How Should John’s Gospel Affect You?
WHY were the four Christian Gospels written? Merely as a historical record of the Messiah’s life? Or was there a deeper motive? Christ’s final command to his disciples casts light on these questions: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Clearly, the Christian message would have to motivate people worldwide to imitate Jesus’ example. They really would have to believe that Christ is the Savior. Thus the apostle John says he recorded Jesus’ life story “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—John 20:31.
A Controversial Introduction
At what point in time does John introduce Jesus to us? At his birth, as do the Gospel writers Matthew and Luke? No. He precedes that by countless ages. He takes us back to the beginning of all creation with the simple but profound introduction: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god [was divine, Schonfield]. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”—John 1:1-3.
Without prior knowledge of the rest of the Bible this introduction can be difficult to understand. For example, at Proverbs 8:22-31 the Word (Christ in his prehuman existence) is spoken of under the symbol of wisdom as a “master worker” collaborating with God in His creative work. (See also 1 Corinthians 1:24.) The apostle Paul confirms this thought in his letter to the Colossians, where Christ is spoken of as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created.” From this we can see that the Word who “became flesh and resided among us” was God’s first creation and was then used by his Father to carry out all further creative work.—Colossians 1:15, 16; John 1:14.
How should this knowledge affect us? Should we not be grateful to Jehovah, the Creator, for our very existence? And are we not appreciative of the role the Word has played in this? God endowed man and woman with powers of procreation that have resulted in the present human family of more than four billion persons. However, there are many more reasons for gratitude toward God and his Son and these are related to the great themes of John’s Gospel—light, life, love and loyalty.
How Are We Affected by Light?
In Jn 1 verses three and four of the first chapter of his Gospel, John takes us into two of those key themes that are interwoven into the fabric of his inspired account by saying: “What has come into existence by means of him [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men.” What does John convey by this statement? That the Word, or Christ, was God’s Chief Agent for communicating both life and light to mankind. (Acts 3:15) John continues by telling us that John the Baptizer arose to bear witness about “the true light that gives light to every sort of man.” (John 1:9) Yes, to every sort of man, because Christ did not come into the world just to be a Messiah for the Jews. He came for the benefit of all mankind, as he himself explained: “God loved the world [of mankind since Abel] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son [Christ, the Word], in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
Now, how should this oft-quoted text affect us? If God sent his Son to the earth to act as a light in the world’s spiritual darkness, should we not at least reflect that light to others? God’s unselfish course of action should touch a responsive chord in our heart. Who of us would be willing to sacrifice in ignominious death the person dearest to our heart and in behalf of mainly indifferent people? So what should God’s love move us to do? To exercise active faith in Jesus Christ and in the life-redeeming value of his sacrifice. The result will be life, for Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.”—John 8:12.
What Quality of Life Offered?
Without pretending any deep knowledge of scientific principles, John expresses one, namely, that earthly life depends on light. And in the symbolic sense that is just as true. Christ is the light that leads to life. But to what kind of life? Jesus’ answer to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well gives us a clue: “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:7-15) Christ offered the “real life,” everlasting life with God’s blessing.—1 Timothy 6:19.
Where would that everlasting life be enjoyed? For the relatively small number who form the “little flock,” Jesus answers: “In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you.” He was obviously referring to heavenly abodes.—Luke 12:32; John 14:2.
But Christ also said: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” John knew from his previously recorded book of Revelation that the “little flock” would consist of 144,000 members, while the “other sheep” would include a “great crowd” and other earthly subjects under Christ’s Kingdom rule.—John 10:16; Revelation 7:4, 9, 10.
Now, how should that prospect of everlasting life, whether in heaven or on earth, affect us? It is so easy to say “everlasting life,” but for a moment just think about what it really means and implies. To live everlastingly! To enjoy life in all its fullness with God’s eternal blessing. To be free from worry about one’s age or health. The question “How old are you?” will no longer be a matter of concern.
For those with a heavenly calling, eternal life will be enjoyed as part of Christ’s invisible government directing earth’s affairs and applying the value of his sacrifice to the physical and spiritual benefit of obedient mankind. What a sublime privilege! Without a doubt John’s Gospel should move us to appreciate Jehovah’s undeserved kindness.—Revelation 20:4-6.
What Hope for the Dead?
Another question now arises regarding the gift of everlasting life. How will the dead receive that promised life? Jesus answered that in a convincing way by actually resurrecting different persons, including his close friend Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. John’s unique account informs us that Jesus said on that occasion: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” This theme is also developed in chapter five, where Jesus proclaims: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear [the Son of God’s] voice and come out.”—John 11:1-44; 5:25-29.
How does that resurrection promise affect you? Just think of those who have been dearest to you but who are no longer alive. Would you not thrill to see them again and converse with them? Jehovah God has promised such a miracle. That is why Martha, sister of the dead Lazarus, was convinced of such a hope even before Jesus raised her brother to life again, for she said: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Do we as Christians have such strong conviction?—John 11:24.
How Does Christ’s Love Affect You?
If we had to reduce the Gospel of John to just one word, which would it be? Light? Life? Resurrection? No, it would be LOVE. Why? Because all these other blessings spring from God’s love. Jesus proclaimed and reflected that love. Thus he said: “Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love.” What was Jesus’ most outstanding commandment? “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”—John 15:9-14.
Did Christ himself fulfill those words? Did he manifest superlative love on behalf of his friends? John’s detailed record answers with a positive Yes! The account through Joh chapters 18 and 19 explains how Jesus was arrested and then submitted to a series of interrogations and physical torture at the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities. Through all this abuse Jesus gave a witness regarding God’s kingdom. He testified: “My kingdom is no part of this world . . . my kingdom is not from this source.” His love for his Father and mankind was so strong that he did not seek an easy way out or try to dilute his message. “For this I have been born, . . . that I should bear witness to the truth.” Baffled, Pilate could only reply: “What is truth?”—John 18:36-38.
Rejected by the clergy-led Jewish crowd, Jesus was condemned to die and was impaled on a torture stake. He suffered the supreme humiliation for a Jew, to die accursed on a stake. (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; Galatians 3:10-13) Yet the victory was his. His own belief in the resurrection was vindicated. On the third day he was raised from the dead. Mary Magdalene, a disciple, saw him and spoke to him. Can you imagine how excited she was when she brought to the disciples the news: “I have seen the Lord!”—John 20:18.
Then, how should Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection affect us? Should they not fill us also with conviction, hope and enthusiasm? We know the truth about Christ, based on the historical record of the Gospels. It is a record of love in action. Will we be moved to express that same surpassing Christian love and offer the message of the Kingdom to others?—John 20:31; Matthew 24:14.
In a final review of John’s account, what further lesson can we extract? The lesson of loyalty—Christ’s loyalty to his Father’s cause; his loyalty to his followers in spite of their abandoning him. (Mark 14:50; John 18:15-27) Originally, the 12 apostles also had demonstrated loyalty. Later when many disciples left Jesus, how impressive was Peter’s answer to Jesus’ poignant question: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”—John 6:66-69.
Do you believe that Jesus is “the Holy One of God,” “the Son of God”? If so, then you, too, can walk in the light that leads to life. You, too, can manifest love and loyalty to Jehovah God and his kingdom by Christ. You, too, can benefit by the soul-stirring Gospel of John.—John 20:31.
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Jesus offers water that imparts everlasting life