For the author of the Gospel Summary see end of text
THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN
by Michael Blackburn
If St Matthew was writing for the Jews, St Mark writing under the direction of St Peter and St Luke writing under the guidance of St Paul who was St John writing for? His was the last of the four Gospels to be written and, by the time he wrote it, various heretical ideas had entered among some of the Churches which St John needed to correct. But he was also wanting to evangelise, which task he had been given by Jesus. He would have been in his old age when he was encouraged to write. As the last living apostle, someone who knew Jesus, and who was himself known as ‘the disciple who Jesus loved’, it was thought extremely necessary for him to write all that he could recall. By this time in his life he had matured from the young man who became one of the first apostles into an elderly man who must have possessed a wealth of knowledge not only from his own experiences but by the fact that he had been asked by Jesus, from the cross, to look after Our Lady and take her to his home. She would have instructed him in whatever he didn’t already know. What a wonderful teacher she would have been. We can imagine the hours they would have spent talking together about heavenly things which we will only know about when, hopefully, we reach our eternal reward.
St John explains the reason for his Gospel ‘……..that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ This Gospel differs from the others in that it is often ethereal in its content. The writing has the mind of the reader soaring to heaven. But it also contains moments of eye-witness recollection; for instance when St John tells us of the house in Bethany which was ‘was filled with the fragrance of the perfume’ (John 12:3). Only someone who was there would have been able to recall and explain that occurrence. The Synoptic Gospels focus mainly on Galilee whereas most of the events in St John’s Gospel take place in and around Jerusalem at the various festivals. It is possible that Jesus adopted a different teaching style for the nation’s capital and theological centre and St John thought it necessary to emphasise that teaching.
1. John commences his Gospel with the same words as at the start of the book of Genesis ‘In the beginning……….’. (By so doing he is connecting ‘creation’, and all that has happened since, to Jesus, the Son of God, and his coming on earth.) ‘………..was the Word’. (‘Word’ was a term of speech used by both Jews and Greeks. Jews used it as a way of referring to God. To Greeks it had a twofold meaning. Firstly to represent one’s ‘reasoning’, secondly, when they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle which governs all things.) ‘…….was with God’, The ‘Word’ was distinct from the Father. ‘…..and the Word was God’. (Jesus was God in the fullest sense.) John 1:1-3.
2. ‘In him was life’. (John uses the word ‘life’ thirty-six times. No other New Testament book uses it more than seventeen times. ‘Life’ is one of the great concepts of John’s Gospel. ‘Life’ is Christ’s gift.) ‘…….the light of men’. (Christ is ‘the light of the world’). ‘But the darkness has not understood it’. (The contrast between light and dark is a theme in John’s Gospel. See John 12:35.) John 1:4-5.
3. ‘…..his name was John’. (In this Gospel the name ‘John’ always refers to John the Baptist.) ‘………..as a witness’. (The Synoptic Gospels use the word ‘witness’ a total of seventeen times. John uses it thirty-three times,) ‘that through him all men might believe’. (John uses the word ‘believe’ ninety-eight times. So ‘witness’ and ‘believe’ are an important part of John’s Gospel, of the message he is wanting to convey.) John 1:6-8.
4. ‘The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.’ (John is referring to the incarnation of Christ. The word ‘world’ is another common word in John’s writings. It can mean ‘the universe’, ‘the earth’, ‘the people on earth’, ‘most people’, ‘people opposed to God’, or ‘the human system opposed to God’s purposes’. John emphasises the word by repetition, and moves without explanation from one meaning to another.) John 1:9
5. ‘He was in the world……………………..to all who received him, to those who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God’. (Membership in God’s family is by grace alone – the gift of God. It is never a human achievement yet the imparting of the gift is dependent on man’s reception of it, as the words ‘received’ and ‘believed’ make clear.) John 1:10 ‑13.
6. Now comes the stupendous truth – this same ‘Word’ became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. ‘……..made his dwelling’. (The Greek for ‘made his dwelling’ is connected with the word for ‘tent/tabernacle’, the verse would have reminded Jewish readers of the Tent of the Meeting which was
filled with the glory of God.) ‘………….full of grace and truth’. (The Hebrew terms are translated ‘unfailing love and faithfulness’.) John 1:14
7. The Baptist ‘cries out………...because he was before me’. (In ancient times the older person was given respect and regarded as greater than the younger. The Baptist is explaining that Jesus deserves the respect, since Jesus, as the Word, existed from all time.) John 1:15-17.
8. ‘………..God the One and Only………’, (An explicit declaration of Christ’s deity.) ‘……….has made him known……….’ (In the Old Testament some people claim to have seen God [Exodus 24:9-11]. But we are also told that no-one can see God and live [Exodus 33:20]. Therefore, since no human can see God as he really is, those who saw God saw him in a form he took on himself temporarily for the occasion. Now, however, Christ has made him known.) John 1:18.
The Witness of John.
9. As in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels priests came to ask Jesus “who are you?” So they did with John the Baptist. (Doesn’t this signify that they were looking for the expected Messiah?). To explain who he is John quotes from Isaiah: I am “A voice of one that cries in the desert ” (Isaiah 40:3). John 1:19-23.
“Whose Sandals I Am Unworthy to Untie.”
10. John explains that he Baptises with water (for an explanation of John’s Baptism see Page 6 Paragraph 11) but there is one following “………whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (Untying sandals – a menial task, fit for a slave.) John 1:24-27.
11. ‘All this happened at Bethany.’ This is not the Bethany near Jerusalem but another, now lost, place on the East of the Jordan river. John 1:28.
The Lamb of God.
12. John calls Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (This expression is used only twice in the Bible, here and in John 1:36.) A probable explanation is that Jesus would be the lamb to be sacrificed that would atone for the sins of the world. John 1:29
“I Came Baptising that He Might be Revealed.”
13. John continues “………..I myself did not know him………….I came baptising……that he might be revealed to Israel…..” After Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, during their pregnancies, it is very likely that Jesus and John did not meet. John had spent his time living in the desert during which time Jesus was in Nazareth. John 1:30-31.
“I Saw the Spirit Come Down from Heaven”
14. John declares that during his Baptism of Jesus: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him………………..I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34.
The First Disciples.
15. Jesus gathers his disciples. The Baptist encourages the first two to follow Jesus when he says, “Look, the Lamb of God.” So the Gospel writer John, plus Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael join Jesus. When Nathanael is told that Jesus comes from Nazareth he says, “Nazareth! Can any good come from there?” But Jesus’ knowledge that Nathanael had been under the fig tree when he was called brings Nathanael’s words “……..you are the Son of God; the King of Israel.” Jesus tells the disciples “…………...you shall see the heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (In Jesus’ ministry the disciples will see heaven’s testimony as plainly as if they heard an announcement from heaven.) John 1:35-51.
The Wedding at Cana.
16. The miracle of the water turned into wine. Jesus’ answer to his Mother, ”My time has not yet come,” is echoed several times in John’s Gospel (7:6, 7, 30; 8:20) The Bride and Groom must have been relatives or close friends of Jesus and Mary. As an anxious Mother, Mary would have been watching the festivities and had compassion on the embarrassment which, as yet, the hosts may not have noticed. Despite Jesus’ initial words, he obeys, which prove the special love he has for his Mother, and the water is turned into wine. Not only into wine but into the best wine that had been served during the marriage festivities. “……but you have saved the best till now.”
The Clearing of the Temple.
17. John has ‘the clearing of the Temple’ at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry whereas the other Gospels put it towards the end of his ministry. One possible explanation is that perhaps there were two ‘clearings,’ one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and one at the end. Another answer is that John put this occurrence at the beginning to show that God’s judgement was operative through the Messiah from the outset. Which means that, when it is necessary, John is prepared to write theologically rather than chronologically. But the most likely answer is that John’s version is correct. He was always very accurate in detail. John’s Gospel has Jesus making four visits to Jerusalem. The Synoptic Gospels only describe one visit. John was therefore able to accurately place the occasion of the ‘clearing’ whereas the Synoptic Gospels had to work the ‘clearing’ into the only visit they described. On the occasion of the ‘clearing’ the disciples remembered the words of Psalm 69:9: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ John 2:12-17.
“Destroy this Temple and I Will Raise it in Three Days.”
18. The Jews demand to know how Jesus can prove his authority to cleanse the temple. Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”, leaves them more confused. But Jesus did not mean them to understand. The truth of his words were hidden until after his resurrection. John 2:18-19.
“Are You Going to Raise It In Three days?”
19. John is precise in his writings as he quotes the words of the Jews, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” The work of building the temple commenced in 19B.C. so it must have been 28A.D. or later when this event occurred. (John frequently quotes Jesus’ words which, in addition to their obvious meaning, also possess a metaphorical and higher sense. Temple 2:20; new birth 3:4; living water 4:15; bread of life 6:34; to depart 7:35 & 13:36; to awaken 11:11; to lift up 12:34; to wash 13:9; to show oneself 14:22.) John 2:20-22.
The People Believed in His Name. But they wanted a Warrior Messiah.
20. As often happened in the Synoptic Gospels the people ‘saw the signs [Jesus] was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men’. The people wanted a warrior Messiah. That was not Jesus’ way. John 2:23:25.
Nicodemus Comes at Night.
21. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. (Perhaps he was afraid to come openly by day or perhaps he wanted a long talk which would have been difficult in the day time with all the crowds.) Jesus tells Nicodemus that “man must be born from above.” To the query “How can man be born from above?” Jesus says that to enter God’s kingdom means a radical beginning. Eternal life means being ‘born of the Spirit.’ Jesus prophesies his crucifixion: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up……….” John 3:1-15.
22. The next few verses contain the heart of the Gospel message. Jesus comes to save and all the world can benefit but only if they believe. The consequence of Jesus’ coming, for those who refuse him, is judgement. John 3:16.21
The Disciples Baptise.
23. Following the Baptist’s example Jesus and his disciples go to Judea where they baptise. (A later verse, 4:2, states that only the disciples baptise.) At this same time the Baptist was also baptising. He is told of the disciples baptising under Jesus’ authority. The Baptist answers, “He must become greater; I must become less” and continues “The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to his hands.” John 3:22-36.
The Samaritan Woman at the Well.
24. In Judea Jesus’ life was at risk (see later verse, 7:1) so he returns to Galilee. On the way he passes through Samaria. (To understand the ill-feeling between Jews and Samaritans perhaps we can look no further than the present day  Jews and Palestinians). In his precise way John states that it was about the sixth hour [12.00noon]. His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. A woman comes to draw water. (Drawing water at noon was unusual, it was normally drawn at the end of the day when it was cooler.) Jesus asks her for a drink. Because of the enmity between Jews and Samaritans she is surprised by the request. As their conversation progresses she realises that the man she is talking to is a prophet and eventually Jesus discloses that he is the Messiah. The woman returns to her town and brings the people to meet him, ‘and he stayed for two days.’ John 4:1-45.
A Court Official’s Son is Cured.
25. A court official (probably an officer in Herod’s service) who had travelled some distance to find Jesus asks him to ‘come and cure his son.’ Jesus bemoans the fact that the people need signs before they will believe. (Jesus was not complaining at the officer but at Galileans in general.) He tells the man to go home; he will find his son cured. The man finds that his son was cured at the very hour when Jesus had said “Your son will live.” John 4:46-54.
The Pool at Bethesda.
26. Once again John is specific in his description of the Pool of Bethesda. He mentions ‘five colonnades’. (Until fairly recent archaeological work was carried out the five colonnades could not be seen and the Biblical critics enjoyed their moment! But since then the five colonnades have come to light
just as John described them.) Jesus takes compassion on a cripple and cures him. Jesus told the man, “Pick up your mat and walk”. It was the Sabbath when this occurred and when the Jews saw the man carrying his mat they told him that he should not be carrying it on a Sabbath. They discover that it was Jesus who had cured the man ‘and they began to harass him’. (John does not tell what form the harassment took.) John 5:1-17.
27. The Jews criticise Jesus for telling the man to carry his mat. But, for calling God his Father, they want to kill him. Jesus explains that because of who he is, he could not do anything without dependence on his Father. He knows God’s plan. He has God’s authority for all he says and does. He has power to give eternal life. He has the right and authority to judge all people, living and dead. John 5:18-30.
Jesus Gives Testimony for His Work.
28. What support can Jesus give for these claims? The word of God spoken at his baptism. The testimony of John the Baptist. (Not that Jesus accepted human testimony but he mentions it so that the worldly Jews might be saved). The evidence of his own miracles. The words of Old Testament scripture. John 5:31-40.
“I Will Raise Up for Them a Prophet.”
29. Jesus was an example which the Jews should be following. They were interested in praise and flattery. Their attention was on people, not on God. Jesus mentions Moses as their accuser (See Deuteronomy 18:15), where Moses says, “I will raise up for them a prophet……..” Then Jesus continues: “But since you do not believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?” John 5:41-47.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
30. The feeding of the five thousand. Apart from the resurrection this is the only miracle contained in all four Gospels. It shows Jesus as the supplier of human needs, and sets the stage for his testimony that he is ‘the bread of life’. On seeing this sign the people were for making him king by force. Jesus, knowing this, ‘fled back to the hills alone………..’ John 6:1-15.
Jesus Walks on Water.
31. Jesus walks on the water. Once again John attempts to be precise when he says that they had rowed ‘three or four miles’. They see a figure walking on the water and think it is a ghost. Jesus understands their fear and says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” After Jesus had got into the boat John suggests another miracle when he says, ‘immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.’ John 6:16-21.
The Crowd are Mystified.
32. The crowd are mystified. The knew Jesus had not gone in the boat and yet they cannot find him on their side of the lake. They set off for Capernaum to find him. John 6:22-24.
“How Did You Get Here?”
33. When they find Jesus in Capernaum they ask him the obvious question: “How did you get here?” Jesus tells them that their reason for asking the question is because of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He tells them that they must aim for eternal life which can only be received by faith in Christ. John 6:25-27.
“What Must We Do?”
34. The people ask “……what must we do?” They had misunderstood Jesus’ words and thought they were being asked to do pious works. Jesus tells them that the indispensable ‘work’ is believing in him. John 6:28-29.
“I am The Bread of Life.”
35. The people seek a sign from Jesus greater than the gift of manna that had accompanied Moses’ ministry. They seem to argue that Jesus had only fed 5,000 on one occasion whereas Moses had fed the Jewish race for 40 years. Jesus corrects them. It was not Moses who fed them; the manna had come from God. Jesus moves on to something (or someone) who is more important than manna. When the people ask for this ’bread’ Jesus declares “I am the bread of life.” “…because I have come down from heaven……” This is the first of the seven “I am” statements recorded in John’s Gospel. John 6:30-40.
“Lord To Whom Shall We Go?”
36. The people complain “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph whose father and mother we know? How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven?’” This leads to Jesus’ discourse that he is the “…living bread of life….” “……for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink….” (This is a direct prophesy of the institution of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood which will take place at the Last Supper. Jesus’ words make absolutely clear his ‘Real Presence’ in the Eucharist.) From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you want to leave me too?” Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This was a statement of blind belief on Peter’s part. He had no way of understanding Jesus’ words but he knows that Jesus is ‘the only way’. John tells us that at this point Jesus told them that one of them would betray him. John 6:41-71.
“My Time Has Not Yet Come.”
37. Jesus stays in Galilee rather than venture into Judea where the Jews were waiting to take his life. At the feast of Tabernacles his (brothers) family suggest that he should go to Jerusalem and perform miracles. But Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” Jesus tells his family to go and after they have left he also secretly made his way to Jerusalem. Halfway through the feast Jesus went into the temple court and started to teach. All who hear him are amazed at his learning. He rails at the people for not keeping the law of Moses and criticises them for suggesting that he is wrong for healing someone on the Sabbath. John 7:1-24.
The Authorities Are Angry.
38. His teaching makes the authorities so angry that ‘they tried to seize him’. They must have been prevented by some force beyond their control. Jesus’ time ‘had not yet come’ and until it did they had no power over him. Some of the crowd declared that Jesus must be the Christ. “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous deeds than this man?” John 7:25-31.
Temple Guards Fail to Arrest Jesus.
39. The Pharisees send temple guards to arrest Jesus. But when they hear him teaching they do not lay a hand on him. They return to the Pharisees and tell them what they have heard, who respond to them, “You mean he has deceived you also?” (One reason for not believing that Jesus was the Messiah is that he was thought to have been born in Nazareth not Bethlehem.) John 7:32-49.
“Prophets do not arise in Galilee.”
40. Nicodemus defends Jesus: “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him….?” The Pharisees reply “…prophets do not arise Galilee.” They were wrong: Jonah came from Galilee. John 7:50-53.
The Woman Caught in Adultery.
41. Only John’s gospel tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. This sin cannot be committed alone, so the question arises as to why only one offender was brought. The incident was obviously staged to trap Jesus and provision had been made for the man to escape. The woman’s accusers could have kept her in private custody while they spoke to Jesus. But they wanted to humiliate her to the maximum. Hence they brought the woman to Jesus. (The law only permitted stoning if the woman was a betrothed virgin. But the law required the execution of both parties.) They knew that Jesus was a man of peace – so their trap was to either hear him deny the law of Moses or allow the woman to be stoned. But Jesus did neither of those things. Instead he gave a lesson to us all. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He could not be accused of disobeying the Law of Moses. He had added a justifiable clause which he knew none of the men could fulfil. (The accusers were put in a dilemma. They could try and lie their way out of the situation by declaring “I have not sinned” but this man Jesus had shown himself the reader of souls. What if he were to say “Are you without sin when you behaved thus with that particular woman; and when another day you did thus with another one?” No, it was too dangerous to prod such a hornet’s nest!) So they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. Jesus tells the woman, “Go away, and from this moment sin no more.” John 8:1-11.
“I Am the Light of the World.
42. John now records the second “I am” statement. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” The Pharisees ask Jesus how he can testify on his own behalf. Jesus replies that in their own law the testimony of two men is valid. Jesus has himself and the Father who sent him. They ask, “Who is your Father?” Jesus replies, “If you knew me you would know my Father.” (The Father is known through the Son, to know one is to know the other.) They did not understand. Jesus tells them that when the Son of Man had been lifted up [the crucifixion] then they will understand. ‘……..as he spoke many came to believe in him.’ John 8:12-30.
“If God Were Your Father You Would Love Me.”
43. The Jews claim to follow Abraham but Jesus tells them that if they did then they would not be determined to kill him. The Jews also claim that God is their Father. Jesus tells them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,” but, “You are from your father, the devil.” “……..…you are not from God.” John 8:31-47.
“Before Abraham was Born, I Am.”
44. The Jews suggest that Jesus is possessed by a demon. Jesus denies their words and says to them “……if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” They don’t understand his words. Is Jesus claiming to be greater than Abraham who died? Jesus tells them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day, he saw it and was glad.” “You are not fifty years old,” the Jews said, “ and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replied, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (“I am”: the divine name revealed to Moses. Exodus 3:13.) At that the Jews were prepared to stone him for blasphemy. (Jesus could have been stoned to death but crucifixion was the ultimate ignominy and carried the greater shame. See Page 125 Paragraph 89). But Jesus made one of his providential, miraculous escapes. (His time had not yet come.) John 8:48-59.
A Bind Man is Cured.
45. Jesus proves his words “I am the light of the world”, by curing a blind man. But this had happened on the Sabbath. When the Pharisees get to know of it some of them deny that Jesus can be from God as he has broken their Sabbath laws. Others suggest that it would not be possible for a sinner to do such miracles. They are confused and would prefer to believe that the cured man had never been blind. So they send for his parents who, for fear of the Jews, don’t want to become involved. “Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself,” they say. The argument continues with the Jews trying to find some way of proving that Jesus could cure blindness but could not have come from God. (The conversations between the cured man, his parents and the Pharisees do not appear polite. The impression is that the people had little respect for their Temple officials.) John 9:1-34.
“Lord I Believe!”
46. Jesus finds the man he has cured and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he?” asks the man. “….…he is the one speaking to you,” says Jesus. The blind man whom Jesus had cured says, “Lord, I believe.” Some Pharisees hear Jesus saying “…..the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” They realise that Jesus is referring to them. “What? Are we blind too?” they ask. The Pharisees’ claim to sight showed their complete unawareness of their spiritual blindness. Though they claimed to have sight, their actions were evidence of their blindness. John 9:35-41.
“I am the Sheep Gate.” “I am the Good Shepherd.”
47. Now Jesus’ third ‘I am’ statement. “I am the sheep gate.” And the fourth: “I am the good Shepherd.” Jesus tells of the thief who will enter the sheep pen by climbing in and not through the gate. He also tells of the hired hand who will run away when the wolf comes. The good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep. On hearing these words the people are divided. Same say, “He is demon-possessed.” Others say, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon.” (Jesus’ assertion that he is ‘the good shepherd’ is a claim to messiahship.) By the words “I lay it down of my own free will” Jesus indicates that he will face death with perfect calm and majesty. John 10:1-21.
“Are You the Christ?”
48. Jesus is in the temple at the Feast of Dedication (a feast commemorating the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus after it had been profaned). The Jews ask him “…are you the Christ?” Jesus replied, “I did tell you, but you do not believe……….you are not my sheep………….My sheep listen to my voice………my Father has given them to me………..I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews pick up stones to stone him for blaspheming and claiming to be God. (See page 115 Paragraph 44.) Jesus reminds them that Psalm 82:6 says that judges and rulers are ‘gods’ as they act by God’s appointment. Even more so is Jesus able to say, “I am God’s son.” Again the Jews try to seize him but he (miraculously) escapes their grasp. John 10:22 ‑39.
Many Come to Jesus.
49. Jesus returned to the Jordan where John had baptised. Many come to Jesus and realise that all that the Baptist had said about him was true. John 10:40-42.
“Lazarus is Dead.”
50. Jesus learns that Lazarus is sick. Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary who was to pour perfume over Jesus’ feet. For two days Jesus stays where he is but then tells his apostles that they will go to Bethany where Lazarus lives. He tells the apostles, “Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him up.” The apostles think that ‘sleep’ will make Lazarus better. But Jesus explains that Lazarus is dead. John 11:1-15.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
51. The apostles try to persuade Jesus not to return to Judaea where he has so many enemies. But Jesus knows and obeys the Will of the Father even though it will lead to his Passion and Death. When they reach Bethany Jesus comforts Martha and Mary. He says, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replies “I know he will rise again in the resurrection….” Jesus makes his fifth ‘I am’ statement: “I am the resurrection and the life……...” They take Jesus to the tomb where Lazarus is laid. John 11:16-37.
Lazarus is Raised from the Dead.
52. Jesus tells them to roll away the stone but they are reluctant to do so as, after four days, the body will smell. Jesus insists. The stone is rolled away and after praying to the Father Jesus calls in a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” The dead man comes out and Jesus tells them to “take off the grave cloths and let him go.” John 11:38-44.
“It Would be Better for One Man to Die……”
53. The ‘raising of Lazarus’ helped some Jews to put their faith in Jesus. But others went to the Pharisees to tell them what had happened. A meeting of the Sanhedrin was called. The high priest, Caiaphas, spoke up and told the meeting that it would be better for one man to die for the Jewish nation. (What he was suggesting was that whether Jesus was innocent or guilty it was better that he should die. Otherwise, if his miracles continued, then everyone would come to believe in him and the Romans would remove the Sanhedrin and the whole Jewish nation would be lost .) Caiaphas also suggested an advantage of the death of Jesus as it would bring together ‘the scattered children of God.’ From then on the Sanhedrin plotted to take the life of Jesus. (So it was Jesus’ most wonderful miracle, the raising of Lazarus, which led to the Sanhedrin’s final decision.) John 11:45-53.
Jesus Withdraws From Jerusalem.
54. Jesus was not to die before ‘his time’, so he withdrew from Jerusalem. As the time of the Passover drew near the Pharisees gave orders that if Jesus was seen they must be told so that he could be arrested. John 11:54-57.
Mary Anoints Jesus Feet.
55. Six days before the Passover Jesus arrived at Bethany where he had raised Lazarus. A dinner was given in his honour. Mary took some expensive perfume and poured it over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. This was an act of pure love but Judas Iscariot took offence at what he considered to be a waste. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” he said. John records that Judas said this because ‘he was a thief: as keeper of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ John 12:1-6.
“Leave Her Alone.”
56. Jesus replies to Judas, “Leave her alone.” Mary’s act had unwittingly anticipated Jesus’ burial. John 12:7-8.
The Sanhedrin Decide to Kill Lazarus.
57. The chief priests discover that many Jews go to Bethany to see Lazarus as well as to see Jesus. Lazarus is therefore considered guilty of encouraging Jews away from their faith. He must also die. (On the death of Jesus this decision must have been forgotten. But why is it that the Synoptic Gospels make no mention of this most wonderful miracle? The most plausible explanation is that Matthew, Mark and Luke didn’t want to draw attention to Lazarus, thereby reminding the Sanhedrin of their decision to kill him. By the time John wrote his Gospel Jerusalem was in ruins and, if Lazarus was still alive, the danger to him was past.) John 12:9-11.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem on a Donkey.
58. The day after Mary’s ‘anointing’ Jesus enters Jerusalem. He is sat upon a donkey, as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion:
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.’ Zechariah 9:9.
A great crowd take palm branches and meet him shouting:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord.” Psalm 118:26.
It was only after Jesus was glorified by his crucifixion that the disciples understood these Old Testament prophecies. John 12:12-16,
The Pharisees Concern at the Adulation.
59. The adulation Jesus was receiving caused greater concern for the Pharisees. “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:17-19.
Greeks Ask to See Jesus.
60. Some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Greeks were attracted to Judaism by its monotheism, as distinct from their many gods, and by its morality. But they were repelled by its nationalism and the requirements for circumcision. They worshiped in the synagogues but did not become converts. John’s Gospel does not tell us whether Jesus granted their request though it is unlikely that he would have refused. John 12:20-22.
Jesus Refers to His Passion.
61. The Greeks were probably present when Jesus referred to his forthcoming passion though, like the disciples, they would not understand the appalling significance of what they were hearing. Jesus gives two examples of the sacrifice which must be made – a grain of wheat dies to produce many seeds. In the same way a man who “loves his life will lose it.” But the man who “hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (To love one’s life here and now, to concentrate on personal success, is to lose what matters.) John 12:23-27.
A Voice is Heard From Heaven.
62. Jesus tells the crowd that his heart is troubled and continues: “Father, glorify your name!” A voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. The crowd heard it. Some said it had thundered, others that an angel had spoken. John 12:28-29.
“When I Am Lifted Up”.
63. Jesus tells the crowd “……when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.” The crowd reply “…….how can you say, ‘….shall be lifted up?’” Jesus does not make a direct reply but identifies himself with ‘the light’. “Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” John 12:30-36.
Some Do Believe But Secretly.
64. Despite Jesus’ words most of the crowd do not believe in him though among the Jews, and even among the leaders, some do believe but do so secretly or they would be put out of the synagogue. Those in the synagogues valued praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:37-43.
“I Have Not Come to Judge the World But to Save It.”
65. John’s Gospel ends the story of Jesus’ public ministry with an appeal for belief. “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.” “I have not come to judge the world, but to save it.” whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:44-50.
Jesus Washes the Feet.
66. John’s account of the Last Supper is the longest of all the Gospels though he makes no mention of the Eucharist. This is surely due to the fact that by the time John wrote his Gospel the Eucharist was well established in the early life of the Christian Church. Plus the fact that the Synoptic Gospels had already detailed the institution of Eucharist. Instead John concentrates on Jesus’ perfect humility in the lesson he gave the apostles by washing their feet. Peter’s objection to having his feet washed by Jesus was a mixture of humility and pride; he needed a spiritual cleansing. Jesus completes this event with the words “………no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:1-17.
Jesus Predicts His Betrayal.
67. Jesus predicts his betrayal. It was already in the heart of Judas that he would betray Jesus. Why? Firstly because he had allowed the devil into his heart. Secondly because, along with many of the Jews, he was expecting a
Messiah who would take up arms and rid them of their Roman Masters. Instead all he had found in Jesus, forgetting the miraculous cures, was a man who spoke in parables or who spoke on a spiritual plane which few could understand. Thirdly because of greed…………the thirty pieces of silver or whatever price he could obtain. John 13:18-26.
“What You Are About To Do, Do Quickly.”
68. Encouraged by Peter, John asks Jesus, “Lord who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” (Sharing bread in that way was a sign of honour. It was therefore a final appeal to Judas.) But Jesus could see that Satan was in Judas’ heart. Jesus remains in complete control of the situation. He says to Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Why didn’t John react to being told of Judas’ betrayal? Because of his complete obedience to Jesus. The one who frequently contradicted Jesus was the unpredictable Peter – never John. The words ‘it was night’ set the scene for the agony in the garden which will soon commence. John 13:27-30.
“A New Command I Give You.”
69. Now Jesus makes his final teaching of his apostles: “I will be with you only a little longer.” “Where I am going you cannot come.” “A new command I give you: As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Peter vows to lay down his life for Jesus to which Jesus prophesies Peter’s denial. John 13:31-38.
Jesus Comforts His Apostles.
70. Knowing the terrible trials which are to befall him and the appalling effect they will have on his apostles, Jesus seeks to comfort them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” “I am going to prepare a place for you.” “I will come back.” (a reference to his second coming.) Now Jesus’ sixth ‘I am’ statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” “….I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (We can wonder what it must have been like to have been in the upper room at this time. Could the apostles have had any idea that the institution of the Eucharist and the words of Jesus were to lead to the most terrifying passion and death of the one they loved?) John 14:1-14.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit.
71. “…….I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever.” “I will not leave you as orphans.” “He who loves me will be loved by my Father.” “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you.” “I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming” (Satan). “He has no hold on me.” John 14:15 ‑31.
The Vine and the Branches,,
72. In the Old Testament Israel is often depicted as ‘the vine.’ But it is lacking in some way……….Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” His seventh ‘I am’
statement. The pruning which Jesus mentions is the judgement but ‘the fruit’ is the Eucharistic Sacrament. John 15:1-6.
My Words Remain in You.
73. It is impossible to pray correctly without knowing the teachings of Jesus. “….ask whatever you wish.” “………obey my commands, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands.” “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:7-17.
The World Hates the Disciples.
74.. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” “If they persecute me they will persecute you also.” “……..they have no excuse….” (The Jews had had the great privilege of having the Son of God’s special revelation in the Old Testament. Their rejection of Jesus left them totally guilty and without excuse.) Thus the prophecies will be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without reason.’ Psalms 35:19 & 69:4 John 15:18-27.
Anyone Who Kills You Will Think He is offering a Service to God.
75. “They will expel you from the synagogues. In fact the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” John 16:1-4.
The Coming of the Paraclete.
76.“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you…….” “When he comes he will convict the world of guilt……..” John 16:5-11.
“When the Spirit of Truth Comes……
77. “The Spirit of truth will lead you to the complete truth.” “He will not speak on his own: He will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” John 16:12-16.
The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy.
78. The disciples speak among themselves asking “What does he mean, ‘In a little while you will see me no more?’ We don’t understand what he is saying.” Jesus knows their thoughts and says: “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn, but your grief will turn to joy.” “I came from the Father and entered the world: now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus Prayer for Himself.
79.Jesus’ prayer asks for the Father to glorify the Son as the Son has glorified the Father. John 17:1-5.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples.
80. Jesus accepts that the disciples now know that everything comes from the Father. As he is now coming to the Father he asks for protection for the disciples: “Protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one.” “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction………..” Jesus continues: “…….I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (Jesus died for us on the cross not only to save us but also to consecrate us to God’s service.) John 17:6-19.
Jesus Prays for All Believers.
81. Jesus prays for the people as he has for his disciples “…….that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” “…..I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:20-26.
82. John’s Gospel doesn’t mention the agony in the garden but proceeds straight to Judas’ betrayal and capture. Those who came to arrest him ‘drew back and fell to the ground.’ (This gives an impression of a miraculous occurrence.) In his usual detailed way John mentions the name of the man (Malchus) whose ear was cut off by Peter. But Peter is overruled and told to put his sword away. At this the disciples’ courage failed them and they fled leaving Jesus to his fate. John 18:1-11.
Jesus before Annas.
83. Caiaphas was the high priest that year but it was the previous high priest, his father-in-law Annas, who still wielded a lot of power, to whom Jesus was first taken. Peter and another disciple, which is believed to be John, enter the high priest’s courtyard. Peter is challenged as being one of Jesus’ followers. He denies it. John 18:12-18.
Jesus is Struck in the Face.
84. Annas questions Jesus and the brutality commences when Jesus is struck in the face. Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas. John 18:19-24.
The Cock Crows Thrice.
85. Peter is challenged twice more and again denies that he is one of Jesus’
disciples. The cock crows. John 18:25:27.
Jesus Taken to Pilate.
86. From Caiaphas Jesus is taken to Pilate. It is early morning and the Jews did not enter the palace ‘to avoid ceremonial uncleanness’. (Page 32 Paragraph 130 and Page 101 Paragraph 166 give a possible explanation for the fact that two Passover days seem to have been celebrated. There is another possible explanation which is that the term ‘Passover’ was used to refer to the whole festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days. So ‘uncleanness’ could take place during any of those days.) [The writer of this commentary favours the former rather than the latter explanation.] Pilate tells the Jews to take Jesus and judge him themselves. But the Jews wanted Jesus put to death by crucifixion which was the most cruel and ignominious method of death. For that they needed Pilate’s permission. John 18:28-32.
Barabbas is Released.
87. Pilate questions Jesus and can find no fault in him. Due to the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover-time Pilate hopes to persuade the Jews to let him release Jesus. But they call for the release of a murderer, Barabbas. John 18:33-40.
Jesus is Scourged.
88. Pilate still hopes to persuade the crowd to let him release Jesus. He has him flogged perhaps in the hope that compassion at the appalling sight of Jesus flogged will change their hearts. The soldiers will have heard of this ‘miracle worker’ who pretends to be a king and they make fun of him, crowning him with thorns and mocking him. John 19:1-3.
“Here is the Man!”
89. Pilate brings Jesus out and says “Here is the man!” The chief priests and their officials shout, “Crucify! Crucify!” They tell Pilate that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Pilate continues to attempt to obtain Jesus’ release but eventually the chief priests find Pilate’s main weakness: “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be king opposes Caesar.” Pilate wasn’t going to have his good name dishonoured, or his position put at risk, just to save a Jewish trouble maker! Pilate hands Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified. (John tells us that the Jews needed their oppressors’ permission to put Jesus to death [John 18:31] so Pilate had to give his approval. But it seems that there was a distinction between death by crucifixion and by stoning. Stoning to death is mentioned in Leviticus 24:16 and in many other Old Testament verses. Some of the reasons for stoning were blasphemy [John 8:59] and adultery [John 8:1-11] but it was something which was done quickly, on the spur of the moment. It would happen so quickly that there would not be time to obtain permission. Cruel though it was, it would not offer the same spectacle of ignominy as several hours on the cross. The Sanhedrin wanted to show Jesus in the worst possible light and so, in Jesus’ case, crucifixion was considered necessary. Jesus’ words to Nicodemus [John 3:14] become a prophesy: ‘as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up.’) John 19:4-16.
“What I Have Written, I Have Written.”
90. The royal dignity of Jesus has been stressed throughout John’s narrative of the Passion: Jesus controls his arrest: the trial is an assertion of his Kingship: he carries his cross like a royal banner: it is truly his hour of exaltation. The Sanhedrin have their moment of triumph as Jesus is crucified between two others, the one in the middle intending to show that he was the greatest malefactor. (Pilate knew that Jesus was not a guilty man and was annoyed that he had been ‘used’ to obtain the death penalty.) He managed a final protest by having a notice fastened to the cross declaring that Jesus was, ‘THE KING OF THE JEWS.’ This upset the chief priests; it was one of the reasons why they wanted Jesus dead. (The other being that he claimed to be the Son of God.) So they challenged Pilate who replied “What I have written, I have written.” Thus Pilate had his revenge! John 19:17-22.
They Cast Lots for His Clothing.
91. The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing and seamless undergarment ’that the scripture might be fulfilled:’ “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Psalm 22:18. John 19:23-24.
“Here is Your Son; Here is Your Mother.”
92. ‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother………….and the disciple whom he loved.’ Jesus said, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (This gives a lie to those who blasphemously suggest that Mary had children other than Jesus. If that had been the case then Mary would have lived with them. Also see Page 5 Paragraph 4. Only John mentions Mary’s presence at the foot of the cross. John was with her so he knows the truth of what he writes.) 19:25-27.
“It is Finished.”
93. Scripture is fulfilled again when Jesus says, “I am thirsty.” (Psalm 69:21) He is given a drink of vinegar on a sponge and says, “It is finished,” bows his head and gives up his spirit. John 19:28-30.
“They Will Look On the One The Have Pierced.”
94. The Jews want to hasten the deaths so that the bodies can be removed before the Sabbath which commenced at sunset. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the two thieves but when they came to Jesus they found him already dead‘ ….’one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ John emphasises this happening: ‘The man who saw it has given his testimony, and his testimony is true.’ ‘These things happened so that the scriptures would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (Psalm34:20) and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”’ (Zechariah 12:10) John 19:31-37.
Jesus is Placed in The tomb.
95. Not all Pharisees or members of the Sanhedrin were guilty of the death of Jesus. Joseph who was a disciple of Jesus, and Nicodemus who went to see Jesus by night and had spoken up for Jesus in the Sanhedrin, came with myrrh, aloes, spices and linens in which they wrapped the body of Jesus and placed it in a nearby tomb. John 19:38-42.
The Tomb is Empty.
96. Mary Magdalene informs Peter that the tomb is empty. She thinks that Jesus’ body has been stolen. John and Peter run to see for themselves. Peter enters the tomb with John and sees the ‘strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around his head. The cloth was folded up (not in disarray as would have resulted from a grave robbery) by itself, separate from the linen. They ‘saw and believed [but] still did not understand.’ John 20:1-9.
“Woman, Why Are You Crying?”
97. Mary stays by the tomb but sees two angels who ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replies “They have taken my Lord away.” Turning around she sees someone standing there, but does not realise that it is Jesus. He repeat the words of the angels “Woman, why are you weeping?” As Mary replies, Jesus reveals himself and Mary, recognising him says “Rabboni!” Mary told the disciples what she had seen. John 20:10-18.
Jesus Suddenly Appears In Their Midst.
98. The apostles, probably accompanied by disciples, are huddled together. They are frightened. Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. He says, “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and his side. He institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation when he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:19-23.
99. Thomas was not with them when Jesus had appeared. He refuses to believe. Later Jesus appears again and Thomas is present and believes. Jesus speaks to all who have not had the chance to see: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” By the words “Give me your hand: put it here into my side” John draws attention to the wound in Jesus’ side. John 20:24-29.
Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.
100. John tells us “….these [things] are written 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.
The Apostles are in Their Boat Fishing.
101. John explains how the apostles are in their boat, fishing, on the sea of Galilee. They had fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus appears on the shore but they do not recognise him. “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” Jesus asks. “No,” they reply. Jesus says “Throw out your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did they were unable to haul the net in, the catch was so large.” John was the first to realise that it was Jesus and he told Peter who jumped into the water and went to Jesus who had built a fire and they shared a breakfast of fish baked on the fire. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to them. John 21:1-14.
“Simon Son of John, Do You Love Me?”
102. When they had finished their meal Jesus made the threefold question to Peter: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter’s positive and heartfelt answer forgave him his three denials and reinstated him as the head of the Church. John 21:15-17.
Even The Whole World Would Not Have Room.
103. Jesus indicates the type of death Peter will have to undergo but suggests that John, the disciple he loved, will be spared a violent death. The final words of John’s Gospel say that if all were written down which Jesus had done even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:18-25.