Jul 27 2008

10- THE GOSPEL acc. to St. JOHN (part 1)

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The Gospel According to Saint John

(Part 1)

General Introduction:

The gospel was written by St. John while he was in Ephesus 1 as its Bishop around 100 A.D . St. John is the younger son of his father Zebedee, his brother is James the Elder, and they were fishermen 2. The Lord invited them to follow Him after the Miracle of catching “a great multitude of fishes” (Luke 5). He was the youngest of the 12 disciples and the longest to live among them. St. John has been called “the Beloved”, “the disciple that Jesus loved”, “the Theologian”, “the Seer”, and “Son of thunder”.

John, Peter and James were close to Jesus. Only to them He revealed special events. They went up with Jesus to the transfiguration mountain and witnessed His glory. John also observed His struggle in prayers in Gethsemane. John followed Jesus to the cross and Jesus honored him by delivering His mother, St. Mary to be in his care after Jesus was crucified. The Holy Spirit chose John to shepherd the church of Ephesus, but he was exiled for a while to the island of Patmos where he received the “Revelation” documented in the book with the same title.

John also wrote 3 messages as part of the “Catholic Epistles”. His epistles are characterized by their invitation of people to know God through Love: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Characteristics of the Gospel of St. John:

(1) In writing his gospel, St. John’s purpose 3 was to reveal the Divinity of Christ, a Divinity that is one in essence with the Father’s (John 10:30). Therefore, he wrote at the end of his Gospel: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30,31).

(2) St. John’s gospel is also called “Genesis of the New Testament”. Both the gospel and Genesis start with “In the beginning”. Whereas St. John starts talking about the new creation in Jesus and eternal life that has been revealed to us in the incarnation of the Son of God at the fullness of time, Genesis started by talking about an “earth without form”, the material creation, and the beginning of time.

(3) St. John neglected to mention the genealogy of Jesus Christ according to the flesh, which was mentioned by both St. Matthew and St. Luke. The reason is that his gospel concentrated on the eternal birth of the Son from God the Father, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

(4) St. John mentioned only seven out of the many miracles that Christ did. He performed the first miracle in a wedding at Cana of Galilee, and the last miracle in a tomb at Bethany (the raising of Lazarus, John 11). In St. John’s thought, a miracle is a sign, a visible act that points to a deep theological meaning. For example:

· The change of water to wine in the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12) is a sign of the change of wine to Jesus’ Blood in the feast of Eucharist in the Last Supper.

· The healing of the Nobleman’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54) points to the opening of the Kingdom of Heavens to the gentiles.

· In the miracle of healing the paralytic of Bethesda, the Lord reveals His Divine authority to forgive sins and His being equivalent to the Father in word and will (John 5:21).

· In the miracle of feeding the multitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ points to Himself as “the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).

· In the miracle of walking on water and calming the wind, the Lord opened the crowds’ eyes to ask for eternal life. “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that every one who sees the Son, and believes in Him may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

· In the miracle of opening the eyes of the man born blind (John 9:7), there is a deep reference to “Baptism” in which the eyes of the sinful man is opened, and his conscience is enlightened to know Jesus the Son of God and to believe in Him.

· In raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:25), Jesus declares that He is “the resurrection and the life” to whoever believes in Him. Whoever believes in Him, though he may die, he shall live. This was few days before His crucifixion and death, which proves that He carried both death and life together in His body, and that death has no rule over Him.

(to be continued)

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Footnotes:

  1. Ephesus was a major city in western Asia Minor. St. Paul is the apostle who founded the church of Ephesus approximately 40 years before St. John wrote his gospel. The church of Ephesus had reached a high level of faith in spite of the fact that it was subject to a strong battle from the Greek philosophy and its false gods which had a center position in the city. The Jews, also, had their biggest congregation in the world close to the city of Ephesus. These facts explain the great theological depth of this gospel as a rival to other theological doctrines.
    St. John wrote his gospel in the Greek language. Recent research has shown that there is an Aramaic language structure hidden behind the Greek language of this gospel, supporting the Church’s belief that the writer is St. John who lived most of his life in Judea and spoke the Aramaic language.
  2. This Galilean family was well to do as professional fishermen. St. John’s mother, Salome, the sister of the Virgin St. Mary was a pious lady who followed Christ as a disciple and served Christ from her own wealth. She had aspired that her two sons will inherit the kingdom and sit one at the right hand of the Lord, and the other at the left in His kingdom (Mt. 20:21). His brother James who is called the Elder was the first martyr among the apostles in the year 44 AD. John was a disciple of John the Baptist and became a disciple of Jesus Christ when he was 20 years old. He wrote his gospel when he was 100 years old. He had contact with the high priests in Jesus’ days and it is said that he was a priest. St. John was inflamed with the divine love. He leaned on Christ’s bosom and the Lord has entrusted His mother to him as He said to his mother concerning St. John “This is your son” (referring to Christ living in him). St. John followed Christ courageously to the Cross and was the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection. Both him and his brother witnessed to the Lord and deserved the surname of “Boanerges” or the “Sons of thunder”. Thunder in the Jewish language refers to the voice of God as it is written in the psalm: “The God of Glory thunders” (Psalm 29:3).
  3. In his gospel, St. John did not follow precisely the historical events of the life of Jesus Christ as did St. Luke in his gospel. Instead, he had clearly delineated the objective of his gospel “that the reader might believe that Jesus is Christ … and by believing inherits eternal life”. For this reason, he focused only on this objective. St. John has revealed in his gospel two fundamental truths:
    First: The belief that the man who was called Jesus is the “Messiah” of the Jews. He is the hope of Israel and in Him all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled.
    Second: Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God of the same Godhead with the Father and because He became man, He is very close to our humanity. As God and man, He is calling all humans to become the children of God. He is giving this privilege to all mankind through His death and Resurrection.
    The explanation of the gospel of St. John is based on these two facts: That Jesus is Christ “The Messiah” and He is the Son of God who came to save the world. The first truth unites Christianity with Judaism. Christianity inherited from Judaism, God’s compassion and mercy on all the saintly fathers and prophets of the Old Testament. The second truth is that through Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, we become liberated as Christians from all the extreme narrowness of Judaism.

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