Like the other gospel accounts, John’s account is packed full of themes, concepts, and ideas. I couldn’t possibly summarize them all. However, there are a few themes which stand out to me most prominently. If you pay attention to these, as you read through John’s gospel account, I think you will clearly see the picture he is painting about Jesus.
First, John makes it easy to understand what themes will be important in his account by including them in his beautiful introduction. In fact, you could read the first 18 verses of this book and have a pretty decent idea about everything that follows. He begins by identifying Jesus as the divine “word of God,” through whom everything was created. This relationship between Jesus and God, his father, is the major theme of the book. It is John’s primary intention for his readers to believe that Jesus really is the divine Son of God.
But John also helps us to understand the condition of the world when Jesus arrives. The imagery of light and life versus darkness and death are introduced and then woven throughout the entirety of the book. Mankind is in darkness and dying until Jesus shows up as the light to bring life to the world.
Finally, in the introduction, the reader will notice that John’s gospel account is unique. John definitely depicts Jesus as coming to his own people, but his concern is for the whole world. John helps us to see that Jesus’ mission is about expanding the family of God far beyond Israel. Like all the other gospel accounts, this book is deeply rooted in the history and promises of the Jewish scriptures, but it is probably the most universal in its scope.
The Role of the Spirit
Throughout the book, John makes a point of telling the reader that certain words and deeds of Jesus only made sense to the apostles after Jesus had been raised and glorified. They didn’t immediately see the connection between what Jesus was doing and what was written in the Scripture. They only saw the connection in retrospect. After Jesus was resurrected and glorified, the apostles “remembered” and saw all of the connections.
This seems to be John’s way of saying the Spirit of God was working in him and the other apostles as they retold the story of Jesus because Jesus told them the Spirit would help them do this very thing. The Spirit is the one who helped the apostles put all these pieces together, remember what happened, and see the connection between Jesus and the promises of Scripture.
In John’s account, Jesus places a great emphasis on what the Spirit will do not only for the apostles but also for all believers. Jesus speaks of the Spirit like a river of living water that will flow into and out of the hearts of people, bringing them eternal life. This will change people in radical ways. It will bring people together and transform them into the sort of worshipers the Father seeks.
Light and Life
As was emphasized in his introduction, John continues to weave into his narrative the theme of Jesus being God’s glorious light shining in a dark world. Those who allowed the light of Jesus to fall on them were transformed by Jesus’ glorious presence. The recipients of the light became sons and daughters of light. When the “light of the world,” returned to the Father from whom he was sent, the followers of Jesus were left to be light in the world.
The light brought life to humanity. When Jesus talks about “life,” we should not suppose he means this in a philosophical or metaphorical sense. He means “life” in a similar way a doctor means “life.” He means life, as opposed to death.
People in darkness die and Satan has claim to them. But those in the light are a different kind of human because Satan and the forces of darkness have no claim to those in the light. Those who believe in Jesus will die, but they will live again because Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” Jesus has the authority to undo death. He has the authority to call to those in the grave, “Come out!”
Jesus says when a person receives his light, they become possessors of a special kind of life, a life for the next age. The way this is expressed in our English Bibles is, “eternal life.” The word translated “eternal” literally means “for the age.” All those who are truly trusting in Jesus have received the gift of life for the age to come.
Sent From, Going To, and Coming Back from Heaven
The primary theme of John’s account is that Jesus is from heaven. He has been sent to earth by God, who is his Father. It isn’t as if John is unaware of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem or of his mother, Mary. Though John does not record the birth narrative, he makes reference to Jesus’ family and especially his mother. He knows Jesus is fully human, but he also relates that Jesus is fully divine.
Not only was Jesus from heaven, sent by God, but his plan was to return to the Father. He made it very clear that the window of opportunity to bask in his light was short. But he also made it clear that in his absence, the ministry of the Spirit would make it possible for much more to be accomplished in his name. His followers, empowered by the Spirit, would continue to take light, life, and love to all humanity.
Jesus assured his followers they would see him again; not only his original followers but all of us who have believed because of their testimony. He tells us he is preparing a place for us in his Father’s house and that he and the Father will come and make their home with us. And while we wait, we continue to encourage the world to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [they] may have life in his name.” We encourage them to be born again by the water and the Spirit, to become sons and daughters of light.
I love you and God loves you,
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