Allow me to introduce…Jesus!

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Sunday school
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(On Mondays I will be presenting an abbreviated version of the Sunday school lessons I teach at my home church. We are studying the Gospel of John, verse-by-verse, with the focus of seeing Jesus as the Apostle wants us to…as the holy Son of God, the Messiah prophesied by all of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption.  Once we see Him, we will have to believe, and thus be saved.  Scripture references are NIV unless otherwise noted.)

An important part of studying the bible is to be aware of the original audience for the writings, and the intent of the author in each particular case. For example,  in 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul is writing to encourage and instruct his young apprentice pastor as he begins to shepherd his own flock; while in Acts, the good doctor Luke is writing to preserve an accurate record of the activities and testimonies of the earliest church, as a continuation of his work in the Gospel which bears his name (you can almost imagine Acts as 2 Luke, if that helps maintain the narrative continuity). These are very different things, while both being similar in vital aspects: both are inspired writings, directed by the Holy Spirit, and are therefore trustworthy; both speak to events and issues relevant and present today, just as they were in biblical times; and both contain God’s plan for us – a relationship with Him based upon our acceptance of the grace He has given us in His son Jesus, sent to redeem the lost from death, and give eternal life.  But these books require an awareness of context for us to be able to understand both what is being said, and how it applies to us. Even within books of similar nature, as the Gospels, the differences matter. Let’s look at the first four books of the New Testament a little closer.

The Gospels collectively narrate the life and earthly ministry of Jesus…from the circumstances around His birth, ending with His return to heaven after rising from the grave. Three of these – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – parallel very closely, leading to the term Synoptic Gospels (from the Greek syn- together and -opsis view:  many looking at the same thing at the same time). The Gospel of John, however, is markedly different…it passes over certain themes (Jesus’ birth and early life), and magnifies others (the last week of Jesus’ life occupies nearly half of the book). Most scholars agree that one reason for this is that John wrote his Gospel much later in life, after he had been a pastor and elder for some time, leading the churches in Ephesus and Asia Minor, and training up the leaders who followed after him. John has a very clear agenda in how he selects and presents the actions and words of Jesus, and he helpfully reveals his exact intent right within the book:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

John 20:30-31

As we go through John’s account of the signs of Jesus, we must keep this focus in mind…we need to read this book looking for Jesus…and we need to be ready to accept the consequences of whatever truth we find.

Next week we will begin in Chapter One, verses 1-18, the “prologue” to the Gospel. John uses this passage as a “course summary” of all that is to be revealed, so we want to be sure we understand the assumptions for our discussion.

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