I love the Gospel of John.
If for no other reason, it is different. Unlike the other three gospels, there is no birth story, no temptation, or no transfiguration.
In Orthodoxy, we read John in the lectionary during the Easter season. The Gospel for Easter Sunday is John’s Prologue in Chapter 1.
This gives a clue as to why the Church thinks John was written. The newly baptized experiencing their first Liturgy on Easter Sunday begin to read a new Gospel – the Gospel of John. John himself proclaims his purpose for writing at the end of his book. He wrote so that the reader would know that Jesus is the Son of God, and by trusting in Him, would have eternal life.
John is designed to bolster faith, perhaps in the face of heresy, for there were many false teachers who questioned the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Or perhaps, John is trying to protect us not from the heresy of the head, but of the heart.
In a later book, John chides his own flock in his adopted city of Ephesus never to abandon their first love, because the path of heresy, the desertion of the faith, the denial of Jesus as God, begins at the point of love.
To lose this personal connection, to open the heart to other affections, will only draw us slowly away from Christ.
So how does John accomplish this in this Gospel.
- He guides us through path of faith. He tells us story of water, bread, light, and life, reminding us of our baptism, our reception of Communion, the light of the commandments, and the life that comes. This is our journey from death to life.
- He shows us signs of Godhead breaking into our life. John has no miracles. He has signs, and yes they are miraculous, but they are few (only 7), and they reveal Jesus.
- We hear the voice of Jesus. Jesus himself proclaims His divinity by using the Old Testament name for God – I AM. Yet, He does so in relation to our life. He says, I AM the Living Water, I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Light of the World. We need to hear these because they touch us where we are.
- We hear the voice of others. John the Baptist witness, other disciples witness, the Father and the Spirit witness to who Jesus is.
John proudly proclaims that Jesus is the one with the power to save, the one to transform us, the one who can teach us to love.