Summary: Intro to the Gospel of John
In The Beginning Was the Word
Before we get into the heart of tonight’s study, I’d like to take a look at the background behind the Book of John, and it’s writer. I think this will give us more of a feel for these verses of scripture.
The Apostle John, also known as John the Beloved, or John the Revelator is overwhelmingly believed by scholars to have written this book. We find in scripture that he was the brother of the James and was a son of a man named Zebedee. Now John and his brother James were fishermen in partnership with the sons of Jonah – a man named Simon who was called Peter, and Peter’s brother Andrew.
All four men were living in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. Now the Lord found John and his brother washing their nets one day, after having an unprofitable fishing excursion. Then the Lord ordered them to launch out a short way from the shore and cast their nets one last time. They obliged the Lord, and they caught such a great multitude of fish, that their nets began to break, and called for their partners to help then haul in this great load of fish. Let’s pick up there and read Luke 5:9-11 – Can I get a volunteer?
(Someone reads Luke 5:9-11)
So, we see that John was called at that time to be fisher of men. We also know from scripture that John’s brother James, and their partners Simon Peter and Andrew were also called. They were called from that point on to be disciples. They traveled with the Lord, and learned from Him.
We know that John was with the Lord when lepers became clean, when the blind received their sight, and when unclean spirits were cast out of those who were possessed.
We read later in scripture that Jesus chose twelve out of his followers to be called apostles. Out of the twelve, we also learn that three were the Lord’s quote – unquote “inner circle”. This was Simon Peter, James and John. These three went up on the mountaintop in Matthew 17:1-13 and saw the Lord transfigured before them. It was these three that were asked to withdraw and keep watch with the Lord in the garden as we read in Mark 14:33, just after the Last Supper, and before the Lord was carried away to be crucified.
Of these three of the inner circle, we read that John was in many ways closest to the Lord. Scripture calls him “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. It was John who was reclined next to the Lord at the Last Supper. He asked, “Who is going to betray you Lord?” He was the only apostle to be at the cross when the Lord was crucified, and there we read that John was entrusted with caring for the Lord’s mother, Mary.
After the Lord’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, we read in scripture that John stayed in Jerusalem for a period of time. Paul mentions John as being in Jerusalem in his letter to the Galatians chapter 2, verse 9.
Tradition maintains that John later became the pastor of the church of Ephesus, teaching and caring for the Lord’s mother until her death. Tertullian, an early Christian apologist writes in an extra-biblical work that John was taken to Rome where he was quote “plunged into boiling oil, unhurt, and then exiled on an island.” This was likely the island of Patmos, where the book of Revelation was written around 96 AD. It is believed that John’s body was returned to Ephesus for burial, after living to an old age.
Drawing this all together then, we see that John had a special relationship with the Lord, and I believe some special insight into the ministry and life of the Lord.
Most scholars believe that the gospel of John was written after the other three. Mark is believed to have been written in 50 AD, Luke between 58 and 63 AD, Matthew in 75 AD, and finally John between 90 and 100 AD Now, I personally believe that the gospel of John was written closer to 90 A.D., before the book of Revelation. Here is why.
In a secular book written by the fourth century writer Theodore of Mopsuestia claims that John wrote the gospel at Ephesus. He writes, “It occurred to the Christians of Asia that St. John was a more credible witness than all others, forasmuch as from the beginning, even before Matthew, he was with the Lord, and enjoyed more abundant grace through the love which the Lord bore to him. And they brought him the books [i.e. the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke] and sought to know his opinion of them. He praised the writers for their veracity, and said that a few things had been omitted by them, and that all but a little bit of the teaching of the most important miracles was recorded. He added that they who discourse on the coming of Christ in the flesh ought not to omit to speak of His divinity, lest that later, men might suppose that Christ was only a man. The brethren at Ephesus urged John to write these things down. Therefore John began with the divinity of Christ, being the necessary beginning of the gospel.”