The most quoted passage of scripture, emblazoned on billboards, banners and bumper stickers is of course John 3:16. Evangelicals love the gospel of John. It’s the first book we encourage people to read. We hand out individual bound John booklets by the thousands. But its more than just for John 3:16. We use John in evangelism because of 6 (SIMPLE) ways John is able to reach just about everyone.
The simpler your selection and arrangement of words the easier your writing is for people to read. Not surprisingly these are the fundamentals of John’s style. John writes short sentences and uses few words. For instance, although John is longer than the gospel of Mark (by more than 4,000 words) he use 300 less vocabulary words. Notice how John uses few words in His introduction.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
It’s comparable to a book for beginning readers. Though I hesitate, for various reasons, to compare John to Dr. Seuss, teachers of Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, regularly test beginning students with passages from John.
Most of us are visual learners to one degree or another. We often understand pictures better than words. And John excels at providing them. Metaphors abound. Jesus’ “I Am” sayings paint mental pictures. “I am the bread of life,” “I am the good shepherd,” and “I am the door of the sheep,” Jesus says. One could speak in a whole host of theological phrases and never capture these thought so eloquently.
M:Movie like Quality
John fits the dramatic form we enjoy best. While scenes and dialogues in the first three gospels are typically short, episodic and involve no more than one or two lines, John depicts Jesus in lengthy discussions with multiple changes of topic and character. Who can forget Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman or the interrogation of the man once blind? Read chapter 8. Marvel how John’s dialogue conveys an escalating tension between Jesus and the Jews.
The Jesus of John is a figure that stands beyond history. This is in part due to the subject of Jesus’ teaching. “I” appears on Jesus lips more than double any of the first three gospels. He talks more about himself and his relationship with his followers than any other subject.
Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
But on occasion Jesus appears to address people beyond the historical events themselves. In 12:36, Jesus departs and hides himself from the crowd. The narrator follows, summarizing and offer some interpretation of His overall ministry. Suddenly Jesus cries out in John 12:44
Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me…
Who is he talking to? No one else is around except the reader. I have the distinct impression He’s talking to you and me. John conveys a similar feeling when in chapter 17 Jesus prays for those who will come to believe. That’s us!
The personal nature of Jesus message and the way he delivers it collapses the 2,000 year divide separating us from the events described. It’s as if Jesus as an actor turns and speaks directly to the camera. His words are not just spoken then and there. They are spoken here and now.
It’s interesting that John lacks a lot of hands-on application. In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, tells them what he thinks about divorce and so on. But in John the only hands-on application we find is this.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Love is the heart of the Gospel of John. He is the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and the author of John 3:16, “For God so loved…”
But Love isn’t the only important issue in John. Belief in Jesus is the gospels bottom line. While the word belief occurs 11 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark and 9 times in Luke it occurs 98 times in John, three times the first three gospels combined. Belief is the purpose for all that John writes. He tells us plainly
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Like a school bus driver who limits the number of rules so that her young passengers can remember to obey them, John narrows the list of commands to belief and love.
What do you think? Why do you love the Gospel of John?