Life is filled with journeys if we are willing to take the risk of leaving the familiar to see what else is out there. This series is going to be a journey, in fact, a double journey, because I am about to embark on a quest to trace the journey of a man named John, and I invite you to go with me. This is not just any John but a very particular John, referred to in the Bible as John, the son of Zebedee, John, one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ; John the Apostle.
When we first encounter John in the Bible, he is a fisherman, plying his trade on the Sea of Galilee. Biblical commentators and teachers often refer to this early John as a simple fisherman. I’m not sure how one distinguishes between a simple and a complex fisherman, but, regardless, the typical workday found John out on the water carrying on the family business with this brother, James, and his father, Zebedee. Imagine that this fisherman, simple or otherwise, would go on to author five of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. That’s a journey.
The writing of John that is to be our focus is known as the Gospel of John, his eyewitness account of the life, words and actions, of Jesus. He should know; he was there. Three other Gospels are included in the Bible, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke. Think of four people giving testimony from different vantage points.
Why does John write his account? This is an easy question to answer because he states his purpose near the end of the document. He writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Time out! What’s with the “John 20:30-31?” OK – when John wrote this document, he didn’t break it down into chapters – 20 – and verses – 30-31, but centuries ago the books of the Bible were divided into chapters and verses so that these important words could be easily located, read, studied and discussed. The important thing is that this man, writing in the first century, was writing so that his readers could and would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Why? He wrote so that his readers could and would have life, eternal life. We are now John’s readers and I find it comforting and inspiring that he was concerned about your soul and mine all those years ago. Indeed, John was no simple man.
For the most part, this journey will begin with the first verse of John’s Gospel and travel through to the last, but there will be occasional thematic side trips to make sure that the dots are connected. Before going to the first verse, however, let’s consider John’s stated purpose, that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ. What does that mean?
Three of the world’s dominant belief systems, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, trace their roots back to the same source – Abraham. We first meet Abraham in the Bible in Genesis 12:27. He fathered Ishmael with Hagar, the Egyptian servant of his wife, Sarah. In simple terms, the Arab nations descended from Ishmael. Later, he had another son with Sarah named Isaac, through whom the Hebrews or Jews descended. Christianity emerged with the coming of Jesus, believing Him to be the Son of God, separating from a Judaism that would not accept Jesus as anything more than a teacher.
John, a Jew, as was Jesus, wants to set the record straight. Jesus is the Christ. The word “Christ” comes to us from Greek, meaning the Anointed One. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for the Anointed One, Messiah, is used. The Old Testament promised that the Messiah would come to bring freedom and deliverance to the Hebrew people, but Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they expected, so Judaism as a faith rejected Him. Many Hebrews, however, including John, came to know Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior, the One sent by God to deliver people, Jews and Gentiles, from their sin.
What if Jesus is the Christ? What if Jesus is the Son of God? The journey begins.
The John’s Journey Series is written by Ken Priddy