Over several days, the Lord gave three clear intimations that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, but the disciples, then Martha, in varying degrees, could not take in His words. Faith triumphed in the end, and here is the history of growing conviction.
The Gospel of John is a book disarmingly simple in language, and yet so spiritual in tone, so profound and so substantial in content.
It is written by the apostle John, one of the three ‘inner-circle’ disciples; the disciple who never mentions himself. It has been said that he would have known Christ better than any other disciple; he was next to Christ at the Last Supper; he stood at the Cross; he was the first to look into the sepulchre; and the first to grasp the wonder and amazing nature of the resurrection of Christ. He died as a very old man in Ephesus, so tradition tells us.
It is clearly the last of the gospels, since it assumes that the reader is familiar with the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It does not repeat many of the things in the other gospels, but speaks as though we are aware of them already.
But this is not just a ‘fourth gospel’; it has a very distinctive purpose and a style all of its own. It doesn’t contradict in any way the other three gospels. It doesn’t attempt to correct them or anything of that kind. It is not strictly biographical; in fact it is less biographical of Christ and his work than the other three gospels. The others prove that the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ: John does not attempt to do that. The others among them provide a genealogy for Christ: John does not do that either. There is the Sermon on the Mount: John passes over it, though he was there. There are all those wonderful parables: John doesn’t give us the parables.
This gospel has a different purpose: it focuses on the divinity of Christ and on the glory of Christ. John is inspired to write his gospel with a lot of analysis, proving that Jesus was the Christ, plumbing the depths of the gospel message and showing what union with Christ really is. Unlike the other gospels it devotes special attention (five chapters) to the final instruction which Christ gave privately to his disciples just before Calvary.
John is clearly an eyewitness. There are many little things mentioned in his gospel that are not mentioned in the other gospels. He even tells you the time that certain incidents took place. Seven whole chapters (13-19) of this gospel are devoted to a period of just twenty-four hours.
We often look at this gospel to find evangelistic doctrines, for John tells us ‘These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name’ (20:31), but the book also contains many exalted views of Christ for the deepening of our faith.
This magnificent gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is full of vital doctrine and insight, showing staggering concepts of faith – just what we need to realise our privileges in Christ, and to be lifted up almost to the heavens.