Notes on John's Gospel
1:1-34 - Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (1-3; Revelation 21:6). He is ‘the Word... made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’ (14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). From Him, there is creation (1-3). From Him, there is salvation (12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (29,32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (1,29,34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’ (1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (18). Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (29).
1:35-2:25 - Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (40-42). ‘You are... You shall be...’ (42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The ‘water’ became ‘wine’ (9). This was the Lord’s doing. In Christ, we have been ‘made alive’. This is the work of God. He is ‘rich in mercy’. He loves us with a ‘great love’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (13-17). There was ‘death’ in the temple. Those who were spiritually ‘dead’ acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God’s House - ‘My House shall be called a house of prayer’ (Matthew 21:13). ‘Raised from the dead’, we receive ‘new life’ (22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
3:1-36 - We say, ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (3,7). Our way of thinking begins with ‘I’. Christ’s way of salvation begins with ‘God’: ‘God so loved the world...’ (16). Begin with ‘I’ and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are ‘born of the Spirit’ (6-8; 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3,6-7,12-13; 5:2-3). ‘Come to the light’. ‘Do what is true’. ‘Obey the Son’. Let Christ increase. This is the work of the Spirit in us (20-21,36,29,34).
4:1-42 - Here, we see Jesus’ ministry of love. He brings the Samaritan woman out of her bondage to sin and into the joy of His salvation. Jesus comes to the woman in love. His love overcomes cultural divisions. His love breaks down cultural barriers (9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of ‘many Samaritans’ coming to faith in Christ (39). There are two ‘stages’ in their coming to faith. First, they ’believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony’ (39). Second, ‘they believed because of His Word’ (41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as ‘the Saviour of the world’ (42). The woman said that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (22). It is also ‘to the Greek’ (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is for all. Pray that the human word will be empowered by the divine Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).
4:43-5:29 - In Jesus’ healings, we see the love of God. He ‘went about doing good’. In His healings, we see the Source of His spiritual strength: ‘God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (Acts 10:38). We look beyond Jesus to God the Father: ‘mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him’ (Acts 2:22). Jesus speaks of His unique relationship with the Father (19,26). Jesus is no mere servant. He is ‘the Son’. We are to ‘honour the Son’ as well as the Father (23). Through Christ, we receive ‘eternal life’ (24). The gift of eternal life is the gift of God’s love. In love, God ‘gave His only Son’. ‘In His Son’, there is eternal life. ‘This life’ is given to everyone who ‘believes in the Son of God’ (3:16; 1 John 5:10-12). Listen to ‘the voice of the Son of God’, believe and ‘live’ (25).
5:30-6:21 - ‘Search the Scriptures’ - and make sure you ‘come to Christ and receive life’ (39-40). From Jesus’ miracles - the feeding of the five thousand (1-13) and His walking on water (16-21) - we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a ‘prophet’. He is ‘the Bread of God... which comes down from heaven’ (14,33). He is not merely a human ‘king’. He is the divine King - ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’ (15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’ (20). He assures us of His final victory - ‘they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them’ (Revelation 17:14). ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?... We have an anchor that keeps the soul... Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love’ (Church Hymnary, 412).
6:22-59 - Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ (35). Jesus had enemies - ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’ (41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’ (43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’ (51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ (Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’ (Church Hymnary, 571).
6:60-7:36 - Jesus’ words are ‘spirit and life’. They are ‘the words of eternal life’ (63,68). While others - including Judas Iscariot - were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: ‘You are the Holy One of God’ (66-71). It was only a matter of time before Judas Iscariot (71) and ‘the Jews’(1) formed an unholy alliance. The ‘time’ was ‘not yet’ (6,8). Even the plans of evil men could only be fully developed in the Lord’s time. When God permitted their evil plans to proceed, then it would be His time for Jesus’ crucifixion and our salvation (Acts 2:2). ‘The Jews’ were amazed at Jesus’ teaching - ‘How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied?’ (15). They did not understand that God’s wisdom is different from man’s wisdom. Obey God. Receive wisdom (17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
7:37-8:20 - ‘Rivers of living water’ were flowing out of Jesus’ heart. ‘No man ever spoke like this man’! ‘The Spirit’ was speaking through Him with power. Still, there were those who ‘wanted to arrest Him’ (37-39,44,46). Stop ‘throwing stones’ (1-11)! Only Jesus had the right to point the finger at this woman. He refused to do so. He bore her sins and our sins on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus spoke to the woman of both forgiveness and holiness (11). Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ (12). This brought an immediate reaction from the ‘Pharisees’: ‘Your testimony is not true’ (13). They were ‘disguised as angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). They ‘loved darkness rather than light’ (3:19). Their ‘darkness’ was exposed by ‘the Light of the world’. These evil men could do nothing until God’s time (19-20).
8:21-59 - In the face of evil unbelief and persistent opposition, Jesus spoke with tremendous assurance: ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world... you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He’ (23-24). ‘As He spoke thus, many believed in Him (30) - Jesus spoke with power and love. Responding to Him in faith, we are set ‘free’ (32,36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). To receive His freedom, we must recognize our need: ‘everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin’ (34). To grow in His freedom, we must ‘continue in His Word’ (31). To religion without Christ (39,41), Jesus’ answer is emphatic: ‘You are of your father the devil... you do not hear God’s words because you are not of God’ (44,47). ‘I am’ (58; Exodus 3:14). God is in control - not men (59,20).
9:1-41 - Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (3,6-7). ‘The Pharisees’ hear the man’s testimony (15). ‘Some of’ them reject the Lord (16,24). There will always be those who refuse to believe in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will pour scorn on those who have come to know the Lord. The man gives his testimony: ‘One thing I know... I was blind, now I see’ (25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (26). He puts the most challenging question to them: ‘Do you too want to become His disciples?’ (27). They hurl insults at him (28). Fools attack what they don’t understand. The more they rage, the more they show their folly. We say, ‘Lord, I believe’, and our spiritual ‘eyes’ are opened (38; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Don’t be ‘blind’, despising the believer and the Saviour (39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
10:1-42 - The Christian life is not easy. The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (31). ‘Again’, they failed (39). They could not take Jesus’ life. ‘His hour had not yet come’ (18; 7:30; 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
11:1-44 - Everything is moving on towards Christ’s death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus’ great declaration concerning Himself: ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’ (25). His words are immediately followed by the question: ‘Do you believe this?’ (26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: ‘Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...’(27). This is ‘for the glory of God’ - receiving new life from ‘the Son of God...’ (4).
11:45-12:36 - The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (49-53). The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (28,31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (27).
12:37-13:20 - The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. ‘For fear of the Pharisees’, many remained silent, ‘loving the praise of men more than the praise of God’ (42-43). Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (46). If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ. Do not only read God’s Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (50). The ‘hour’ of Jesus’ suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (1-3). It is the ‘hour’ of His love. We are ‘washed’ in His precious blood (8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). What God has done for us comes before what we ‘ought to ‘do for others. Jesus is our Saviour before He is our ‘Example’ (14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (17).
13:21-14:14 - Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (21-30). He would be denied by Peter (36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (9). Now, He is working in and through us (12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’ (Church Hymnary, 195).
14:15-15:17 - Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’ (21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. ‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’ (26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’ (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’ (15:12,16-17).
15:18-16:33 - Jesus was ‘persecuted’. We will be ‘persecuted’ - ‘all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted’ (15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, ‘the Spirit of truth’ directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus’ words: ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ - This is our faith’ (1 John 5:4-5).
17:1-26 - Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - ‘that they may be one’ (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’ (12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’ - ‘take notice of those who create dissensions... avoid them’ (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
18:1-27 - The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (12-14,19-24). Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’ - He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus’ death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’ - for our salvation (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (15-18,25-27). Jesus’ death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
18:28-19:16 - ‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (39-40). There was ‘no crime’ in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12,6).
19:17-20:10 - ‘It is finished’ (30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (9). For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’ (Romans 4:25).
20:11-31 - Christ is ‘the Lord’ (2,18,20,25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (31).
21:1-25 - ‘Fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - ‘they caught nothing’ (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ-centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don’t look over your shoulder at someone else - ‘Lord, what about this man?’ (21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, ‘Do you love Me?’ (15-17). He asked Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ (15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, ‘Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?’