The first four books of the New Testament on the life of Jesus are called Gospels for a reason. They are not biographies. These four books do not include a lot of information that regular biographies are made up of. In fact, the latter half of Matthew, Mark, and Luke describes the last journey Jesus undertook—from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem. The evangelists focused on Jesus’ resolute march to his cross!
The evangelists wished to highlight Jesus’ sufferings, death, and his resurrection. Their goal was to announce the good news that Jesus had conquered sin and death to reign as Messiah, and to redeem who trusted Him!
Although all four accounts of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry are similar enough to be called “Gospels,” the first three – Matthew, Mark and Luke – are known as Synoptic Gospels. The term synoptic indicates a similarity in perspective. John’s perspective, however, is unique in more than one way.
One of the ways John is different from the Synoptic Gospels is the way it introduces the theme of the Cross. The Synoptic Gospels introduce this theme by citing Jesus’ prediction of his own death after Peter confessed his faith at Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:21 Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22). Until then, the three evangelists remained more or less silent about it. Luke made a fleeting reference to the “sword” that would pierce Mary’s heart (Luke 2:35). In John’s Gospel, however, the shadow of the Cross looms large across the book. Right in the first chapter, we read of John the Baptist’s introduction of Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29, 36).
In chapter three, John included Jesus’ prediction of his own death and the manner in which he would die.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. … (3:14-15 ESV)
lifted up” was a euphemism for crucifixion.
Going beyond the inclusion of such predictions, John set a clock ticking in his Gospel! You can almost hear it, if you care to read the book in one sitting. There are frequent references to an “
hour” that was fast approaching.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee … Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (2:1-4 ESV)
Was Jesus’ reference to an
hour just a casual statement about some auspicious time to intervene and solve the problem of insufficient wine? As we read on, we get a clearer picture of
So they [the Jews] were seeking to arrest him [Jesus], but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. (7:30 ESV)
These words he [Jesus] spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. (8:20 ESV)
Surely, John was referring to “the hour” of Jesus’ arrest, trial and sufferings. But that’s not all. John wrote his gospel to a certain drumbeat that did not just warn of impending danger to Jesus’ life but one that promised his readers a new hope. The “hour” of Jesus’ passion, in the Messiah’s own words, was the hour of victory over the “the ruler of this world.”
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:27-32 ESV)
Certainly, the hour was the hour of Jesus’ suffering and of subsequent glorification. The hour was at hand! Observe the context of Jesus’ declaration of that momentous truth! Jesus had just entered the city of Jerusalem. Hundreds of people in Jerusalem heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus four days after he was buried (12:9, 12). They were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah who would restore their national fortunes. When they saw him approach Jerusalem, they spread their clothes on the streets to welcome him into the royal city. They shouted, “Hosanna! [Save us!] Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Even a few Greeks sought his audience. That’s when he dropped the bomb!
Contrary to people’s expectations, Jesus wasn’t going to topple any ruler or cast out the occupying Roman forces. He was engaged in a spiritual battle on a higher plane to cast the devil out of his self-assumed office – “the ruler of this world.” He wanted to destroy the prison gates that kept humanity in slavery to sin, and lead them out into the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, Jesus would eventually be exalted and glorified as the King of kings. An era of a new universal order of worship that is not restricted to a holy city or holy place would be ushered in (4:23). Even the dead would hear the voice of the Son of Man and be raised! (5:25, 28). However, first, he had to descend into the valley of shadow of death along the Way of the Cross. His prediction of an imminent crucifixion – “when I am lifted up from the earth” – might have shocked his disciples.
To prepare his disciples for the tumultuous days ahead of them, Jesus spent some quality time with them. A detailed account of the private time spent with them is found only in John’s Gospel. We read about it in chapters thirteen through sixteen.
Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (13:1 ASV)
Jesus had a few important things to say about “the hour”—things pertaining not just to him but also to his disciples.
I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. … But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. (16:2-4 ESV)
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. … In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (16:32-33 ESV)
When his hour of sufferings came, Jesus faced it boldly. After accomplishing everything the Father had assigned to him, he faced death head-on.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (19:30 ESV)
What a sense of mission! What a perfect life! John is the only Gospel that bears witness to those magnificent words of Jesus.
John’s purpose in writing this Gospel was to lead readers to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus made eternal life available to us through his death and resurrection. Jesus became the “lamb of God” to take away our sins. Even after His glorification, the King of kings continues to be known as “the Lamb” (cf Rev. 5:12) Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross is central to the Gospel. It should be accorded the center stage in our worship, service, and all areas of our life.
Freely have you received; freely give. If you liked this Bible study, please share it with your loved ones. Thank you.
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