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NT Survey 111 Seminar 6 Gospel of John

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                             31st March 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 6

The Gospel of John

The Gospel of John; Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 7; Libronix DLS; Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 8  



Contrast the primary theme of John with that of the Synoptic Gospels:

            As mentioned in my notes for Seminar 5 “Jensen’s presupposition is that the Synoptic Gospels form a unified whole which together with the Gospel of John provide as full a picture of Jesus as we need.” Therefore this distinct, non-Synoptic Gospel “serves as a capstone revelation of the life and ministry of Christ” (Jensen p 174). Jesus is the Revealer-Redeemer; the Son of God Who both reveals Who God is, and Who has come to Redeem mankind.

            “From beginning to end, the Fourth Gospel is concerned to set forth Jesus as the Revelation of the Father and one with the Father, but always with a view to making plain his role as Mediator of salvation—and of judgment, where man so insists.”[1]

            In many respects John’s Gospel contains an account of Jesus’ life which reveals the spiritual heights of the God-man in more significant detail than the Synoptics. The charts of each Gospel that Jensen constructs (based on Chart 17 p 104) rely heavily on the picture presented in John with regard to timeline, total length of earthly ministry, and significant focus-altering events. Even the “perfect understanding of all things….in order” of Luke 1:3 is unable to match this, and points toward the necessity of having a Fourth Gospel which can complete the historical narratives of the first Three. John fleshes out the spiritual supremacy of the Saviour (eg John 3:16; or a comparison of Luke 1:5 with John 1:1, showing the immediate concern of John’s Gospel with the Deity, rather than the historicity, of the Christ).

            This is not to say that John does not contain any history of note. This Gospel is the only one to record Jesus’ early Judean ministry, and the crucial event of His first cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-17).

            Nevertheless, John is noted for its Doctrines, and “commentary” on these by the Apostle which are more extensive than in the Synoptics, many of which are unique to John eg the Father’s House (Ch 14), the Vine and the Branches (Ch 15), His High Priestly Prayer (Ch 17), etc.

By the time John was inspired to write this Gospel, the history of the early Church had progressed from “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” to “What does this mean for me, my society, our future and the rest of the world?” There is more detail concerning this in Jensen’s Chart 42 p 181.

            The primary audiences of the Synoptics are the Jews, the Romans and the Greeks respectively. John is a Gospel for the world on a timeless basis; even those local events which it records have application to us today (eg Chh 3 and 4). Other data taken from Jensen’s Chart 18, p 108 (only from where apples are compared to apples) shows the bias of each of the Gospels toward the Portraits of Jesus (the Prophesied King, the Obedient Servant, the Perfect Man, the Divine Son), the outstanding sections of each (sermons, miracles, parables, doctrines), the prominent ideas (law, power, grace, glory), and broad division (Synoptics - the humanity of Christ, as seen from the outside; Fourth Gospel - the deity of Christ as expressed by Himself).

            It is readily appreciated that all of the Gospels are at once both the same and are different, and there is no question that the Fourth Gospel is opposed to the Synoptics in any way. All four are necessary for us to see, understand and cherish Christ. If one account had been written to include all of the material in all four Gospels, it would have been significantly shorter than the combination of the Gospels as they are, which make up about half of the written NT, emphasizing the importance of this material (Jensen p 108-109).

            It is noteworthy that in spite of the tremendous importance of John’s Gospel, it omits what one would normally suppose to be crucial events - Jesus’ nativity, genealogy, youth, wilderness temptations (why not? Does not this episode bear strongly on Jesus as the Son of God? See below and raise at Seminar), transfiguration (same query) or ascension (same query again) [Jensen footnote 10, p 182]. Note also that John only records 20 days of Jesus’ four and a half year (!?) ministry cf John 21:25.


Characterise the portraits of Christ depicted in each chapter of John’s Gospel: (list in Jensen p 196)

            Ch 1:49 Rabbi, the Son of God, the King of Israel

            Ch 2:11 The beginning of miracles, manifesting His glory, resulting in belief

            Ch 3:16 God’s Son, belief in Him giving everlasting life

            Ch 4:26 “I am” the Messiah

            Ch 5:25 life to be had in hearing the voice of the Son of God

            Ch 6:33, 51 the living bread of God

            Ch 7:29 Jesus knows the Father and is sent from Him

            Ch 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am”

            Ch 9:37 Jesus Himself claims to be God

            Ch 10:30 “I and my father are one”

            Ch 11:27 Martha states her belief to Him that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, prophesied to come into the world

            Ch 12:32 Jesus prophesies His own crucifixion which will draw all men unto Him

            Ch 13:13 Jesus claims He is Master and Lord of His disciples

            Ch 14:11 Jesus pleads with His disciples to believe that He is equal with the Father - merely because He has said so, but if not, then on account of His works

            Ch 15:1 the True Vine (and His Father the husbandman)

            Ch 16:28 the Plan of the ages - a product of both the Father and Jesus as God

            Ch 17:1 Cooperative relationship between Father and Son

            Ch 18:11 Jesus’ obedience to the will of His Father

            Ch 19:7 The Jews realize that Jesus claims to be God

            Ch 20:28 Thomas, on visual evidence, recognizes Jesus as his personal Lord and God

            Ch 21:14 third resurrection appearance NB 10:17-18.

There is much more to Jesus than is contained in this list eg in the Prologue (1:1-18) He is the Creator of all things, the living Word or Logos, the Only Begotten of the Father; and elsewhere the Lamb of God, the Door, the Gift of God, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews, Jesus the son of Joseph, the Way the Truth and the Life, the Light of the world, the true Light, Only Begotten of the Father, only Begotten Son, Rabboni, the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Teacher, a grain of wheat (12:23-24), our Keeper (17:12), the Overcomer (16:33) - all just in John and in addition to Jensen’s list.

            John’s Gospel more than the Synoptics reveals both Jesus’ humanity and His Deity although most commentators stress the Deity aspect. Jesus in John is Son, active in domesticity (the wedding at Cana), gets tired and thirsty (the well at Sychar), is deeply moved and weeps at Lazarus’ grave, washes the disciples’ feet and thirsts in pain on the Cross. He prays out loud for Himself, his disciples and the Church (Ch 17).

            John’s Gospel is the only one to use the transliterated “Messias” to describe the Christ, right from the beginning (1:41). The Synoptics merely use “Christ” to express the same intent. In Messianic terms, “John alone records Pilate’s rejection of the chief priests’ request for the wording over the cross to be modified. In the account of the feeding of the multitude, John alone tells us that the people sought to make Jesus king but that Jesus withdrew himself (6:15), no doubt because their conception of Messianic kingship differed radically from his.”[2]


Examine the titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God”:

            It has already been stated that these two terms are not equivalent 2a.

“Son of Man was the title used almost exclusively by Jesus Himself (cf. Matt. 9:6; 10:23; 11:19). Some feel He used it because it most clearly distinguished His [human] Messiahship from the erroneous ideas of His time. The name Son of God was also applied to Jesus in an official or messianic sense (cf. Matt. 4:3, 6; 16:16; Luke 22:70; John 1:49). It emphasized that He was a Person of the triune Godhead, supernaturally born as a human being.”[3] In my view this is too simplistic.

‘Son of man’ is a title used extensively in the OT, especially in Ezekiel where it is used to address the writer 93 times. It is used in John’s Gospel 12 times, generally by Jesus to describe Himself.

‘Son of God’ is used - not unexpectedly in view of the unity of Jehovah - only once in the OT - to describe Jesus in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:25). It is used in John’s Gospel 10 times, generally by others, to describe Christ. It could be said that the use of the two terms is balanced in John.

Perhaps the significance of ‘Son of God’ is best brought out in Mark where it is used three times (1:1, 3:11, 15:39) to show the Deity of Christ. In Matthew and Luke the title is used whenever Jesus is performing a miracle, or demonstrating His Deity in other ways, or being worshipped as God.

In John, ‘Son of God’ is not so specific. It is frequently juxtaposed to His Humanity eg 1:34 John the Baptist sees Jesus and bears record that this is the Son of God; Nathanael says to Him “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel”[4] ; in 9:35-37 Jesus asks the man whose blindness He had healed “Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee”[5]; other instances are in 10:36, 11:27, 19:7, 20:31.

After the Gospels in the rest of the NT, the title the ‘Son of God’ is used either to specifically express Jesus’ Deity (Romans 1:4; Hebrews 4:14, 7:3; 1 John 3:8, 5:20; Revelation 2:18), or is a combination of His Deity and humanity, being non-committal (Acts 9:20; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:13; etc)5a.

In John, “Son of Man” is a title which Jesus exclusively uses to refer to Himself. This may have the quality of Deity (1:51, 3:13, 5:27, 6:62, 13:31) or the quality of humanity (3:14) or of both (6:27, 53, 8:28, 12:23).

In the rest of the NT, ‘Son of Man’ is used only 4 times, 3 times to refer to Jesus’ Deity and once to quote from the Psalms.5b

Conclusion: ‘Son of God’ is usually used by others to refer to a Jesus Who is God. ‘Son of Man’ appears to be used mostly by Jesus when He wishes to make sure His audience can identify with Him. There is substantial overlap.


Articulate the Biblical reason for the Gospel’s writing (John 20:31):

            John 20:31 “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”.

            In context the “these” that are written are the accounts of the bare bones of what Jesus did in front of witnesses (v 30), supporting the notion that they can be proved and therefore believed without hesitation.

Who is the “ye”? There is no local contextual clue. The obvious answer is the reader himself, supported by the context of the whole of the book and its place in the Canon.

The reader of this verse is assumed to be unsaved, and although much of the doctrine in the rest of the Gospel is written for the saved, the whole book is an apologetic to explain the necessity for salvation and the sufficiency of the Saviour. The doctrine can only be understood when the key of salvation is received eg as shown by Jesus’ battles with the Pharisees.

The verse makes no apology for Who Christ is - God, the promised Messiah (ie the Christ).

There is also a sense that the new believer will have received something more than he bargained for ie “life”. This Gospel has much to say about the life that results from belief in Christ - not only that we are resurrected from the spiritually dead (eg 5:24) but that we also have a “more abundant” life (10:10) than we thought was possible.

This verse also states that salvation and life come as a result of belief ie the acceptance of truth about ourselves, and trust in the Christ Who saves, which is a personal commitment between the believer and God, and not available any other way (ie only “through His Name”). “Salvation is not a reward for the righteous, but a gift for the guilty.”6a

The sequence of “signs” (v 30), “belief” and “life” (v 31) is an easy one for the unsaved to follow, perhaps especially for the Jew, but also for the average Joe. Everybody likes to have concrete evidence on which to start to build faith.



Scrutinise Chapter 3 and its meaning for us today:

            Chapter 3 is the first major encounter between Jesus and an unsaved man - the prominent Pharisee Nicodemus - giving a partial account of the need and way of salvation. The subject of salvation is only briefly inferred before this - the Prologue (vv 1-18 esp vv 4, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16) and the Baptist’s ministry (1:29-34).

            Although not many today could fully identify with a Pharisee, the fundamental of being one - “that I am important to me and I know best about my situation, being superior” - is a largely universal “me first” theme.

            Jesus is presented with fertile ground (3:2) and uses the opportunity. He proceeds by provoking interest (by His works/testimony), then prudently answering the queries that inevitably follow, as they arise. He does not force the conversation, but is careful to keep to the point, recognizing Nicodemus’ inner need.

            Nicodemus’ instructor is Jesus Himself - not me or my Pastor or my denomination - which is a critical issue when presenting the Gospel to someone today. He must not be made a member of an exclusive club nor a disciple of anyone else but Christ Himself.

            The seeming illogicality of Jesus’ answer in v 3 to the question of v 2 does not cause the conversation to founder, because Jesus has kept directly to the point, and clearly has Nicodemus’ full attention. As the conversation progresses, Jesus stimulates further thought, beyond what His hearer had expected (v 9), then lays out the important issues with regard to salvation, knowing by this stage that Nicodemus had the capacity to understand. A good plan for us today. No casting pearls before swine.

            Jesus gradually reveals Himself to Nicodemus as the divine Teacher and Life-giver, the final result being revealed in 19:39 where Nicodemus takes care of Jesus’ body at burial, at risk to his own life and profession, indicating a probable conversion.

            Notwithstanding all of this, to a modern evangelical there is a glaring omission. Nicodemus is not presented with the fact of his own personal sin, as He does to the Samaritan woman at the well in Ch 4. There are general and oblique references to the sin of mankind eg that the unbelieving would perish (v 15), that the Son would save the world (v 17), that men love darkness rather than light (v 19). Men would be condemned (v 18) but not because they were sinners, but because they did not believe.

The concept of personal sin seems to come across best in the writings of Paul, not the ministry of Jesus, although being in the physical presence of Someone sinless would tend to make one’s own shortcomings more obvious. How important our own testimony should then be!



Summarise Chapter 4: the Samaritan Woman, and its application for us today:

            No time or space to do this adequately.



Review the “I am” discourses in the Gospel and their applications for us:

            Where Jesus uses “I am” as a statement of His Deity He is referring back to the Name of Jehovah in Exodus 3:14, and the statements of God regarding Himself (eg Isaiah 43:10–11; 45:5–6, 18, 21–22). The Jews were under no misapprehension as to what He meant and determined to kill Him on that basis. We should also have no  doubt as to what He intended - Jesus is claiming to be God in every possible respect. He is not claiming just to identify with God but to be in union with Him. The “Revealer in whom God utters himself” (Schnackenburg, 2:88).[6]

He is either a liar, deluded, or correct. There is nothing within scripture to support the first two. Everything Scriptural, and much extraBiblical writing relating to this topic, and personal conversion, defines the latter.

            Jesus also uses “I am” with a noun to describe Who He is, what He wants to do, and what He wants us to be. There are 7 of these. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51), the Light of the world (8:12), the Door of the sheep (10:7, 9), the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14), the true Vine (15:1, 5), the Resurrection and the Life (11:25) and the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6).

            These 7 “I am’s” chart the way of salvation for us, the way in which the Christian life should be lived, and the future promised to the saved.



Survey John Chh 18-20:

      Summarised, these three chapters describe this Gospel’s view of Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, arrest, trials, scourging, crucifixion, death and resurrection (Jensen p 193).

      Jesus knew from before the foundation of the world that He would have to go through all this (eg Philippians 2:8). He ensures that in spite of the antagonism and aggression of His opponents, that the timing remains correct, that He has completed everything that He had come to do and that nothing would fail. Nevertheless as a human being He recoils from the prospect of such physical and spiritual pain (Ch 17). As a Spirit-filled human being He remains obedient to His Father’s will (John 18:11).

      John contains much detail about Jesus’ trials. Jensen lists 6 in all (p 194):

A.      Jewish:

·         Before Annas (18:12-14, 19-23)

·         Informal trial by the Sanhedrin before dawn (18:24; Matthew 26:57, 59-68; Mark 14:53, 55-56; Luke 22:54, 63-65)

·         Formal trial after dawn (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71; not mentioned in John)

B.     Roman:

·         First appearance before Pilate (18:28-38; cf Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5)

·         Before Herod Antipas (mentioned only in Luke 23:6-12)

·         Final appearance before Pilate (18:39-19:16; cf Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25).

Two of these six are not mentioned in John, another is only mentioned in John (before Annas). Because John is related? There ought to be a better reason than this.

                  Jesus’ death, much more than any human death, marks the lowest possible point of separation from God and it is not possible for humanity, even as a collective, to appreciate the spiritual pain of this. Even the creation reflected His pain, in profound darkness, the rending of the Temple veil and by a local earthquake - which disinterred the saints (Matthew 27:52-53)!

After the trials in 18:1-19:16, the second half of Ch 19 is a short description of the crucifixion, the essential point being the voluntary death of our Saviour (v 30).

Chapter 20 describes the Resurrection which was in turn fixed by the Trinity before Time began, unanticipated by the disciples and made to be unbelievable by generations of heathens since. The disciples not only failed to understand Jesus’ prior teaching about His death and resurrection, they also failed to remember that teaching after the resurrection had actually occurred. It was only brought to their minds when they believed, which came later through signs (Jensen pp 194-195). These signs were personal to individuals or small groups eg Mary Magdalene with the ‘gardener’, Peter and John at the empty tomb, the disciples behind closed doors, Thomas, and the “many other signs ….did Jesus in the presence of His disciples” of 20:30.


Examine Christ’s discourse with Peter in Ch 21:

      Peter comes to this point in his relationship with Jesus where he knows he has forfeited all right to be an Apostle, let alone a companion of Christ - occasioned by several things, but primarily by his repeated denials of his relationship to his Saviour before the cock crew during Jesus’ trials by the Jews. His old self confidence and assertiveness have completely drained away. He needs serious rehabilitation, and he gets it. This may be the occasion that Jesus foreknew would be needed (Luke 22:32 ie the ‘conversion’).

At issue is Peter’s relationship with Christ. If this is not restored in love, then Peter will be wasting his time as an Apostle (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Hence Jesus’ first question in v 15 “Simon….lovest thou me more than these (other disciples)?” It was necessary for Peter to remember how macho he had been in front of the other disciples before the Arrest (Matthew 26:33; John 13:36-37).

Not surprisingly, Peter is embarrassed to answer directly and appeals to Jesus’ knowledge of him, although refusing to remain on the same level - he responds to Jesus’ agape with a phileo. In spite of this lack of the quality of the love expressed, and to Peter’s relief, Jesus accepts him as he is and recommissions him to “feed His [flock of] lambs”.

In verse 16, Jesus repeats the question, but makes it uniquely personal to Peter alone: “agape thou me?” After Peter’s phileo assent Jesus commissions him to do something different - “shepherd my sheep” (poimaine - to shepherd rather than bosko - to feed).8

Jesus is not finished yet. He knows that in time Peter will transform his lowly phileo into a lofty agape but the basis for doing this will be a brotherly phileo between them, starting now. So he asks Peter in v 17 “phileo thou me?”. Peter gets annoyed because his integrity is being challenged by One Who knows better, but Jesus has got His message across - the Christ not only wants to be involved in Peter’s ministry at a powerful sacrificial level (1 Peter 5:3), but also at a personal more intimate level (1 Peter 5:2), which He knows Peter is going to need in order to remain effective. This is essentially how the Father entrusted His sheep to the Son; the Son is obediently passing the baton.

Now satisfied, Jesus caps Peter’s commission by telling him to “feed my sheep”, which is the necessary third step in pastoring a flock (v 15 feed the recently converted with the basics, v 16 protect and manage the flock, v 17 disciple the sheep to spiritual maturity). A similar process is used by Paul with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28. [7]

This is not to establish that Peter was to be the only pastor of the early Church, or the sole repository of Jesus’ confidence. This whole episode is to correct Peter’s problems, quite separate from any issues involved with the others. Acts demonstrates that after a time, Peter leaves the Jerusalem Church to James in order to become an itinerant evangelist. Interestingly, John 21:15-17 does not cover this aspect of Peter’s future pastoral ministry. There could be a number of reasons for this.

There is more conversation between Peter and Jesus in John 21 concerning Peter’s death and the destiny of ‘the Beloved Disciple’ which requires further study beyond the scope of this answer.



[1]George R. Beasley-Murray, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary : John, Word Biblical Commentary, 140 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

[2]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 285 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

2a Butterworth, A.,  Personal communication, NTES 111 Seminar 5,  29th March 2007

[3]J.I. Packer, Merrill Chapin Tenney and William White, Nelson's Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, 526 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995).

[4]The Holy Bible : King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., Jn 1:49 (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

[5]The Holy Bible : King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., Jn 9:35-37 (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

5a Libronix Speed Search “Son of God” and “Son of Man”

5b ibid

6a Adrian Rogers, quoted in Israel My Glory The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry Inc, Westville New Jersey  March/April 2007 p 17

[6]George R. Beasley-Murray, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary : John, Word Biblical Commentary, 90 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

[7]George R. Beasley-Murray, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary : John, Word Biblical Commentary, 407 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

8 Newberry, Thomas, and George Ricker Berry. The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004

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