The Gospel of John aims to persuade readers that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
The means by which the Gospel communicates its purpose is eye-witness testimony. The evangelist identifies himself as “the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24).
Putting the purpose and mode of delivery together, we can say that John as an eyewitness of Jesus Christ carefully selected and organized his Gospel book so that readers would believe and have life in the name of Jesus, the Christ and the Son of God.
The Gospel book splits into two halves. Chapters 1–11 narrate seven miracles of Jesus that John calls “signs.” Each sign signifies that Jesus does the works of the Father so that readers might identify the Son with the Father (John 10:37–38).
Part 1: seven signs:
- Jesus turns water into wine (2:1–11)
- Jesus heals the royal official’s son (4:46–54)
- Jesus heals the paralytic at Bethesda (5:1–16)
- Jesus feeds five thousand (6:1–14)
- Jesus walks on water (6:16–21)
- Jesus heals a blind man (9:1–41)
- Jesus raises Lazareth from the dead (11:38–43)
After the seven signs, the narrative takes a sharp turn. The religious leaders set their minds to kill Jesus (11:53) and Lazarus (12:10). Jesus marks this difference by asserting, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (12:23; cf. 2:4). In John, Jesus’ glorification comes by way his humiliation, his Passion.
Part 2: the passion of Christ: Chapters 13–18 chronicle the night before Jesus’ death during the Pascha meal (Thursday) before Jesus dies on Friday via crucifixion (18:28–19:42). Three days later Jesus rises from the dead and gives final words to his disciples (chs 20–21).
Early Christians called John “the Theologian” and described his Gospel book by the image of an Eagle because, as Gregory of Nazianzus notes, John soars above the rest. What we have in the Gospel of John is eyewitness testimony reflected upon and meditated upon for about sixty years. John wrote the Gospel in the 90s—a full sixty years after Jesus.
From the testimony of early Christians like Papias, we know that John spent that time retelling the story of Jesus along with other disciples. Imagine telling the same story for sixty years. We would become experts. John did and became an expert. He gives us a unique insight through his eyesight into a deeper understanding of Jesus.
The prologue to the Gospel already shows how deeply John reflected on the person of Jesus. Jesus, we learn, is the Logos of God (John 1:1) who became flesh (John 1:14) in order to make God known (John 1:18).
Throughout this Gospel, we see through the eyes of John what he came to realize through spiritual sight. We see with John past the veil to gaze upon the face of Jesus the glorified incarnate one who ascended the cross for us and for our salvation. So take up and read—eat up this book of life, eternal life.