This is the nineteenth installment in a yearlong series. You can find the previous installments here.
The Gospel of John is one of the most pivotal books of the whole Bible. Its unique depiction of Jesus’ life – who he is, why he lived, what he taught, and why he died – has drawn millions of people to pour over its pages to discover who the most iconic person in history really is. It is for this reason that we instruct both new Christians and those who are still seeking to read John’s Gospel before they read anything else. John provides many foundational verses such as the poetic introduction in chapter one, Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in chapter three, the woman at the well in chapter four, the woman caught in adultery in chapters seven and eight, and many testimonials about Jesus’ relationship with the Father throughout the whole book.
It is believed that Jesus’ disciple named John wrote this book. John was one of the sons of Zebedee, was one of Jesus’ three closest companions, and is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” throughout the book. Most scholars believe John was written at the end of the first century, probably somewhere around A.D. 90. An earlier date, around A.D. 50, is also suggested. The dispute is centered around whether John wrote before the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or after. The evidence supporting a later date includes John’s distinct narrative differences from the other three gospels (as if he wanted to write a gospel that included information that the others did not). John also includes details that possibly allude to the deaths James (A.D. 44) and Peter (between A.D. 64 and 68).
John offers us a a unique encounter with Jesus, and Jesus himself invites us into it. In chapter one, John the Baptist notices Jesus and tells his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God. When they hear this, the two disciples leave John and follow Jesus. When he realizes they are following him, Jesus turns and asks them “What are you seeking?” (verse 1:35-38). Jesus’ question to these two men is simple but powerful, and it is what he asks all of us when we open the book of John: “Why are you reading this? Why are you interested? What are you seeking? What do you hope to find?” There is a longing of completeness that those of us who open this book cannot help but feel. We are drawn to its pages in the same way John’s disciples were drawn to Jesus: because the feeling of being incomplete has been crying out inside of us for as long as we can remember, but in the presence of Jesus it is quieted and there is peace. The Gospel of John brings us into a special encounter with Jesus, an encounter that satisfies our searching and restless souls.