Gems From John’s Gospel
JEHOVAH’S spirit inspired the aged apostle John to pen a moving account of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. This Gospel was written in or near Ephesus about 98 C.E. But what is the nature of the account? And what are some of the gems it contains?
John was selective, repeating little that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote. Indeed, his eyewitness account is largely supplementary in that over 90 percent of it covers matters not mentioned in the other Gospels. For instance, he alone tells us of Jesus’ prehuman existence and that “the Word became flesh.” (1:1-14) While the other Gospel writers say that Jesus cleansed the temple at the end of his ministry, John says that Christ also did so at its start. (2:13-17) The aged apostle alone tells us about certain miracles performed by Jesus, such as the changing of water into wine, the raising of dead Lazarus, and the miraculous catch of fish after His resurrection.—2:1-11; 11:38-44; 21:4-14.
All the Gospel writers tell how Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, but only John shows that Christ gave the apostles a lesson in humility by washing their feet on that night. Moreover, John alone records the heart-to-heart talks Jesus gave and the prayer he offered in their behalf at that time.—13:1–17:26.
In this Gospel, the name John refers to the Baptizer, the writer calling himself ‘the disciple Jesus loved.’ (13:23) The apostle surely loved Jesus, and our own love for Christ is enhanced when John portrays him as the Word, the bread of life, the light of the world, the Fine Shepherd, the way, the truth, and the life. (1:1-3, 14; 6:35; 8:12; 10:11; 14:6) This serves John’s stated purpose: “These [things] have been written down 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.”—20:31.
Humility and Joy
John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Word and sin-atoning Lamb and cites miracles proving Him to be “the Holy One of God.” (1:1–9:41) Among other things, the account highlights the humility and joy of John the Baptizer. He was Christ’s forerunner but said: “The lace of [his] sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (1:27) Sandals were tied by means of leather thongs, or laces. A slave might untie the laces of another person’s sandals and carry them for him, as this was a menial duty. John the Baptizer thus expressed humility and awareness of his insignificance in comparison with his Master. A fine lesson, for only the humble are suited for service to Jehovah and his Messianic King!—Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 21:4.
Instead of proudly resenting Jesus, John the Baptizer said: “The friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full.” (3:29) As the groom’s representative, the friend of the bridegroom made marriage negotiations, sometimes arranging the espousal and delivering gifts to the bride and the bride-price to her father. This deputy had reason to be glad when his duty was fulfilled. Similarly, John rejoiced in bringing Jesus together with the first members of His bride. (Revelation 21:2, 9) As the services of the friend of the bridegroom lasted only a short time, so John’s work soon ended. He kept decreasing, while Jesus went on increasing.—John 3:30.
Jesus’ Regard for People
At a well near the city of Sychar, Jesus told a Samaritan woman about symbolic water that imparts eternal life. When his disciples arrived, “they began to wonder because he was speaking with a woman.” (4:27) Why such a reaction? Well, the Jews despised the Samaritans and had no dealings with them. (4:9; 8:48) It was also uncommon for a Jewish teacher to talk with a woman in public. But Jesus’ compassionate regard for people moved him to give this witness, and because of it, residents of the city “began coming to him.”—4:28-30.
Regard for people moved Jesus to say: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (7:37) Evidently, he thus alluded to a custom added to the eight-day Festival of Booths. Each morning for seven days, a priest drew water from the pool of Siloam and poured it out at the temple’s altar. Among other things, this was said to represent the outpouring of the spirit. Beginning at Pentecost 33 C.E., God’s spirit impelled Jesus’ followers to take life-giving waters to people earth wide. Only from Jehovah, “the source of living water,” through Christ can anyone receive eternal life.—Jeremiah 2:13; Isaiah 12:3; John 17:3.
The Fine Shepherd Cares!
Jesus’ regard for people is evident in his role as the Fine Shepherd who cares for his sheeplike followers. Even as his death approached, Jesus gave his disciples loving counsel and prayed in their behalf. (10:1–17:26) Unlike a thief or a plunderer, he enters a sheepfold through the door. (10:1-5) A sheepfold was an enclosure in which sheep were kept for overnight protection from thieves and predatory animals. It had stone walls, perhaps with thorny branches on top, and an entryway tended by a doorkeeper.
The flocks of several shepherds might be kept in the same sheepfold, but the sheep responded only to the voice of their respective shepherd. In his book Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, Fred H. Wight says: “When it becomes necessary to separate several flocks of sheep, one shepherd after another will stand up and call out: ‘Tahhoo! Tahhoo!’ or a similar call of his own choosing. The sheep lift up their heads, and after a general scramble, begin following each one his own shepherd. They are thoroughly familiar with their own shepherd’s tone of voice. Strangers have often used the same call, but their attempts to get the sheep to follow them always fail.” Interestingly, Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life.” (10:27, 28) Both the “little flock” and the “other sheep” respond to Jesus’ voice, follow his lead, and enjoy his tender care.—Luke 12:32; John 10:16.
God’s Ever-Faithful Son
Christ was ever faithful to God and exemplary as a loving shepherd throughout his earthly life. His compassion was also manifested in post-resurrection appearances. It was compassionate regard for others that then moved Jesus to urge Peter to feed His sheep.—18:1–21:25.
As a victim of impalement, Jesus set us the prime example of faithfulness unto death. One ignominy he underwent in fulfillment of prophecy was that soldiers ‘apportioned his garments among themselves.’ (Psalm 22:18) They cast lots to determine who would get his fine inner garment (Greek, khi·tonʹ), woven without a seam. (19:23, 24) Such a tunic might be woven of wool or linen in a single piece and could be white or of varied colors. Often sleeveless, it was worn next to the skin and reached to the knees or even the ankles. Of course, Jesus was not materialistic, but he did wear such a garment of good quality, his seamless tunic.
During one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he greeted his disciples with the words: “May you have peace.” (20:19) Among the Jews, this was a common salutation. (Matthew 10:12, 13) For many, the use of such words may have meant little. But not so with Jesus, for earlier he had told his followers: “I leave you peace, I give you my peace.” (John 14:27) The peace that Jesus gave his disciples was based on their faith in him as God’s Son and served to calm their hearts and minds.
Similarly, we can enjoy “the peace of God.” May we cherish this incomparable tranquillity resulting from a close relationship with Jehovah through his beloved Son.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
[Picture Credit Line on page 25]
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.