“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)
As I look back on almost 20 years of leading Bible Study in one capacity or another, I believe the most insightful and potentially life-changing study I have ever taught was the Gospel of John. A few years after leading that study, I informed my class that I hoped to teach John’s Gospel again someday. This blog affords me that opportunity.
This series of posts, which will be interrupted occasionally as the Spirit leads me, will not attempt to be an exhaustive expository study of John. Instead, each post will focus on one or two key verses taken from John’s gospel, reflecting on how those verses should inform or impact the conduct of our lives as followers of Christ, being obedient to His commands, and drawing others to know Him better.
I see this series of posts on the Gospel of John as a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections. In fact, I debated whether to title it “Reflections on John” or “Reflections from John”. I went with the latter because while he was once pegged by Jesus himself as a “Son of Thunder”, as John aged he likely became more contemplative- more reflective. I believe that as he pondered the gospel accounts that had been widely distributed, John realized they didn’t paint a complete picture of the Jesus that he knew. If he had written his gospel in modern times, he might have titled it, “The Jesus I Knew”.
John was probably the last of the four gospels to be written. According to Christian tradition, before his exile to the Isle of Patmos, John spent his latter years at Ephesus, where he carried on a ministry of preaching and teaching and writing. He probably wrote this gospel somewhere between 80-90 AD.
He did not attempt to chronicle all the events in the life of Christ- others had already done that. In fact, he memorably observed that should all those events be recorded, “the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 NIV) But he was extremely focused on going beyond the events to explore the deeper meaning of the ones he chose to include.
Another thing that makes John’s Gospel unique and a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections is his emphasis on Jesus’ relationships with individuals. After 40 years as a Christian and 20 years teaching God’s Word, I have a greater appreciation for the value of relationships in our Christian walk. We better fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples through relationships.
My favorite pastors – the ones that have had the greatest impact on me through the years – are the ones with whom I developed a personal relationship. This blog will have more meaning for and generate more interest from those with whom I have a personal relationship. And I am mindful that what others see in me will either undermine my message or create a hunger to have what I have.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote,“ For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1:11-12 ESV) Paul understood that personal interaction leads to mutual encouragement.
Lastly, John’s Gospel is a good fit for Ridgetop Reflections because John’s life is an excellent illustration of the love of God. This blog was birthed out of an overwhelming sense of God’s love- a topic I covered in “Reflections On God’s Love”. A simple understanding of God’s love is the deepest theology there is. The great theologian Karl Barth once commented that the most profound truth he ever discovered was “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” And nowhere does the Bible reflect that more profoundly than in the Gospel of John.
John’s life is also an illustration of the grace of God. When Jesus chose him, he had no lofty status as a fisherman, nor was he an educated man, even by the standards of that day. He doesn’t appear to have been a magnetic personality or charismatic leader. But this lowly fisherman went on to be called “the apostle of love” and authored five books in our Bible. He is a testament to the power of Christ to transform lives.
For years Luke was my favorite gospel, because it was written by a Gentile for Gentiles, and it appeals to my logical mindset as a degreed engineer. But I find that the more I have grown in Christ, the more I prefer John over Luke. I’ve discovered that to know about Christ and to accept Him as Savior is one thing, but to truly know Christ and make Him Lord is life-changing!
John knew Christ more intimately than any of the disciples. His gospel has helped me know Christ more intimately myself. And my sincere hope is that through this series of posts, you might get to know Him more intimately as well. Because it is only through knowing Him, trusting Him, and walking in step with Him that we will experience the abundant life that He desires for each one of us. (John 10:10)
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10 KJV)
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*Photo by Sallye Martin