“There is something about the Gospels unlike anything else in the whole Bible. The books of the prophets of the Old Testament, often divided into major and minor prophets, record what the prophets said. We learn very little about their biographies. Our four Gospels are a bit like the vignettes of the patriarchs and Moses and kings and others in the historical books of the Old Testament. Unlike the prophets, our Gospels do not turn their pages into quotations of Jesus. Instead, the Gospels are obsessed, which is the only word for it unless there’s a stronger one I don’t know, with one person from verse 1:1 to the end of the Gospels. In our case, the Gospel of John. If we fail to see this shift in focus—from what the prophet said or even to some short vignettes to lengthy narratives about what Jesus did, with whom he interacted, who decided to follow him, who didn’t like him, how he was arrested and crucified and raised—we fail to read this Gospel well. Every passage of the Gospel of John is about Jesus. Not us. Not you. Not me. Jesus.
Reading John’s Gospel requires something counter-intuitive. What is intuitive works like this: We have a good idea of who or what God is, and we ask, “Does what we already know about God fit Jesus?” The counter-intuitive works like this: We only know who or what God is in knowing who Jesus is, so we now ask the counter-intuitive, “Does God fit what we know about Jesus?” In other words, God is Jesus. The Gospel of John invites us to a fresh reconception of God by showcasing Jesus from 1:1 to 21:25. A Gospel has a mission: to “gospel.” That is, to tell the story of Jesus in a way that compels response. In their essence, then, every paragraph in a Gospel is about Jesus. Who he is, or who the reader understands him to be, shapes how that reader responds to Jesus. In John’s Gospel Jesus is first and foremost the Logos/Word…
in order that God can be revealed for who God truly is. The proper response to this Logos Jesus is faith or believing, and that faith is ongoing abiding in who he is, ongoing obedience to what he calls his followers to do, and ongoing witness to the world about who Jesus is. Those who respond to this Logos Jesus enter into nothing less than eternal life in the here and now as it opens them up to eternal life in the there and then…
Why Logos? Greeks commonly used this term for Reason, for Meaning, for Logic, and for Words Spoken. The Old Testament, however, is John’s world even more than the Greek world, and this term Logos/Word evokes:
- creation (cf. 1:3–5)
- the revelation of God’s tent and glory and love at Sinai,
- the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 1:20–33; 8—9),
- God speaking and communicating and revealing his will and law (cf. Psalm 119:9, 25, 28, 65, 107, 169),
- and the prophets declaring the word of God to the people of God (Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 33:6).
John baptizes these Jewish ideas into Greek waters when he uses “Logos,” but his sensibilities are more Jewish than Greek. In this Gospel Jesus is the Logos who reveals the truth, the word of God, to humans (1:1, 3, 14; 5:37–38; 17:14, 17). He is then both God’s revelation and the One who reveals God as the living, speaking Word… “the Logos did not merely descend upon or enter into Jesus, the Logos of God became the human nature Jesus bore.” Which leads him to a profound next line: “The life of Jesus is the history of God himself on earth” (Quast, John, 13). We have become far too comfortable with what John writes in 1:1. Jesus is God in the flesh.”
The purpose of the Gospel of John is explicitly stated at the end of the Gospel (20:30–31)… “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
- The Gospel of John (Scott McKnight)