Bible: The New Testament

The Gospel According to John (John)

Summary The Gospel According to John (John)

Jesus comes upon a man blind from birth and gives the man sight. The Pharisees are frustrated to realize that Jesus really has cured the man, who now professes faith in him. For their failure to believe, Jesus pronounces the Pharisees blind and teaches that he is the good shepherd, and that it is only through him that the sheep of Israel’s flock shall be saved. Months pass, and at the Feast of Dedication, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, Jesus is again confronted by the Jews in the temple, who ask whether or not he is the Christ. He responds by announcing that he is the Son of God, united with God. The crowd tries to stone him, but Jesus escapes Jerusalem.

Jesus is called to Bethany, the village where two of his devout followers, Mary and Martha, live with their brother Lazarus, who has fallen sick. Arriving in Bethany too late, Jesus finds Lazarus dead. He works a miracle to inspire belief in the observers, resurrecting Lazarus. Hearing of this spectacle, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, including the chief priests, decides to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. Nevertheless, Jesus travels to Jerusalem for Passover. He has foreseen his own death, as well as the salvation that he will bring through his sacrifice. Many of the Jews, despite witnessing signs of Jesus’s divinity, continue to disbelieve, and Jesus decries their lack of faith.

At the Passover meal, or Seder, Jesus preaches extensively to the apostles. Through washing their feet, he teaches them that they must serve each other, saying, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (13:34). Jesus stresses his unity with God: “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (14:10). Jesus foresees his own death and his betrayal by Judas. “I am going to the Father,” he tells the apostles (14:28). Jesus assures the apostles that in Jesus’s place, God will send an advocate, the Spirit of God, who will continue to dwell with the faithful, and who will lead them toward truth and salvation. He warns them that even after his death, they will continue to be persecuted, but that their ultimate salvation is imminent. Hearing this prophesy, the apostles finally express their firm belief in Jesus, and Jesus responds triumphantly, “I have conquered the world” (16:33). In a long, private prayer, Jesus addresses God directly, asking him to consecrate, glorify, and protect the faithful.

The narrative moves quickly toward its conclusion. Jesus is arrested by the soldiers whom Judas leads to him. He is brought first before the Jewish high priest, and then before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. Pilate repeatedly interrogates Jesus, who refuses to confirm the allegation against him—that he has acted treasonably against Caesar by declaring himself King of the Jews. Pilate is reluctant to condemn Jesus, but the Jews agitate for Jesus’s execution, and eventually Pilate consents. Jesus is crucified, and the soldiers cast lots to determine who will get his clothing. Pilate affixes a notice to the cross, reading “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19). Jesus dies, and to ensure his death, a solider pierces his side with a lance. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury Jesus on a Friday.

On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene comes to Jesus’s grave and finds it empty. Jesus appears to her, and she brings the news of his resurrection to the disciples. Later that day, he appears to the disciples, whom he charges with the propagation of his message: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (20:21). Thomas is absent from the room, and he expresses doubt as to the resurrection until, a week later, Jesus reappears to him as well.

For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.

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Analysis

For John, Jesus’s miracles are not simply wonders to astonish onlookers, but signs pointing to his glory that come from the presence of God within him. In the early stages of his ministry, John tells of an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at the well. At this time, the Samaritans were a group of people despised by the Jews, and casual conversation between men and women was taboo. Jesus asks the woman to fetch him water, but she misunderstands his words to mean literal water. Quickly, she learns that the water to which he refers is already in her presence, that Jesus is “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life,” to which she replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirsty” (4:14-15). This story is not a short parable, but an opportunity for Jesus to explain elaborately his personhood using life giving symbols characteristic of John’s writing: water, words, bread, and light. John tells of this Samaritan woman leaving to then become a successful missionary of the “good news” in Samaria (4:42).