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John’s Gospel: The Gospel To The World

John’s Gospel: The Gospel To The World

by Mike Prah on November 11, 2019

There is evidence that the Apostle John sought to portray his gospel as the gospel to the world beyond the Jews of his day. Leon Morris states, “What makes [John’s] gospel so unique is the depth of its simplicity. It is written in a style that allows us to see and hear Jesus Christ as He speaks, not only to the people of His day but to the people of our day as well. ” John portrays Jesus as the Savior of the World.

John had a solid grasp of the Old Testament and the Jewish traditions, and he sought to leverage that in bringing the good news to the Jews and the world. An example of that is his portrayal of Jesus as the good Shepherd. John 10 depicts Jesus as the door to the sheepfold (vv. 7, 9) and as the Good Shepherd of the sheep (vv. 11, 14). This image is universally familiar to all people including  the Jews because the Hebrew Scriptures often depict Israel's leaders as shepherds (Num. 27:16f.; Ezek. 31:1-24). The passage in the gospel implies that Jesus as a real Shepherd-leader is able and willing to provide, protect, and lead his followers. Köstenberger states, “In keeping with Old Testament imagery, John depicts believers in Jesus as Jesus’ “flock” (Köstenberger, 30), an identity that is universally understood.

Next, John introduces Jesus as “Messiah” (John 1:41), meaning “Anointed One.” In the Old Testament, Kings, Priests, and leaders were anointed. To the Jew, anointing was the decisive act in making someone king, for we read such things as “they had anointed him king in place of his father” (I Kings 5:1); “I anoint you king over Israel” (2 Kings 9:3). John alludes to Jesus’ Messiahship in his account of Mary’s anointing of Jesus (John 12:1-8) (Morris, 70,71) and paints a picture of a King who is available to all people.

Also, according to John 2:18-22, the concept of  Jerusalem Temple as the dwelling of God is replaced with Jesus’ body. No longer is worship to be exclusively based in a Jerusalem temple with sacrifices, because, "God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Further, John quotes Jesus in John 1:59, “Very truly I tell you, you will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” This implies that Jesus replaced Israel as the place where God’s glory is revealed.  

Another inference that John’s gospel is for all people is found in the words of John the Baptist in John 1:29, 36: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John’s gospel portrays more understanding of what the first-century Jewish culture was like than any of the other gospels. In Jewish circles, typical symbols for the Law of Moses included bread, light, water, and wine. The Apostle John fused these symbols into his gospel by depicting Jesus as the living bread from heaven (John 6:32-38) and the light of the world (John 1:4, 9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 11:46). John recorded Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine as his first miracle at a wedding as a symbol of transforming Jewish purification. (John 2). He also contrasts the water from Jacob's well with his own living water (John 4:12-15). 

The Apostle John obviously was well versed in Old Testament language, so he sought to connect the events and life of Jesus to the history to the Jewish people to persuade them to believe that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah as well as expose Him to a non-Jewish audience using universally relatable imagery. According to Alan Davies, Bible scholars suggest that John’s gospel was intended as a missionary tract for Jews and non-Jews to introduce them to the Savior of the world.



Davies, Alan T. ed. Antisemitism and the Foundations of Christianity. Pages 72-97. Paulist Press, 1979.

Köstenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and the Theological Perspective. Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is The Christ, Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1989.


Tags: john, gospel

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