Dear friends,

We’ve begun a new sermon series, Knowing Jesus: The Apostle John’s Intimate Biography. My Christmas sermons (December 17, 24 (am and pm) and December 25) looked at John 1: 1-18. Today we launch into the book in a week-by-week way looking at far bigger chunks of John every week. Please pray for me. I always need your prayers to preach well, but I will especially need your prayers as I go through John. This is for two reasons. First, I am taking far bigger chunks of the Bible than I usually do. I am doing this to line up with a superb resource from St John’s Vancouver that encourages people to read and discuss the preaching text before they hear the sermon. I encourage you to go online to the Resources tab of Messiah’s website www.messiahchurch.ca and avail yourself of this resource. Second, the Gospel of John has very simple Greek, but it is an exceptionally deep book. As a friend of mine put it, when you read a text in John, you think you understand it and then you realize there are new heights and depths to the text that you had never noticed before – and this seems to happen to even the most experienced “readers” of John’s Gospel.

A few other matters to help you read the Gospel of John. It was probably written by John, the beloved Apostle. Early Christian writers say John was quite young when he became a disciple of Jesus. The same writers say he alone of the Apostles lived a very long life. We do not know when John wrote “his” Gospel. Most scholars accept the witness of the early church that he wrote the Gospel late in his life. A minority (including a non-scholar, like me) believe he wrote before 70 AD (the year Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed). At the end of the day, the dating of the book’s final composition does not matter.

John is very clear about his purpose for writing the Gospel. Knowing this will help you as you read. In John 20: 30-31, John says, 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. (ESV)

John records a small (relative to the other Gospels) number of miracles performed by Jesus. Significantly, John does not call them miracles, but “signs”. John is concerned with the significance of the miracles – what the miracles point to – what the miracles reveal.

In his prologue (John 1: 1-18) John makes clear that the book is a testimony or witness. This is language from the law court – in a sense, that he is “telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – so help me God.” As well in the prologue, John says that Jesus is the “exegesis” of God. In other words, Jesus is the one who reveals and explains God, making Him correctly known and understood. Tellingly, Jesus both provides redemption and provides revelation. There can be no true revelation without redemption!

George +