John 1: In the Beginning
John’s purpose in writing is actually stated toward the end of the book (John 20:30-31). His aim to write down the testimony that would lead people to the conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that by believing they may have life in His name. John begins, however, by showing that Jesus is the Creator of all. He ties Jesus back into Genesis 1, then shows that Jesus, the Word, became flesh and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). As the Word made flesh, Jesus was God’s revelation of Himself (v. 18). He is the light come into a world of darkness to bring others out of that darkness of sin. In this opening chapter, we also read about John the Immerser who had come to prepare the way for Jesus. He would be able to testify to the truth about Jesus and point people to Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” From this point, people begin following after Jesus.
John 2: The Wine and the Temple
Jesus began His public ministry with a miracle in Cana by turning the water at a wedding feast into wine. This surprised the headwaiter because it only makes sense that the best gets served first. In this case, the best was last. The water was in purification jars, which is significant for showing that Jesus was able to make something new and clean. In this miracle, Jesus fulfills what the prophets had prophesied: new wine would flow in the era of the Messiah (cf. Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13). John then tells how Jesus went to Jerusalem, to the temple, and began to overturn tables of moneychangers who were turning God’s house into a place of merchandise. By doing this, Jesus shows zeal for His own house (it is, after all, His temple!). He also shows that He is the new temple, God in the flesh, and that His own body (temple) would be raised up on the third day. These are two powerful signs that indicate the authority of Jesus and illustrate what He came to do.
John 3: You Must be Born Again
Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews who came to Jesus at night and told Him that they knew Jesus had come from God, for no one could do what Jesus did who was not from God. Jesus then told Nicodemus that he needed to be born of water and the Spirit, a likely allusion to Ezekiel 36 where God promised He would cleanse the hearts of the people and put His Spirit in them. This is fulfilled when one is washed in baptism and given the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5-6). Jesus speaks of the need to believe in Him and obey Him if anyone wants to see eternal life. We are reminded again of John the Immerser’s testimony and how important it is to listen to the voice of Jesus.
John 4: Living Water
Jesus was passing through Samaria when he came to Jacob’s well to rest. A Samaritan woman came to get water, and Jesus engaged her in conversation. He promised if anyone drinks of the water He would give, they would never thirst again. The woman misunderstood, but Jesus convinced her that He was indeed a prophet. She wanted others in the town to come and hear Him. It was remarkable that Jesus, a Jew, would speak openly with this Samaritan woman, but He shows by this that He wants all people to be saved. Jesus used the occasion to teach His disciples that there is a great harvest of souls that need to be taught. It will take hard work, so laborers are needed. Jesus continued on His journey to Galilee, coming again to Cana, where this time He performed the miracle of healing the son of nobleman. Jesus told him, “Your son will live,” illustrating that Jesus came to bring life.
John 5: Do You Want to Get Well?
Jesus is back in Jerusalem and is at a place called Bethesda. There were several pools there where those who were lame and sick would get in when the waters were stirred up. Jesus approached a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years and asked, “Do you want to get well?” Of course he did, so Jesus simply told him to pick up his mat and walk. The man instantly did this. Since this was on the Sabbath, some of the Jews were displeased with Jesus. Jesus told them that just as His Father was working, so He was working. They accused Jesus of making Himself equal with God, and Jesus essentially agreed that He was doing just that (see v. 23). Jesus then pointed to judgment and resurrection. To back up His claims He referred to a number of witnesses to His identity, including John, the Father, Moses, His works, and Scripture as a whole (see vv. 39-40). The people were being challenged to decide what they would believe about Jesus.
John 6: Bread of Life
Jesus again performs a sign by feeding thousands of people using just five loaves of bread and two fish. This was a miracle of multiplication, demonstrating His ability to abundantly care for His followers. This is followed up by John’s account of Jesus walking on the water. Both miracles show His power of nature and the elements, as well as His compassion on those are in need and those in great fear. He follows this up with a longer discussion on being the bread of life who came down out of heaven, clearly echoing the manna from heaven that God sent to feed Israel in the wilderness. Jesus told the people that they need to eat His flesh and blood. Many misunderstood what He meant and left, but Jesus’ disciples wanted to stay with him. Here Peter had one of his great insights: ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). This is the same conclusion all of us ought to come to.
John 7: No One ever Spoke like This
Jesus did not convince everyone of who He was. Even his own brothers, at this point, did not believe. The people were divided about His identity. Some thought He was a good man while others thought He was deceiving the people. Because people feared the Jews, they mostly kept their discussions private. Jesus was at the feast of booths, meant to commemorate the time Israel spent in tents in the wilderness. While others were fearful, Jesus began teaching publicly and boldly. Some accused him of having a demon. Jesus challenged their thinking and said that they really did know who He was. Some tried to seize Jesus, but He would not let them take Him just yet, for His time had not yet arrived. The chief priests and Pharisees sent their servants after Jesus, but they came back, simply saying, “No man ever spoke like this!” And no one has since either.
John 8: Know the Truth
Jesus continued testifying about His identity, fending off traps and affirming the fact that He was the light of the world. Jesus spoke about His relationship with the Father and told them that they must believe that “I am.” That phrase takes on a significant meaning in this chapter. Jesus told the Jews that His true disciples will abide in word, and “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” He was talking about freedom from sin. They tried to challenge Jesus, saying their father was Abraham, to which Jesus replied that Abraham actually had rejoiced to “my day.” How could this be, since Jesus was so young? “Before Abraham was, I am,” said Jesus (v. 58). This would take the people back to Exodus 3:14 where God had revealed Himself in those terms to Moses. Jesus was indeed claiming to be the “I AM.” They knew the implications of what He said, and they tried to kill Him there for blasphemy. Yet again, it was not His time to die.
John 9: Light of the World
Jesus, once again, proclaims Himself to be the light of the world. In this chapter, He would prove the claim by healing a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples had asked if the man was blind because of some sin he or his parents committed, but Jesus told them that’s not the case. Rather, it was so that God’s works would be displayed. Jesus made the blind man to see, and the man was brought to the Pharisees to explain it. He only knew that though he was blind, now he sees, and they were not willing to accept this. They wanted to know who Jesus was. The formerly blind man could see what they were doing, and he told them if Jesus were not from God, He would not be able to do this. They threw the man out of the synagogue. Jesus came back to the man and asked if He believed. Jesus said that He came into the world “that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (v. 39). This challenges all of us to check our own spiritual sight.
John 10: The Good Shepherd
Jesus uses several metaphors to describe His relationship with His people. In this chapter, Jesus calls Himself “the Good Shepherd.” He knows His sheep, and His sheep know and hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus also describes Himself as the door of the sheep. The only way to find the blessings of the abundant life that Jesus offers is to go through Him. As the Good Shepherd, He laid down His life for the sheep. Yet He would also take it up again (resurrection). Though people were divided about who Jesus was, Jesus continued to press His point, saying that His sheep know Him, and He offers them eternal life. Then He made the stunning claim that He and the Father are one (v. 30). At this point, the leaders were unsuccessful in killing Jesus. The time was not yet.
John 11: Resurrection and Life
Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, and close friend of Jesus, was sick and died. When told about this, Jesus waited where He was rather than going to heal Lazarus right away. He had a plan, and there was no doubt that Lazarus died. At that point Jesus went to where Lazarus was. Martha approached Him and told Him that if He had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, for Jesus is the “resurrection and the life” (vv. 25-26). Jesus’ care is evident throughout the text, even weeping at one point. Yet the people were still not believing. Jesus told them to remove the stone, and He spoke to Lazarus, telling him to come forth. Lazarus did so. This miracle still did not satisfy the rulers. They doubled down and plotted to kill Jesus.
John 12: Lifted Up
Time was getting short before Jesus would go to the cross. Jesus was in Bethany eating with his close friends when Mary, Martha’s and Lazarus’ sister, took costly perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet, followed by wiping His feet with her hair. Judas, the Lord’s betrayer, was annoyed by this because he thought it was a waste. Jesus told him to leave her alone. She was doing good. Subsequently, Jesus entered Jerusalem as some greeted Him as they would a king (as was fitting). Some of the Greeks were seeking to see Jesus. Jesus recognized that His “hour” had come “to be glorified.” He began talking about His death, proclaiming, “I, If I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (v. 32). He was still the Light walking among them offering salvation. However, those who reject Him will be judged by His words (v. 48).
John 13: Love One Another
Jesus ate with His disciples, but during supper He got up and girded Himself with a towel so that He could wash the disciples’ feet. This was an incredible display of humility and service. It was also an act that symbolized the cleansing that He would bring. He taught His disciples to show this type of humble service. After all, If Jesus could do this, why should disciples refuse? Jesus then predicted that one of the disciples would betray Him. We know this is Judas, who then left disciples to do Satan’s bidding. Jesus, undaunted and fixed on His task, told the disciples He would be glorified. The task given to them at this point was that they were to love one another, even as Jesus had loved them (vv. 34-35). Love is a signal trait of the disciples of Jesus Christ.
John 14: The Way, Truth, and Life
In chapters 14-16, Jesus addresses His disciples in a special way, providing comfort and helping them understand His purposes better. Jesus promised that He would prepare a place and come again to “receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” They asked Jesus to show the way, to which He responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (v. 6). Jesus also promised that the Father would give them “another Helper,” the Holy Spirit, who would teach them all things and “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (v. 26). In the midst of this talk, Jesus reminded of what love does, especially the love they have for Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (v. 15). Indeed, loving the Lord will mean that we are submitting to His will.
John 15: Greatest Love
Jesus speaks of Himself as the vine with His disciples as the branches. If any are going to prosper as disciples of Jesus, they need to abide in Him so that they can bear much fruit in His service. Those who do not abide in Him and His love are cast away “into the fire and they are burned” (v. 6). This metaphor is important for seeing how important it is to stay securely attached to Jesus. In this context, Jesus also spoke of love, telling them, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you” (vv. 13-14). Jesus then told them that disciples, like the Mater, would suffer persecution at the hands of the world. He also reconfirmed the comfort that would be brought by the Spirit who would testify about Jesus though them.
John 16: The Promised Spirit
In continuing His promise that the Holy Spirit would come, Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit would accomplish several works. He would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (v. 8). Though Jesus wanted to say more, He knew the disciples could not handle it all at once. Jesus promised, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (vv. 12-13). Jesus told them that they would see Him again, though they would have grief for a time. Though the world would bring them through tribulation, they should take courage, for Jesus has overcome the world (v. 33). This remains true yet today.
John 17: A Priestly Prayer
In true priestly fashion, Jesus interceded on behalf of His disciples to the Father. Jesus longed to be with the Father again, but continued in His care for the disciples. He prayed that they would be sanctified by the truth, God’s word (v. 17). As He sent them into the world to teach others, He prayed for their success. Then He prayed for those who would believe on Him through the message that these disciples would preach, a prayer that affects believers even now. This prayer includes God’s desire that all believers may be one, just as the Father and Son are one, “that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (v. 21). This prayer should ring loud for disciples of all times. Jesus, even now, ever lives to make intercession on our behalf (Heb 7:25).
John 18: A King and His Kingdom
The time had come. Jesus took the disciples to the garden, a place Judas knew well. Judas came with a Roman cohort along with officers of the chief priests and Pharisees. He asked who they were seeking, and they said, “Jesus, the Nazarene.” When He responded, “I am” (literally), they drew back and fell to the ground. In the excitement, Peter took a sword and, likely in an effort to cut off the head, sliced off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. We learn elsewhere that Jesus healed him (Luke 22:51). Jesus would now be taken captive into the trials that would lead to His crucifixion. He is first brought before Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pilate. We are told of Peter’s denials, also. Before Pilate, Jesus defended His kingdom as not being of this world. He is a King indeed, but not like those of any earthly kingdoms. His is a kingdom of truth, and “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (v. 37).
John 19: Crucify!
The trials of Jesus continue. Pilate had Jesus taken and scourged. The soldiers twisted a crown of thorns to place on His head. They gave Him a purple robe and mocked Him as King of the Jews. Pilate brought Jesus out before the people and said, “Behold, the Man!” The chief priests and officers began to cry out, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate had found no guilt in Jesus, so he told them to do it themselves. They insisted they could not, and Pilate, fearful of the situation, went back in one more time to talk with Jesus. He brought Jesus back out and said, “Behold, your King!” Again, they demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus, so Pilate gave in and handed Jesus over to die. Jesus was henceforth crucified. While on the cross, He showed concern for His mother, given charge to care for her over to John. Finally, His work was finished. He had accomplished the task and gave up His spirit. Some disciples took Jesus’ body and buried Him in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.
John 20: Up from the Grave
On the first day of the week, some women came to the tomb. John records that Mary Magdalene came and saw that the stone was already taken from the opening of the tomb. Jesus was gone! She told Peter and John, who came rushing to the tomb to see. They saw the grave clothes, but not Jesus. Jesus then appeared to Mary, who went back to the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord.” In the evening, Jesus then appeared to the disciples. At first, all were present but Thomas, who needed further convincing. Jesus appeared again and gave Thomas the proof, to which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Here John affirms His purpose for writing (vv. 30-31): “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John 21: The World Cannot Contain
Jesus next appeared to His disciples at the Sea of Galilee, interacting and eating with them. He truly was raised from the dead! As the disciples fished, their catch of fish was great and net was not breaking. After breakfast, Jesus took Peter aside and asked him three times, “Do you love Me?” The three times corresponds with the three times that Peter denied Jesus. Jesus predicted the kind of death Peter would die, and by which he would glorify God. Peter asked about John, too, though Jesus told him that it was not really his business. John ends his account here, telling the readers that Jesus did many more things that, if all written down, the world cannot contain the books.