Christ the Son of God
The apostle John tells us exactly what his purpose was in writing his gospel narrative — “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:30-31). John wrote his Gospel to show us that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God; and he begins his message by stating that fact clearly, emphatically, and beautifully — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2).
There is one word used throughout these 21 chapters. That one word is the key to all things spiritual, the key to spiritual life, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual understanding. The word is “believe.” John uses it 98 times in this Gospel. His intention is that “we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, we might have life through his name.” May the God of all grace give us grace to go on believing “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called “The Synoptic Gospels” because they each give us an orderly, well-arranged narrative of our Savior’s earthly life and ministry, describing (for the most part) the same events in different ways and for different purposes. John’s Gospel is different. It was written much later than the other three. In the Gospel of John we are given the inspired reflections of an old man who had faithfully served the Son of God many, many years. With one foot in heaven, he tells us of his all-glorious Savior, the Son of God, that we might believe him. John’s Gospel is neither a historical biography nor a theological textbook. Rather, what we have here is the loving adoration of a saved sinner for his great Savior, describing the greatness, grace, and glory of the Son of God as he had experienced it.
There are several things that stand out as distinctive features of John’s Gospel. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John does not mention any of our Lord’s parables. Yet, he was inspired to describe miracles not recorded by the other writers. John alone tells us about the Lord Jesus turning water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana (2:1-11), the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54), the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-9), the feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-14), the Lord Jesus coming to his disciples walking across the stormy sea (6:15-21), the healing of the man born blind (9:1-7), and the resurrection of Lazarus (11:38-44).
The miracles described by John seem to have been specifically intended to lay the foundation for something our Lord was about to teach. When the Master was about to teach some great truth, he performed a miracle to illustrate what he was about to say. He had a way of getting people’s attention.
Just before he drove the money changers out of the
temple and told how that he was about to build a greater, more glorious temple
by his death and resurrection, our Savior turned water into wine. — “This
beginning of miracles did Jesus in
Another distinctive feature of John’s Gospel is the fact that he alone gives us the seven “I AM” sayings of Christ. Seven times the Lord says, “I AM.” These sayings are very precious and give us a delightful, instructive picture of our Redeemer. “I AM” is the name by which the Lord God revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14. By taking this title and name as his own the Lord Jesus declared himself to be God, and did so at least seven times.
1. “I am the bread of life” (). ― If we would live, we must eat this Bread.
2. “I am the light of the world” (). ― If we would see, we must have this Light.
3. “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7). ― If we would enter into life, we must enter by this Door.
4. “I am the good shepherd” (). ― If we are saved, we must be saved by this Shepherd.
5. “I am the resurrection and the life” (). ― If we would be partakers of resurrection glory and eternal life, he who is the Resurrection and the Life must be ours. We must trust him.
6. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6). ― If we would have eternal life, we must be in the Way, know the Truth, and be given the Life.
7. “I am the true vine” (15:1). ― If we would bring forth fruit unto God, we must be grafted into this Vine.
The significance of our Lord using the words “I AM” with reference to himself must not be overlooked. This enraged the Jews because they understood exactly what he meant by them. ― He was saying, “I am the eternal God, Jehovah, the Redeemer and Deliverer. I am everything, for I am God.” Using these two words, “I AM,” with reference to himself, he identified himself as the covenant God of Israel. Liberals and religious infidels today may not recognize that fact; but the Jews who heard the Master understood him perfectly (John -59; -33).
John also gives a distinct emphasis to the fact that the Lord Jesus spoke of a specific time and hour for which he came into the world (2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; ; , 27-28; 13:1; 17:1).
In chapters 1-12 John tells us who Christ is, giving highlights of his life and ministry during the three years of public, earthly ministry. In chapters 13-21 the apostle gives an account (an account none could give except a tender-hearted old man, full of love for Christ) of our Lord’s last night upon the earth, his death as our Substitute, and his resurrection.
Christ our God
That Man Luke described, the Servant Mark portrayed, and the King Matthew declared, Jesus of Nazareth, is himself the Christ, the Son of God, our eternal God and Savior. That is what John asserts with utter dogmatism in chapter 1. John declares that this man is the Word who is God (v. 1), the second person of the holy trinity, altogether equal with the Father (v. 2), the Creator of all things (v. 3), and the incarnate God our Savior (vv. 10-18, 29). This Man who is God is the Lamb of God, spoken of and typified throughout the Old Testament, by whose sacrifice our sins are taken away.
Best Things Last
In chapter 2, when our Lord turned the water into wine and began to show forth his glory, the governor of the feast said to the bridegroom, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (v. 10). That is exactly what our Savior does in his wondrous works of grace. He saves the best wine until the last (1 Cor. 2:9). As good as the experience of God’s grace in Christ is here, it is but a foretaste of that which awaits us in heaven’s glory.
The New Birth
In the first chapter we are told that sinners are made to
be the sons of God and are born again by the will of God alone (11-13). In
chapter 3 we have our Lord’s discourse on the new birth with Nicodemus. Here he
shows us both the nature and necessity of the new birth. Until a person is born
again he can neither see nor enter into the
All grace, all salvation, all life, all hope is in Christ. Do you believe on the Son of God? Do you trust Christ alone as your Savior? That is the one thing that must be settled. To believe Christ is to have life. To abide in unbelief is to abide in death, under the wrath of God. That was John the Baptist’s message and that is the message of God’s preachers in every age and place — “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (36) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (vv. 35-36). “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John ).
The Samaritan Woman
In chapter 4 John gives us a tremendous picture of God’s
grace. Our Lord Jesus “must needs go through
The Impotent Man
In chapter 5 our Savior came to the Pool of Bethesda. There were many around the pool who were impotent, blind, halt, and withered. But the sovereign Savior came there to show mercy to one certain man, a certain chosen sinner who had been impotent for 38 years. “And immediately the man was made whole” (v. 9).
That is another picture of God’s saving grace. It is sovereign, distinguishing, effectual grace. Spiritually, God’s elect are totally impotent. We could never be saved if any part of salvation depended on us. But that is not the case. The Lord Jesus saves poor, impotent sinners by his own almighty arm of omnipotent mercy (Eph. 2:1-5).
Witnesses to Christ
In the second half of chapter 5 our Lord Jesus shows himself to be the Christ by numerous witnesses. As we read these verses and others like them (10:16-18), we must not imagine that our Lord is declaring anything that might suggest him being inferior to the Father. Rather, our Lord is declaring his voluntary subjection to the will of his Father (Isa. 50:5-7) as our Mediator and Surety.
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:19-31).
John the Baptist bore witness to him as the Christ, the Lamb of God, the eternal Savior (vv. 33-35). His own works bear witness that he is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior (v. 36 ― His Miracles ― His Satisfaction ― The Rent Veil). The Father bore witness to Christ (v. 37 ― At His Baptism ― At His Transfiguration), trusting him as our Surety (Eph. 1:12), putting all things in his hands as the Son of Man (v. 27), and giving him all pre-eminence (Col. 1:18; Phil. 2:8-11). And the Book of God bears witness to him, that he is indeed the Christ (vv. 37-39). Moses (vv. 46-47), in all the books of the law, bore witness to him, typically and prophetically, and by the veil being rent when he had fulfilled the whole law, satisfying the wrath and justice of God as our Representative.
The Offence of the Gospel
Multitudes followed our Savior, not because they were converted by his grace, but because they had eaten the loaves and fish. They were religious because they found religion profitable. They followed Christ outwardly because of what they gained by doing so. But, then, our Lord preached a message that offended the crowd. We read in John 6:66 ― “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” What did he preach? What was it that so greatly offended the multitudes? It was the message of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace, the same message that offends lost religious crowds throughout the world today. It was the declaration that salvation is by the will of God alone (vv. 37-40). He asserted that fallen man’s natural, total depravity makes salvation by the will of man impossible (v. 44). Our Master declared that salvation is altogether the work of God’s free, sovereign, irresistible grace (v. 45) and this salvation can be possessed only by faith in Christ, eating his flesh and drinking his blood, trusting his righteousness and his atonement as our only ground of acceptance with God (vv. 47-58). This salvation was obtained by Christ laying down his life for chosen sinners scattered throughout the world (v. 51).
“These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:59-66).
These were the same people who sought just a short while earlier, to take him by force and make him a king (6:15).
“If Any Man Thirst”
In the seventh chapter “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” His brethren tried to get the Lord to go up to the feast, to show himself to the world, but he refused. Later, he went up to the feast privately. Then, on the last day of the feast, as our Master beheld the multitudes going home from their empty, meaningless religious ritual, he proclaimed a great, gracious, magnanimous invitation to needy souls that is echoed around the world to this day, wherever the gospel is preached. — “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (vv. 37-38).
The Adulterous Woman
The eighth chapter opens (vv. 1-11) with a tremendous picture of redemption and grace in Christ. A woman taken in adultery, scorned by men and condemned by God’s holy law, is freely and fully forgiven of all sin by the Son of God who stooped to the earth and rose again.
Beginning in verse 31 of chapter 8 our Lord gives us four unmistakable marks by which true disciples, true children of Abraham are identified in this world: (1.) They do the works of Abraham (v. 39). That is to say, they believe God. (2.) True disciples love Christ (v. 42; 1 John 4:19). (3.) They receive, bow to, and believe God’s Word (v. 47). (4.) They keep Christ’s doctrine (v. 51). They continue in his Word (v. 31) and holdfast the gospel.
The Good Shepherd
In the 9th chapter our Lord healed a man who was born blind. Because of the goodness of God, which he experienced, the Jews churched him. They kicked him out of their church because the Son of God gave him sight. When they did, the Lord Jesus took him into his arms and into the sheepfold of his grace. Then, John gives us our Savior’s great discourse on the Good Shepherd (chap. 10). Christ is the Good Shepherd. He has some sheep. He voluntarily laid down his life for his sheep. He calls his sheep by name. He must and shall save his sheep. He gives his sheep eternal life. His sheep shall never perish!
The 11th chapter tells us about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, our Lord’s beloved friends, and the sickness and death of Lazarus by the will of God and for the glory of God. Then, we see the Son of God raise Lazarus from the dead by the Word of his omnipotence. What a picture this is of God’s saving operations of grace! Like Lazarus, I was dead. Like Lazarus, the Lord Jesus loved me. He came to where I was. He called me by name. I came forth to him. And he set me free.
Chapter 12 opens with our Lord in the home of his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus again. Mary anoints him for his burial. As he sets his face toward Calvary, our Lord declares that which he would there accomplish by the sacrifice of himself — “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (vv. 31-33).
Chapter 13 begins the second section of John’s Gospel. Everything, from here through the end of chapter 19 took place in the last hours of our Savior’s earthly life. In chapter 13 he gives us an example of how we ought to love one another by washing his disciples’ feet. He did not do this to establish foot washing as a church ordinance, but to show us how to love one another. Love involves action, not sentimental words. Love bows low and gladly performs the most menial task for the sheer comfort of its object. — “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (v. 35).
Then our Lord told Peter how that he would deny him three times before the morning sun arose. — “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (vv. 36-38).
Immediately after that, we read those sweet, sweet words of comfort and assurance in John 14:1-3. — “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” How Peter must have cherished those words after his fall and restoration!
Chapters 14, 15, and 16 are filled with words of tender comfort and instruction for God’s people in this world in which we must endure constant sorrow and tribulation. — “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
The Lord’s Prayer
Then, in chapter 17 John gives us the Lord’s great, high priestly prayer for us, in which he prays not for the world but for his elect, asking his Father to keep us throughout our days on earth, through all our tribulations, and then to bring us safe to glory. Only in eternity can we know the full scope of our Lord’s words recorded here.
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (17:22-26)
When I compare John 17:5 with John 17:22, I am utterly overwhelmed. Can it be true? Has the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our all-glorious Redeemer given to everyone of his elect all the glory the Father gave to him as our covenant Surety and Mediator, all the glory that he now possesses as the God-man in heaven? Are we really and truly so perfectly one with him and so perfectly accepted in him that we shall all fully possess all the glory the Father gave him as the reward of his obedience unto death? Yes, O my soul, yes, it is true! He who is God and cannot lie declares it to be so!
Chapter 18 brings us with our all-glorious Christ into Gethsemane. But John leaves out most of the things described by Matthew and Luke. Instead, he tells us of our Savior’s care for his disciples when the soldiers came to arrest him, emphasizing the fact that he is God in total control, even over those who arrested him. Here again, we have a picture of redemption and grace. As if to demonstrate that he is God over all, not a helpless victim, the Savior takes the initiative. He asked the soldiers, “Whom seek ye?” When they told him they had come for that man called Jesus, he declared, “I AM,” and they fell down as dead men. Those men, representing the law by which he was to be executed, were slain before him. Then, the Master said, “I AM” (“He” is in italics.), “If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.” That is exactly what our Savior says to the law of God. You can’t have me and my sheep. If you take me, you must let my people go free.
“It is Finished”
In chapter 19 our Savior is crucified. In verse 30 we read these great, triumphant words of our victorious Redeemer, ― “It is finished!” — “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” What was finished? The law was finished, being satisfied (Rom. 10:4). The prophets were finished, being fulfilled. All the work he came to do (Matt. 1:21) was finished. Atonement was finished. Righteousness was finished. Judgment was finished. Sin was finished.
Chapters 20 and 21 tell us about our Lord’s resurrection and his appearances to his disciples after the resurrection. By his death and resurrection as our Substitute, our Lord Jesus reconciled us to our God, restored all that we had lost by the sin and fall of our father Adam, and restored us entirely to our God. Is it not most fitting that John shows us the restoration of his fallen disciple in this context? The Lord Jesus came to Peter in grace, assuring him of his love and forgiveness, and assuring Peter of his love for his Savior.
We read in John 21:25, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” When John says, “I suppose,” he is still writing by inspiration. It is as though the Lord God is telling us, ― “You cannot imagine how big my Son is, how great he is, and what wonders he has accomplished. If you go into every detail of who he is and what he has done, the world itself would not hold the books it would take to declare it all.” There could not be a more fitting conclusion of the Gospel of the Son of God.