The Gospel According to St John
Prologue: The Gospel according to John presents Jesus as the eternal Word of God who ‘became a human being and lived among us’. John has portrayed Jesus as the promised Saviour, the Son of God and that those who believe in him and have faith in him will have life (20:31). John’s Gospel and the Book of Genesis both begin with the words ‘in the beginning’.
The Word is said to be God and with God. The existence of the Word precedes creation and through the Word, creation is accomplished (1:2-3).The Word is life and light of humanity, the source of authentic and meaningful existence. Through the Word, God restores the divine-human relationship, empowering human beings in becoming children of God. The Gospel of John differs much from the Synoptic Gospels especially with regard to the spiritual and theological visions of the person, life and teachings of Jesus.
John’s Gospel has been called the ‘Gospel of the eagle’s eye’ as its thoughts soar like an eagle to the heights of heavenly mysteries and simultaneously penetrates the depths of Christ’s mystery.The Gospel appears about 100 AD several decades after the appearance of the Synoptic Gospels; it naturally contains more developed thoughts concerning the Christ-mystery and it originated in the Johanine community. Throughout this Gospel, we are called to commit ourselves to Christ. John is the eye-witness to Jesus Christ ‘who saw it and has borne witness’ (19:35).
He is the beloved disciple who stands at the foot of the cross. He lives to a ripe old age and writes this Gospel out of his own experience.The Gospel of John transmits the power of the Word of God in its highest degree because of the close bonding and deep love that existed between Jesus and him. Titles: The Gospel explores a variety of images as a means of expressing the relationship between Jesus and God and between Jesus and humanity.There are bold affirmations that Jesus is God and the confession of Thomas makes a universal claim for the divinity of Jesus.
1)One of the unique features of the Gospel is the frequent appearance of the emphatic ‘I AM’ on the lips of Jesus which reveals his divine authority. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6) •I am the true Vine (15) •I am the Light of the World (8:12) •I am the Good Shepherd (10:11) •I am the Son of God (10:36) •I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25) •I am the Bread of Life (6:35) •I am the Living Bread come down from Heaven (6:51) There is a vital distinction between ordinary bread which sustains daily life and the bread from Heaven which gives eternal life.The Word of God which one eats in faith sustains and nourishes our spirits for ‘man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’. My flesh for the life of the world has the Eucharistic perspective’ (6:51). 2) Another title frequently used in the Gospel of John is ‘SON’.
The title ‘Son’ is used in various combinations such as ‘Son of Man’ and ‘Son of God’ more than forty times. The ‘Son’ title suggests an intimate relationship between God and Jesus. It is said that the Father loves the Son (3:5) and gives Him authority (17:2). While the Father and Son are one (10:30), the Son is dependent on the Father (5:30-36) and obeys Him (8:25). The Divine function assigned to the Son is to bestow eternal life (6:44).Jesus is the ‘Sent One’ on a divine mission and stands in a special relationship with the ‘Sender’ and therefore, our response to Christ constitutes our response to God the Father.
The central message in this Gospel is God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s loving ‘Word’ to each one of us and by the exercise of our free will, we must respond positively which is very challenging in today’s world. We have to respond with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. No compromise is possible between light and darkness, life and death, truth and falsehood.
Hence, we have to make a radical decision to be saved. John tells us that if we remain in Jesus like the branch attached to the vine (15:5-6) then we can live up to the commitment Christ has called us to. The Book of Signs: Thomas saw and then believed (20:1-10). John tells us when the risen Christ opens our mind to scripture, there is no longer any need to see in order to believe. Scripture is enough to show us who Jesus is. 1) The miracle of the bread (6:1-15)–Jesus giving thanks and distributing the bread is an anticipation of the Last Supper.
Jesus makes it a Messianic banquet, a similar fast which we will hold at the end of time. 2) Walking on water (6:16-21)–Jesus shows his divine power by walking on the waters which stresses ‘I AM’ (God in all his glory). 3) Wedding feast of Cana (2:12)–It manifests the glory of Jesus. It is the first sign to reveal Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
4) By driving the merchants out of the temple, Jesus gives a sign that the true temple is His Body (2:13-25). 5)Jesus explains to Nicodemus that faith is new birth in the spirit (3:1-21). One must be born of water and the spirit (Baptism).Nicodemus declares ‘Rabbi, we know that you have come from God to teach us for no one can perform miraculous signs like you do unless God is with him’ (3:2). 6)The final testimony of John the Baptist the bridegroom’s friend (3:22-30)–He said ‘my joy is now complete. He must increase and I must decrease.
‘ He stresses that only Jesus comes from on High and can fully satisfy the human heart. In him, nothing of the good is lost since he embodies all. 7)With the Samaritan woman, Jesus quenches her thirst with ‘Living Water’ which is the gift of the Holy Spirit to all children of God.In this passage, Jesus teaches us that true worship is ‘in spirit and truth’.
The Samaritan woman recognised Jesus as Christ, Messiah, Prophet and Saviour of the World. Her encounter with Jesus led her to love, repentance, conversion and evangelisation. But the climax is the confession of faith of the Samaritan people that Jesus is the universal Messiah and Saviour. 8)Jesus heals the Roman official’s son who first believed and then received healing for his son (4:48).
The Book of Glory: (From Chapter 13 to 20) Jesus does not separate death and exaltation.The cross becomes the throne of glory from which Jesus founded the Church. Jesus’ death becomes the source of life; from his open side flows the spring of water announced by Ezekiel 47:2 and Zech 13:1, the symbol of baptism and the spirit. The word ‘hour’ symbolises the passion, death and resurrection. It recurs often, but on nine occasions, it seems to have a special meaning when Jesus declares ‘that his hour had not yet come’ (2:4, 7:30, 8:20). By contrast on Palm Sunday, Jesus is anguished because ‘the hour has come’ (12:23,27).
The hour is of his passion, death and his return to his father. The whole of Jesus’ life is framed by two themes: 1) The Word descending from Heaven to become Man i. e. the world below which is flesh, slavery, hate, sin and darkness.
2) The World above which is spirit, freedom, love, truth and light. In his exaltation, he takes with him all those who believe in him (14:3). John is fascinated by this ‘hour of Jesus’ because it represents his death as well as his exaltation. Christ is raised up on the cross as on a throne of Glory and it is from the cross that he pours his spirit upon the world.This is the manifestation of love, a mystery too rich and too deep to understand and so Jesus during his public life develops this meaning sacramentally by signs.
Those who believe these signs move towards life and those who refuse to believe chose death. Epilogue: In faith, baptised Christians have been inseminated by the word of God (2:14, 3:19) that they have been imbued with the Word as though with an oil, thanks to the spirit (2:20-27). The communion with God manifests itself in the fruits which it produces (Example: love, peace, justice, patience, kindness etc).Humility and mercy are the two important attitudes of Jesus that shine in the gesture of washing his disciples’ feet.
Jesus also teaches us servant leadership where there is no place for domination or self-glorification in Christian leadership, but only self-emptying. Finally, it is only in John’s Gospel where Jesus is portrayed as the Pascal Lamb of the new covenant. Moreover, he is God himself being pierced (Zech 12:10). John is the only one to attach importance to Mary at the foot of the cross and the special role of Mary in the Church.
John concludes his Gospel in Ch 21: The Resurrection and appearance of Jesus after his death are great signs that should lead us all to faith and through faith, to experience everlasting life. With the ‘Risen Lord’ comes a new day and sunshine into our lives. The Lord ever stands on the shore of our life. They who are the beloved of the Lord have their minds and hearts alert to the signs of the ‘Lord’s Presence’ and like the beloved disciple, they too will recognise him and exclaim with their lips that ‘it is the Lord’ (21:1-14).