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The Gospel of John



John’s gospel has been described as a body of water in which “a baby can swim and an elephant can drown.” It has a simplicity that can be grasped by new believers, and a layered complexity that mature Christians continue to discover and enjoy.

 Fullness of Life

Scholars agree that the key verse summing up the whole of John’s gospel is John 20:31: But these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.

 Jesus has come to bring the life of God into our world. When Jesus speaks of “eternal life”, it can refer to eternal or endless life after death, but also an eternal quality or dimension of life here on earth. This was illustrated by His changing water to wine at a wedding, the feeding of the multitudes, the healing of the blind, protecting vulnerable people, and washing the feet of sinners. It is also a life extended to everyone – male Jewish teachers, foreign women, blind and crippled beggars, and hungry crowds. 

 Jesus said: “I have come that you might have life to the full”. John 10:10

 The Uniqueness of the Gospel of John

 The difference between John’s gospel and the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) has been recognized from the early days of the church. Clement of Alexandria, a theologian writing around the year 200, called it the “spiritual gospel”.

The gospel was written in the late 90s (of the first century) – many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was the product of long and deep reflection on the meaning of Jesus’ ministry.

Some of what makes John’s gospel unique:

  • It contains no reference to the earthly birth of Jesus – there is no Mary and Joseph references and no manger scene

  • It is not strictly chronological – the other gospels start with Jesus’ birth and describe His life in a straight timeline, beginning in Galilee and ending in Jerusalem during the Passover; John has three references to him being at Passover throughout the gospel, and the stories jump back and forth during his lifetime between Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and Jerusalem

  • There is a uniqueness in Jesus teaching style in John – there are no parables or memorable short sayings – instead, we read long debates and monologues with Jewish leaders

  • John uses dualistic symbols to present the significance of Jesus’ and His work – darkness/light, below/above, flesh/spirit, death/life, falsehood/truth, earth/heaven. He sometimes uses the term “worldly” to refer not only to creation, but to a negative way of living

  • The gospel has seven “I am” statements in which Jesus reveals His divine qualities – these are not found in any of the other gospels

  • John is the only gospel that records the plot to kill Jesus and His exchange with Pontius Pilate

  • John is the only gospel that records the washing of the disciples’ feet in John 13 and Jesus’ long “high priestly prayer” in John 17

  • It is the only gospel that records seven post-resurrection appearances

  • John uniquely links Jesus to the book of Genesis – John 1 and Genesis 1 focus on creation and life emerging through the “word” of God; In Genesis this refers to the original creation, and in John it refers to the new creation. God breathing original life into Adam in Genesis (Genesis 2:7) can be paralleled to Jesus breathing new, spiritual life into His disciples (John 20:22)

Tension in John’s gospel

In contrast to Matthew, Mark and Luke, John records much less interaction between Jesus and His own disciples, and much more focus on his conflict with Jewish religious leaders. We observe it in Jesus’ long debates with Jewish leaders throughout the gospel. We must not interpret Jesus’ conflict with Jewish leaders to be an indictment of all Jews (the mistake made by Nazis). Rather, Jesus came to confront, correct, and ultimately fulfill a religious system that had become legalistic and self-serving.

Like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time, Christians today can get off-track in our faith when we become preoccupied with our own religiosity and neglect or even reject the presence of Christ in our midst. John’s gospel helps us cultivate a healthy capacity for self-correction.

The Word “Life” in the Gospel of John

In the Greek New Testament, there are three separate words translated as “Life”: Zoe, Psuche, and Bios.

  • Bios: The Greek word refers to the physical body (Luke 8:14). We get the word “biology” from Bios

  • Psuche: The Greek word here refers to the human soul or psychological dimension of life (Matt. 16:25)

  • Zoe: The Greek word refers to the uncreated, eternal life of God

 Words for “life” are found 47 times in John’s gospel. Zoe is used 39 times, Psuche is used 8 times, and Bios is never used.

The fact that Jesus never uses Bios (bodily life) in the gospel of John does not mean that the body is bad. Rather, it means that Jesus’ primary intention was to bring the life “of God” to the world.

 Examples of the use of Zoe (life of God) in John’s gospel:

 “In him was life (Zoe), and the life (Zoe) was the light of men.” ~ John 1:4

  •  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Zoe).” ~ John 3:16

  • “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Zoe).” ~ John 4:14

  • “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life (Zoe); and it is they that bear witness about me. Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (Zoe).” ~ John 5:39-40

  • “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life (Zoe), which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” ~ John 6:27

  • “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life (Zoe); whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'” ~ John 6:35

  • “Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Zoe).'” ~ John 6:68

  •  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life (Zoe) and have it abundantly.” ~ John 10:10

  •  “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life (Zoe). Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” ~ John 11:25

  • “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life (Zoe). No one comes to the Father except through me.'” ~ John 14:6

  • “And this is eternal life (Zoe), that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” ~ John 17:3

  • “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 (Zoe) in his name.” ~ John 20:31

 Examples of the use of Psuche, the word for “soul” in John’s gospel:

  •  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life (Psuche) for the sheep.” ~ John 10:11

  • “Whoever loves his life (Psuche) loses it, and whoever hates his life (Psuche) in this world will keep it for eternal life (Zoe).” ~ John 12:25

  •  “Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life (Psuche) for you.” ~ John 13:37

  • “Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life (Psuche) for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'” ~ John 13:38

  •  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life (Psuche) for his friends.” ~ John 15:13

 Jesus as the Life of the World

Our emphasis in the 2019 Winter preaching series is how Jesus brings the life of God into our world. As we explore the first 12 chapters of John, we will be discovering our fullest life.

 Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What immediately strikes you as important in John’s gospel? What surprises you?

  2. Why do you think God included John’s unique “spiritual” gospel alongside Matthew, Mark and Luke?

  3. As we study John’s gospel, what are you looking forward to exploring or discovering in your relationship with Jesus Christ?

  4. How might our church congregation benefit from John’s gospel at the present time, given our challenges and culture that surrounds us in our world?

Watch our Read Scripture video on the Gospel of John, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. In John, Jesus becomes human as the incarnation of the creator God of Israel, to share His love and the gift of eternal life with the world.

For any Sermon Study Notes from our past Sermon Series’ please contact the church office
info (at) or 403-249-8605.