John, the Gospel by

John; John 14-16; John 1; John 2; John 3; John 1:35; John 1:43; John 15:3; 1 Peter 1:23; Ezekiel 36:25; John 4; Romans 8; John 5; John 5:3; John 5:4; John 5:22,27,30; John 5:24; John 5:29; John 6; John 7; John 8-10; John 9; John 10; John 11; John 12; John 13; John 14; John 15; Psalm 80; Isaiah 5; John 16; John 17; John 17:5; John 17:19; John 18; John 19; 1 John 5:6-8; John 20; Acts 2; Romans 8:2; John 21
This Gospel is different in character from the other three, which are often called “the Synoptical Gospels,” because they each give a fuller account of events than is found in John. The gospel by John has often been judged to be supplementary to the others; but this is not a true view of it. It stands by itself, complete in itself. Each gospel has its own characteristic line: for this see under GOSPELS.
It is the gospel in which we have most distinctly the revelation of the Godhead. The Father is revealed in the Son in both words and works; and in the rejection of the Son the Father was rejected. And, consequent on the Son going back to the Father who had sent Him, the Holy Spirit was to be sent from the Father in His name. (See John 14-16).
In John, together with the state of man, is brought out the gift of eternal life, as if the Lord Jesus had been rejected and redemption had already been accomplished. Israel is viewed as reprobate throughout: the feasts are not spoken of as the feasts of Jehovah, but as “of the Jews,” and “the Jews” (those of Jerusalem and Judaea) are distinguished from “the people,” who may have been Galileans or visitors at the feasts from districts outside Judæa.
John 1. All the essential names of the Lord are brought out in this chapter. His essential Godhead before creation; He is the Creator; the true Light; the only-begotten of the Father (His eternal Sonship); He is the Incarnate, “the Word became flesh”; the Lamb of God; the Son of God; the Messiah; the king of Israel; and the Son of Man. The Jews, “his own,” received Him not; but to those who received Him He gave authority to become children of God. The Lord became a center for such, and
1. His dwelling place an abode for them;
2. He is the One to be followed down here;
3. He is the hope of Israel.
A glimpse of millennial glory is given in the declaration at the close of the chapter as to angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
John 2 gives a type of millennial blessing in the marriage feast (Jesus being the source of the “good wine”—the best joy—when the wine of Israel had run out), and His divine right in cleansing the temple would be proved by His power in raising the temple of His body, by which, for the time, the material temple was set aside. John 2:23-25 belongs to John 3. The Lord discerns who are really His. The “third day” of John 2 probably refers to the millennial day: John’s testimony being the first (John 1:3535Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; (John 1:35)); Christ’s ministry the second (John 1:4343The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. (John 1:43)); and the millennium the third.
John 3. Man, such as he is by nature, and even under privilege needs a work of the Spirit in him for the apprehension of, or entrance into the kingdom of God. He must be born of water and of the Spirit: that which is born of the Spirit is spirit in contrast to flesh, and the water no doubt signifies the word morally (compare John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3); 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)). This should have been known by a teacher of Israel from the prophetic announcement with regard to earthly blessing in Ezekiel 36:2525Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. (Ezekiel 36:25). But the Lord proceeds to speak of heavenly things. Man, being a sinner, his whole status as in the flesh, whether Jew or Gentile, is regarded as judged and set aside in the lifting up of the Son of Man, the antitype of the brazen serpent, and life is found for man beyond death. This introduces the testimony of the love of God to the world, and His purpose for man in His giving His only begotten Son, namely, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. The love of God is not limited to the Jews.
A further and touching testimony is rendered to the Lord by John the Baptist, whose joy was fulfilled in hearing His voice, though he himself should be eclipsed. The last two verses are doubtless the words of the evangelist. The Son being presented, the issue would be either eternal life or the wrath of God.
John 4. Being obliged to withdraw through the jealousy of the Pharisees from Judæa, the Lord on His road to Galilee must needs pass through Samaria, where He meets with a poor empty-hearted woman— empty spite of all her efforts to find satisfaction in sin. To her He speaks of God being a giver, and that He Himself was ready to give her living water—water that should be in the one receiving it a fountain of water springing up into eternal life—doubtless that which is called in Romans 8 “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” a source of perennial satisfaction within. Connected with this the Father is revealed as seeking worshippers. At the close of the chapter the Lord restores a nobleman’s son who was at the point of death, typical of that which He was doing in Israel to sustain the faith of the godly remnant ready to perish.
John 5. The impotent man was enabled to carry that whereon he lay. The blessing which had resided in vain in the pool of Bethesda, so far as he was concerned, was now superseded by what was in the word of the Son of God.1 This miracle being performed on the Sabbath served to bring out His glory. “My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” The Father and the Son are one in the activity of grace. The Father does not judge; the Son quickens and judges. The one who hears His word, and believes on the Father who sent Him, has everlasting life, and will not enter into judgment—is passed, in fact, out of death into life. Those morally dead hear His voice now, and those who have heard shall live. Those in their graves shall also hear, and shall come forth, and there shall be a resurrection of life, and one of judgment.2 Life in this chapter is viewed in connection with the voice of the Lord as the Son. He brings the soul into the light of the Father. Apart from the testimony of John, there was the three-fold witness to His glory: His works, the Father, and the scriptures.
John 6. Five thousand men are fed by the power of the Lord. Struck by this sign of power the multitude, recognizing Him as the Prophet, would make Him king. But He retires to a mountain apart, typically in the place of Priest. The disciples meanwhile were on the sea amid darkness and storm. The Lord went to them, walking on the sea. All this would seem to have its application to Israel—the Lord being seen as Prophet, King, and Priest. He will bring them to their desired haven.
What follows has a present application. The Son of Man was the true bread from heaven, and the work of God was that people should believe on Him. There is a contrast here between the manna and the new and heavenly food; and life is presented from the point of view of man’s appropriation, rather than as the quickening power of the Son of God, as in John 6, “If any one shall have eaten of this bread he shall live forever.” But for this Christ must die—must give His flesh for the life of the world. “He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has life eternal; and I will raise him up at the last day.” To appropriate His death is to accept death to all that in which the flesh lives morally, to find life in Him who is out of heaven, and who is gone back there. This puts everyone to the test.
John 7. The earthly blessing, of which the Feast of Tabernacles is typical, is deferred, owing to Christ’s rejection: even His brethren did not believe in Him. But the great day of the feast is the eighth, typical of the day of new creation and of eternal blessing; of this the Spirit is the earnest, as sent from a glorified Christ. On this day Jesus stood and cried, “If any one thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believes on Me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this he said concerning the Spirit, which they that believed on him were about to receive.” The Jews are left in dissension and darkness.
John 8-10. The Lord is now manifested as the Light, according to what is said of Him in John 1. Those who brought to Him a case of flagrant sin in the expectation of putting Him in a dilemma, were themselves convicted by the light of His word: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” They went out of His presence one by one, convicted by their own conscience. The testimony of His own word as the light of the world follows, and is definitely rejected by the Jews; and when He at length bears witness, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am,” they took up stones to cast at Him.
Passing through the midst of them the Lord went on His way, and in John 9 gives sight to a man born blind. Here the testimony is that of His work. The leaders of the Jews were themselves blind, and said of Jesus, “We know that this man is a sinner.” Being confounded at the poor man’s simple reasoning, they cast him out of the synagogue. Upon this Jesus reveals Himself to him as Son of God, and as such he worships Him. Cast out, he finds himself in the company of One whose glorious Person is thus made known. But the Jew is made blinder by the light that has come in.
Rejected both in word and work, the Lord is now revealed as the Shepherd of the sheep in John 10, which must be read in close connection with what precedes. If the Jews cast His disciples out of the synagogue, it was the Lord who led them out of the Jewish fold. For this He was the Shepherd, and the door of the sheep. No doubt His death is supposed here. By Him if any one entered in he should be saved, and find liberty and food, in contrast to the Jewish system in which these were not found. He is the good Shepherd, and gives His life for the sheep; and there is a reciprocal knowledge or an intimacy between Himself and the sheep who are of a new and heavenly order, as there is between the Father and Himself. Also there is no fold now, but one flock and one Shepherd: thus Jews and Gentiles are joined in one flock. Furthermore, He gives His sheep eternal life, and preserves them as given Him of the Father, on the absolute security of His own and His Father’s hand. The Jews seeking again to take Him, He departed beyond Jordan.
John 11. Here the glory of the Son of God is revealed, Jesus setting Himself forth to the faith of His own as the resurrection and the life. Lazarus is allowed to die, but it was for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. He embodies and expresses in His own person victory over death, and an entirely new order of life in man, which only the Son become man, and dying, could make available to us. In the resurrection of Lazarus this is set forth in pattern; but at the same time a crisis was reached as regards His testimony to the Jews, and He is now conspired against by the leaders of the people, who decide that it was expedient that one man should die for the nation. The high priest spoke this by inspiration, and the Spirit adds, “and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” All was now ready for the final act.
John 12. Mary, in communion with His own mind, anoints His body for His burial, and the house is filled with the odor of the ointment. The godly remnant at Bethany is distinguished by the place He had in their hearts, and Mary by her deep appreciation of His worth. A final testimony is given to the daughter of Zion as her king rode into Jerusalem, sitting on an ass’s colt, amid the acclamations of the crowd, who gave witness to His having raised Lazarus. The Pharisees for the moment were confounded.
His glory as Son of God having been displayed, and He being presented to Jerusalem as Son of David, certain Greeks now express a desire to see Jesus. These were Gentiles, and their petition serves to bring out yet another glory of the Lord Jesus. He is the Son of Man; and the hour was come that the Son of Man should be glorified. He could not take the kingdom, and bring in blessing either for Jews or Greeks without dying; and, while the kingdom glory would be deferred, He would Himself be glorified as Son of Man, and would, in dying as the grain of wheat, bring forth much fruit. But this was for another world—for life eternal; one’s life in this world must be hated, and a rejected Christ followed. We here see what the counsels of God are in regard to man being glorified in heaven, and how the death of the Son of Man would bring them about. But the world is now definitely judged and its prince cast out, and a lifted-up Son of Man becomes the attractive object and gathering point for faith. The chapter closes with the utter rejection of the Jews. Thenceforward the ministry of the Lord is in private with His own.
John 13-14. In John 13 the Lord washes the disciples’ feet, the hour having come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father; in view, that is, of this great fact. The point was to maintain them in moral suitability to the new place to which He was going, in which they should have part with Him. The action of the word (the water) would free them morally to enter into and enjoy communion with Him when gone to the Father. At the outset they had been washed or bathed all over (as in the consecration of the priests) and this was not to be repeated; but, to enjoy heavenly things, a continuous practical cleansing was necessary, signified by the washing of the feet alone. (See WASHING.) This gracious work is set forth as a pattern for the disciples to do to one another—to remove, that is, by the ministry of the word, all that hinders communion. They were to be suited as servants to represent the Lord in this world, and for this they must first be suited to Himself. To Judas however these things could not apply. Having received the sop at the hands of the blessed Lord, Judas went out immediately to betray Him; and it was night. The chapter shows the Lord’s knowledge of every form of evil to which His people could be exposed in this world.
In contrast to what is here discovered as to man, the Lord brings forward the glorification of the Son of Man, in whom the glory of God would first be secured. He should be immediately glorified. His disciples would be known as His by their love one to another, this being the new commandment given by the Lord. What the flesh is, even in a saint of God, is set forth in Peter’s sincere but self-confident assertion of faithfulness even to death. In view of all that man is, there was enough to appall the disciples in the prospect of Christ leaving them, but they were to believe in Jesus (John 14) as they believed in God; and hence their heart need not be troubled. He was going away to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, and would come again to receive them to Himself. He was Himself the way, the truth, and the life—the revealer of and way to the Father—a divine Person, who could say, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” He was going to the Father, and whatever they should ask in the Son’s name the Father would do. And further, “If ye shall ask anything in My name I will do it.” This supposes that they would be in the knowledge of His interests during His absence. They were to keep His commandments, if they loved Him.
He would ask the Father, who would give them another Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who would remain with them forever: He would be in them. Furthermore, He would not leave them orphans, He would Himself come to them. The Comforter would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance what He had said to them. He left them peace, and gave them His own peace. If they loved Him they would rejoice that He was going to the Father. All this discourse, preparatory to His departure, was to fit the disciples to serve His interests when He should be gone from them.
John 15. The Lord in this chapter shows how He had taken the place of the vine, which Israel had been set to be by Jehovah (Psa. 80; Isa. 5), but in which it had utterly failed, so far as fruit was concerned. The Lord was the true Vine, and no fruit could be borne but as abiding in Him: as He said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” The disciples were to abide in His love, keeping His commandments. He calls them friends, no longer bondsmen, for all things He had heard of His Father He had made known to them. But they were to love one another. The world would hate them because they were not of it: it had however hated Him first. But when the Comforter was come, the Spirit of truth, He should bear witness concerning the Lord, and the disciples would do so likewise, because they had been with Him from the beginning.
John 16. The Lord warns the disciples of the persecution they would meet with from the world. He was about to leave them; but this was for their advantage, because the Comforter would come to them in His stead. This great event would on the one hand have its bearing on the world; and on the other, on the disciples. To the world the Holy Spirit would bring demonstration of sin, righteousness, and judgment; while the disciples would be guided by Him into all the truth. He would glorify the Son, and show to them the things of the Father which were the Son’s. The Lord would be withdrawn from them for a little while by death, but they would see Him again, as indeed they did, a foretaste of what is yet to come in a still more blessed manner. They should thus have a joy which no one could take from them, in the knowledge and enjoyment of the new relationship with the Father, into which He was introducing them. The world however would rejoice at being rid of Him: terrible testimony to its state.
The disciples failed to apprehend the true import of the Lord’s discourse about the Father, in which He assured them of the Father’s love for them, by reason of which they might henceforward address themselves immediately to Him in the name of the Son, that is, in His interests, and be assured of their petitions. For the moment they would be scattered, and, but for the Father’s presence with Him, would leave Him alone. The Lord spoke these things to them that in Him they might have peace, whereas in the world they should have tribulation.
John 17. There follows a prayer to the Father, in which, in the most affecting manner, the Lord allows us to know His desires for His own according to the counsel of the Father. It is divided into three parts; the first, down to the end of John 17:55And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:5), having reference to His own glory, and the consequent glory of the Father; the second, to John 17:1919And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19), referring to the disciples then present—the eleven; the third, to those who should believe on Him through their word. Eternal life; the revelation of the Father’s name, and the relationship with Him in which the disciples were placed in consequence; their place in the world; their oneness in the present and in the future; glory with Christ, in which all who believe share; and the love of the Father to the Lord Jesus, into which His own are brought, are some of the subjects in this portion.
John 18. Jesus in the garden is betrayed by Judas. The agony of the Lord is not recorded here, which may be owing to His being seen in this gospel as Son of God; and those sent to arrest Him fall to the ground. He is arraigned before Caiaphas and before Pilate, to whom He confesses that He is a king. The Jews choose Barabbas.
John 19. Jesus is pronounced to be guiltless, but is condemned by Pilate, after being presented to the Jews as their king. They call for His crucifixion, declaring that they have “no king but Caesar.” On the cross He commits His mother to John. Jesus having fulfilled all, Himself delivers up His spirit. From His pierced side flow blood and water (compare 1 John 5:6-86This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1 John 5:6‑8)).
John 20 records the resurrection of the blessed Lord and its result. Mary Magdalene, ignorant of the great event, but with the deepest affection for her Lord, came in the early morning of the first day of the week to the sepulcher. He was no longer there. She summoned Peter and John, who, running and looking into the sepulcher, took note of what they saw as evidence on which they believed. They then went home again. She, with less intelligence but more affection, lingered still. To her the Lord revealed Himself, and not suffering her to touch Him (no doubt as indicating that the relationship with His own was no longer of an earthly kind), He sent her with the surprising message to His disciples, “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” He put them in His own relationship as man before His Father and God. Then we have a picture of the assembly gathered in the truth of this relationship, in the midst of which He Himself took His place. He brought peace to them, assuring them that He was in very deed the same who had been pierced and nailed to the cross. He then gave them their commission: “As the Father sent Me forth, I also send you,” again pronouncing peace. Having said this, He breathed into them and said, “Receive [the] Holy Spirit.” This must not be confounded with Acts 2, in which the descent of the Holy Spirit is connected more with power. Here it corresponds with the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)). Thomas, who saw and believed, represents the Jewish remnant in the latter day, who will believe when they see the Lord.
John 21. This is on the ground of the synoptic gospels, that is to say, is dispensational in its character—the draft of fishes is identified with the work of Christ in connection with earth. Led by Peter the disciples go fishing, but catch nothing. The Lord appears to them, and tells them to cast the net on the right side of the ship; and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. There is no breaking of the net here, and 153 great fishes are secured. They now recognize the Lord, and find a dinner ready prepared, of which they are invited to partake. All this points to a resumption of the Lord’s earthly association with His people Israel, whom He will use for an abundant ingathering of souls from among the sea of nations after the close of the present period.
After this we have the full restoration of Peter in a passage of most touching grace, and obscurely the relative portion and service of both Peter and John.
It is not surprising that a book, in which the divine glory of the Son of God is especially unfolded, should be concluded by the surmise of the apostle, that the world itself could not contain all that might be written of His doings.