction that John’s purpose in writing 1 John is also two-fold: (1) as a message to the unsaved; and (2) as a message to believers. David’s suggestion may apply equally well to the Gospel of John also, and it seems to make a lot of sense. Whether in his Gospel or in his epistles, why do we find it necessary to restrict John to only one purpose? I think David may well be right.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines