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The Gospel of John
In the Gospel of John, the author discloses to us who Jesus is, through His signs (or miracles) and the metaphors of 'I Am' used by Jesus to describe Himself. The book can be divided into eight main chapters or themes, as tabulated in Table 1. There are also eight main signs (or miracles) and eight self-identification of I Am, by Jesus. The fact that John refers to Jesus miracles as signs indicates that they point to something more important (Jesus), than the signs themselves. We see a repeated theme of the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the Pharisees, His disciples and the crowd thinking in physical terms, while Jesus lectured to them on their spiritual wellbeing. With the performing of each sign, Jesus made us realize our shortsightedness of clinging onto physical needs or earthly matters, and He revealed to us that He is our solution (by His self-identification of I am). It is the spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit (John 3:6). The implication of each physical sign is listed in column 4 of Table 1, together with the spiritual meaning of Christs self-identification in column 5. The main theme of the book can be summarized by John 20:30-31. And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
1) The Incarnation(John 1:1-18)-
Sign- The raising of the officials son (mans limitation by space and time vs. Jesus Omnipresence)
Self-Identification- before Abraham I am-
The first eighteen verses of Chapter One, known as the Prologue of the Book of John declares clearly that Jesus was before all things and that He was God. He became flesh and was fully human. The repeated themes of Son of God and Son of Man appear throughout the book as shown in Table 2. An intimate relationship between the two persons of Trinity is shown with the repeated mentioning of God loves Jesus, He Knows Him, and sent Him (Table 3). Jesus is God and has the same power, glory, and authority as the Father (Table 4). Like the Father, Jesus is omnipresence and is not limited by time. He claimed that before Abraham He was. (But, sadly, the Jews could not understand Him and thought He blasphemed.) He also was not limited by space. He could raise the officials son from death without physically being there. This was something that the official could not comprehend, but he believed. Like Abraham, who became righteous through his faith, the officials son was raised from death due to his faith (another similarity between this sign and the mentioning of Abraham).
2) The Presentation(John 1:19-4:54)-
Sign- The restoring sight (physical blindness vs. spiritual blindness)
Self-Identification- I am the Light
Jesus said that He is the light of men (John 1:15), and that men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:30). If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world (John 10:10). Whoever believes in Him should not abide in darkness (John 12:46). Jesus is the light is another repeated theme throughout the book of John. The Pharisees were spiritually blind that they refused to see that Jesus was the Messiah. Ironically, the blind man saw and believed (John 9:38).
The book of John is also full of testimonies and people bearing witness to Jesus, as summarized in Table 5. Many believed, seeing the signs performed by Jesus. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men (John 2:23,24). Yet, there were others who saw the physical signs, like the Pharisees but remained spiritually blind. Those who saw and believed like Thomas, are blessed. Even more blessed are those who do not see but believe (John 20:28).
3) The Opposition (John 5:1-12:50)-
Sign- Healing of the lame on Sabbath (Moses Laws vs. the spirit of Laws)
Self-Identification- I am the Door of Sheep
Its probably not coincidental (not a vocabulary in the Bible) that the place of the healing was called Sheep Gate and Jesus identified Himself as the Door of Sheep. At a glance, there doesnt seem to be any similarity between the sign and the self-identification of Jesus. However, after careful consideration, one finds that both concern the confrontation between the Pharisees and Christ. Jesus was criticized for healing on Sabbath. The Pharisees interpreted obedience to the Law as what keeps the Israelites within the sphere of Gods people which was separated from the unholy (disabled, and people with disease, tax collectors, and sinners, etc.). Thats why Jesus told them, You search the Scripture, for in them you think you have eternal life (John 5:39). The Laws was given to the Jews by Moses to benefit men, but the Pharisees have turned the Laws into rituals that burdened men instead. They failed to see the importance of the spirit of the Laws by clinging on to the physical Laws, and hoped that through their rituals and works, they would be accepted by God. Jesus warned that the false teaching and the rituals of the Pharisees wont get them any closer to God, and that He is the only way to His Father (the Door of Sheep). We are saved by grace through the love of Jesus Christ, not by work. He added, All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them (John 10:8). Thus Jesus is the only way to God is another repeated theme in the book.
4) The Instructions(John 13:1-16:33)-
Sign- The feeding of the 5000 (physical bread vs. bread of life)
Self-Identification- I am the Bread of Life
Once again, after the feeding of the five thousand, people were thinking about their physical needs (fed by bread). They wanted Jesus to give them the bread on a daily basis. Instead, Jesus tried to turn their attention to their spiritual needs. The Old Testament says, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3). Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1:1-5), thus He is the bread of life (another repeated theme, John 6:35). Father gives you the true bread (John 6:32). Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life (John 6:27). If anyone keeps My word he shall not see death (John 8:52). Jesus instructed His disciples, he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me. (John 13:20). Truly, the living Word of God is as important to our spiritual wellbeing as food (bread) is necessary for our physical survival.
5) The Intersection(John 17:1-26)-
Sign- Walking on water (stormy weather vs. gateway to salvation)
Self-Identification- I am the Way
In one of his sermons, Pastor Adrian Rogers said, 'God does not promise Christians smooth sailing, but we are guaranteed safe landing.' When one reads Jesus sign' of walking on water, Pastor Rogers message certainly comes to mind. One gets a picture of a stormy weather, with the disciples panicking (in the physical world). On the other hand, Jesus was walking calmly on water (power over nature) in the midst of the storm. As soon as the disciple accepted Jesus onto their boat, they were ashore (safe landing)! We all tend to panic and struggle on our own, in this physical world of chaos. It is important to know that Christ is in charge of everything. And that by receiving Him into our lives (onto our boat), we can be saved (by receiving our gift of salvation), because Jesus said, 'I am the way', and 'no one comes to My Father except through Me (John 14:6). In His prayer, Jesus said that all those whom were chosen by God to come to Him (John 17:2, 16-10), will be secured forever (safe landing), because they are held by Him (John 17:12). Although Christians were chosen by God, we must make the initiation of accepting Christ into our live (our boat), because He is the only way to God.
6) The Crucifixion(John 18:1-19:42)-
Sign- Changing water to wine (earthly matters vs. heavenly things)
Self-Identification- I am Life
When Mary told Jesus that the wedding banquet ran out of wine, Jesus seemingly gave a very odd reply, 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.' Yet, this is another reminder from Christ that we should not be bogged down by earthly matters, for He said, 'My Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)', and 'I am not of this world' (John 17:14). His goal was to carry out His Father's work, to die for our sins and be resurrected again (John 10:25, 32). Another similarity between the two is the mentioning of the timing, Jesus said, 'my hour has not yet come' (for the first sign), and 'the hour has come' (for the crucifixion). The changing of water into wine proved that Jesus was the source of all things, including life; He said, 'I am life'. It may seem confusing to group Jesus' first sign and His self-identification of 'I am life' under the Crucifixion. But as Jesus pointed out (Matthew 10:39), to lose life for My sake is to gain life. The life He talks about is not or physical life, but the eternal one. Our old self must die so that we can be born again.
7) The Resurrection(John 20:1-21:31)-
Sign- The raising of Lazuras (physical life vs. eternal life)
Self-Identification- I am Resurrection
The relationship between the resurrection sign and Jesus' self-identification of 'I am resurrection' is very explicit. The Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:26). Not only does the Son has the power to grant life, He is resurrected Himself, showing His power over death. Death is a consequence of Satan's victory, as men were separated from God through the sin of Adam. Resurrection defeats Satan and gives Jesus the victory, as those who are united to Him in faith are made well with God again, through the blood of Christ.
8) The Epilogue (John 21:1-21:25)-
Sign- Catching of fish (fishers of fish vs. fishers of men)
Self-Identification- I am the True Vine and My Father the Vinedresser.
Unlike the previous chapters, which emphasize on the growth in faith of the disciples, the Epilogue seems to teach us what we should do after we believed and accepted Christ as our savior. Are we willing to do His will? A number of His disciples including the author John were experienced fishermen, and they knew that it would be fruitless to cast their nets after a night of no catch. Nevertheless, they listened to Jesus. To their surprise, they caught a miraculous amount of fish. From Jesus teaching, My words abide in you that you bear much fruit, we see a relationship between doing His will and the bearing of fruits (John 15:7-8). Jesus asked Peter, Do you love me more that these? (referring to the fish that were caught, another example of physical matters). It seems like Jesus was really asking Peter whether he was willing to do His will by being fruitful in becoming the fishers of men (spiritual meaning), to the extend that he would give up his own life. However, Peter was still thinking in terms of physical death, by asking Jesus what about Johns future. Jesus reply indicated that we should all carry our own cross. What happens to others is none of our concern. Indeed, if we set our eyes on the Lord, what else are we concerned about?
The message of the Gospel of John can be summarized as follows; Jesus, who is almighty (Ch 1) and righteous (Ch 2), loves us (Ch 3) and died (Ch 6) for our sins and resurrected (Ch 7). He is the living word (Ch 4) of God, and the only way (Ch 5) to salvation. Do His will and bear fruits (Ch 8). He is our Lord and our God!
Some After Thoughts-
We were tempted to combine Crucifixion with Resurrection, for the two are closely related. In doing so, one reduces the number of signs and self-identification to seven. The number 'seven' seems to bear a more important meaning in the Bible, implying perfection. The fact that the self-identification of 'I am resurrection' and 'I am life' (mentioned under crucifixion and resurrection) were combined by Jesus in the same verse is another reason to combine the two. However, this would mitigate the message of the first sign. That's why we decided to separate them.About the author.
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