Leap of Faith: Daily Lessons About Jesus Christ
Chapter: The Life of John and Jesus (Pages 291-297)
John ( Jehovah has been gracious) is the name of five men in the New Testament…
The sources for the life of John are relatively vague. The majority of what is found in the New Testament and what has been preserved by tradition. We are really only able to obtain a fragmentary account of his life.
John was the son of Zebedee and brother of James the Apostle, who was put to death by Herod Agrippa I about A.D. 44. It may be reasonably inferred that his mother was Salome and that she was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Salome was one of the women who ministered to Jesus and who also anointed the body of Jesus with spices and various oils. The fact that John knew the high priest well enough to gain entrance to the court where Jesus was tried and could get permission for Peter to enter also suggests that the family was not exactly poor.
John is first introduced as a disciple of John the Baptist ( John 1:35). John was called by John the Baptist to repentance and baptism in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. In his gospel he tells how he first met Jesus and became His disciple (1 John 35-39). One day as he stood with Andrew and John the Baptist, he heard his master say, as Jesus walked by, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
We may recognize this figure as the Holy Ghost.
Since Jesus did not baptize, he undoubtedly helped in the administration of the baptismal rite (John 4:2). After hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus returned to Galilee. A probable factor in His leaving Judaea was the fact that He was acquiring an even larger following than the Baptist, and the Jewish priests were becoming curious.
The gospels make clear that John was one of the most prominent of the apostles, and his own gospel makes clear that he was greatly loved by Jesus.
John was a loyal witness throughout the crucifixion and stood near the cross, on which Jesus was nailed, and there received Jesus’s commission to look after His mother ( John 19:26).
In the account of the appearance of the risen Lord in Galilee, it is John who first recognizes Jesus ( John 21:1-7), and in the scene that follows, the impression is corrected that John should not die before the Lord’s return. This is vital to understanding prophecy.
IntherestoftheNewTestament,thereareonlyafewscattered references to John. After the ascension of Jesus, in a spiritual form again, he remained in Jerusalem praying and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Five books of the New Testament are attributed to him—the fourth gospel, three epistles, and Revelation. The only one his name actually appears is the last.
The book of Revelation was written in the Isle of Patmos where he was exiled for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:9).
It is evident from all that we know of John that he was one of the greatest of the apostles. He is described as the disciple Jesus loved no doubt because of his understanding of and love for his Lord. The defects of character with which he began his life as a loyal servant to God were undue, vehemence, intolerance, and selfish ambition. However, over the course of time, these were brought under control, and John became especially known for his gentleness and kindly love.
In regards to the role of John the Baptist, he is the immediate forerunner of Jesus sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. John was of priestly descent on the side of both his parents. He was born in a city of the hill country of southern Judaea about six months before the birth of Jesus. His parents were then old. His birth had been foretold by an angel to Zecharias while he was serving in the temple. The angel told Zecharias that his prayer would be answered and that his wife would give birth to a son who was to be named John and who was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
His mission was to prepare the people for the advent of the Messiah so that when he made his appearance they would recognize and accept him. He said that the Messiah would separate the good from the bad and would cast into the fire any tree, which did not bring forth good fruit. He called upon the people to repent of their sins and to be baptized. His baptism prepared man for a new condition. His baptism was a baptism of water only in preparation for the Messianic baptism of the Spirit, which is true baptism.
John did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon him at his baptism ( John 1:32-34). When Jesus came to him for baptism, he saw that he had no sin of which to repent for and would have refused had Jesus not insisted, saying that it was necessary for him to fulfill all righteousness.
Shortly after, John said to two of his disciples as they saw Jesus pass by, “Behold the Lamb of God,” which shows that he recognized the meaning of his own mission.
John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” and that he was not the Messiah, but only the forerunner of the Messiah ( John 3:30 (nasb)).
Jesus began his ministry in Galilee after John was put in prison, and he was in prison approximately seven months. At that time he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire whether he really was the Messiah. When the two disciples returned to John, Jesus
declared him to be more than a prophet and God’s messenger sent to prepare the way for Him (Matt. 11:10-19).
The gospels tell us that John met his death by the jealousy and hatred of Herod, whom John had denounced. Josephus also attributes John’s death to Herod’s jealousy of his great influence with the people.
The author of the fourth gospel does not give his name in either the epistle or the gospel, but the early church attributed both works to the Apostle John, and this attribution is supported by the internal evidence of both books. The writer of the epistle speaks with authority, as an apostle would. He knows the identity of Jesus Christ and possesses the first-hand knowledge of the facts that underlie the gospel message.
This fourth gospel was written late in the life of John and was intended to warn the readers against false teachers who are trying to mislead them and to empower them to hold fast to the Christian faith, which they have received, embracing brotherly love, which flow from it. John teaches us to beware of false teachers, called antichrists, who deny that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. These antichrists deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. John makes a clear warning to those who have denied that Jesus has come in the flesh as well as pointing out where the churches are in error. Try to imagine a modern day John.
There has never been a book that has made a higher claim for its “hero” than the Gospel of John. John refers to Jesus with the most exalted titles. In fact, in every opening verse he calls him God. No one knew Jesus better than he did. He walked with him from day to day. He reclined on his bosom. He stood by his cross. He entered his tomb. Yet he does not shrink from proclaiming that this Jesus of history, whom he knew well, was and is himself God. This can be traced back to the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Now the author states his purpose as follows:
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written 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 20:30-31 (niv)
Recall that at the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove.
In the Gospel of John, we see it is emphatically the spiritual gospel, whose aim is to show who Jesus is. Much of what is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is here omitted, and on the other hand, much material is added, the type of material that brings into clear focus the glory of the Lord: His Messianic office and deity.
The arrangement of John’s Gospel is superb. We see the Word in His pre-incarnate glory, so that His condescending love in the salvation of sinners may be deeply appreciated. In his earthly ministry, he reveals himself to ever-widening circles but is rejected both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Nevertheless, he makes his appeal to sinners that they may accept him. Meanwhile, opposition grows into bitter resistance. In his very death he overcomes the world and brings to completion the glorious work of redemption, and by means of his resurrection and loving manifestations, he proves his claims and reveals himself as the true Son of God.
When we consider Jesus’s life, we must consider the legendary development of a resurrection story. To fully understand the depths of the transfiguration, it would take years, perhaps lifetimes, to explore it—the presence of God returning fully into the person of Jesus Christ.
The transfiguration refers to the appearance of Jesus Christ in a glorified form, especially when referring to his disciples. A voice was heard that declared Jesus to be the beloved Son.
John 13:22-23 (nasb) says, “The disciples began looking at one another, as a loss to know of which one He was speaking. There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
John 19:25-26 (nasb) says:
“Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
John 21:7 (nasb) says, “That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’”
The transfiguration story places Jesus on the same level as the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), making him the true source of divine truth for those who are willing to embrace him. Some regard the transfiguration as a misplaced resurrection narrative, while others think it might be a report of a mystical experience, which some disciples had while in Jesus’s presence. Often as Jesus prayed, he was transfigured before them, especially in his facial appearance.
The transfiguration reveals Jesus’s true divine nature to break out of his human form. When I think about this, I believe this is similar to Superman. He only transformed himself into his divine form when he needed to do so. He would transform himself in order to heal or to reassure those that believed in him that he was the Son of God.
In the life of John throughout the Bible, we are able to see the transition from one man to another. Through the eyes of John, we can envision the life of Christ. John paints a picture for us to see the transformation of John’s life to the coming of the Messiah. John is transformed from one life to another in a spiritual or supernatural sense. For those who are not believers, this will be a difficult or impossible concept to grasp. It is all a step-by-step process that leads up to the revelation of the Messiah.
In the New Testament, we are not told much about the early life of Christ as a man. I believe that Jesus had to learn, as any man, throughout many different stages in his life, what his Father desired of him as the Son of God. He learned how to teach and prophesy to all peoples. He dropped his prior understanding of the world and underwent a great deal of education on many different levels in order to be able to minister to people from all walks of life. When the time came, around the age of thirty, Jesus began his ministry and writing.
The life of John is the example of how by putting our full trust in Jesus Christ, that he came in the flesh as a man, we are rewarded with Eternal Life…