Why John Wrote
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 20:30 (Holman) Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.
Compared to any standard biography, John’s Gospel is dwarfed. Yet this tiny book, and its three counterparts, altered the history of the world.
John by no means wrote all he knew about Jesus. The four Gospel writers had no shortage of information at their disposal. They did not have to scrounge around for details. Their problem was deleting information, not gathering it.
Jesus did not do His works in a corner. The disciples saw miracle after miracle after miracle. The amount of information available was overwhelming. Many other miracles occurred. All were worthy of being written down, but the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to be selective in their writings.
Biographers and historians collect every detail they can about a famous person who has died. Information is all we can gather about a dead person.
When dealing with a live person, it is only necessary to introduce us to that person. From then on, the two of us can learn about one another on our own. The Apostles were not seeking data on a dead person. Jesus was alive. They merely wanted to provide enough information to introduce Him to us. From that point on, we on our own come to know Jesus better.
John 20:31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
John, who also wrote Revelation, was a master of hidden meanings. We often follow a hidden path traced by the delicate pencil of our author, the great dramatic genius (Maclaren).
John wrote for three reasons. One, to convince us Jesus is the foretold Messiah. We seek and await no other. Jesus, the promised King of Israel, Prophet, and High Priest, fulfilled Old Testament expectation. Two, he wrote to convince us Jesus is God’s Son. He is a Son by nature, not adoption. Jesus is God of very God. Three, John wrote to inspire faith. Believing in Jesus is the basis of our Justification, source of our Sanctification, and cause of our Glorification.
John made no pretense. He did not write an impartial history. He was out to win converts, to convince people to believe in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit knew how much information was needed for us to have faith. Enough about Jesus has been recorded. Readers have adequate evidence to decide for or against Jesus. If people won’t believe based on what has been written, they would not believe had the Gospels been thousands of pages long.
The Holy Spirit allowed neither too much nor too little to be known about Jesus. We have enough information to convince those willing to be convinced, and enough to condemn those unwilling to be convinced.
The Gospel of John revolves around seven miracles John called signs. He used this term because the miracles were not an end in and of themselves. Jesus did not perform supernatural acts to dazzle, or put on a show. His mighty works conveyed a message. Having a meaning behind the deed, each sign pointed to the three truths, Jesus is Messiah, Jesus is God, and faith in Jesus produces life.
John 1-3 contains the first sign, Jesus’ turning of water into wine (John 2:1-11). Judaism had run its course. Its greatest prophet said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Judiasm was so corrupt that the Temple had to be cleansed (2:15), and its greatest leaders, represented by Nicodemus, did not understand the simplest truths about knowing God (3:10). It was time for something new. The One for whom Judaism existed had come.
Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (1:41), and Nathanael confessed to Jesus, “You are the Son of God!” (1:49a). These are beautiful words, impressive claims; where is the proof? The sign was Jesus’ turning of water into wine. The six water pots pictured Judaism’s cleansing rituals, a system now being replaced by something better, an improvement pictured by the excellent quality of wine Christ made. Henceforth external rites yielded to internal matters.
Israel’s hope had arrived, and thus was penned history’s sublimest sentence, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (3:16 KJV).
Chapter 4 has the second sign, healing a boy from a distance (4:50-54). When the Samaritan woman mentioned the coming Messiah, Jesus said, “I am He” (4:26a). He told her He could give her living water (4:10). The latter was a claim to deity. Jeremiah 17:13 described YHWH as the fountain of living water.
These were well-spoken words about Messiahship and Deity, but where was the evidence, the sign? Jesus told her, “God is Spirit” (4:24), transcending time and space, unbound by limits. If Jesus is God, the same should be evident in His life. Jesus proved this was the case through a sign. When a nobleman asked Him to come to his home and heal his critically ill son, Jesus did not have to make the trip. He told the man to go home. When he arrived, his son was healed.
Jesus is God, not limited by time and space. He can live in all our hearts at the same time. His power and presence are unbounded. The Samaritans “believed in Him” (4:39) as being “the Savior of the world” (4:42). We too can believe.
Chapter 5 records the third sign, Jesus’ healing of a lame man (5:1-9). At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus healed a man who had been crippled 38 years. After this mighty deed, Jesus boldly claimed to be the fulfiller of Old Testament predictions. He said the Scriptures “testify about Me” (5:39). Jesus used this miracle as an occasion to say God was His Father. The Jews tried to kill Him for this, because He was claiming equality with God (5:18).
Jesus’ enemies opposed Him. They refused to believe in Him, but the evidence overwhelmingly refuted them. He said, “Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life” (5:24).
Chapter 6 has the fourth sign, which had two miracles, the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two small fish (6:1-13), and Jesus walking on the water (6:19). These two miracles lifted Jesus to the lofty status of the Jews’ highest hero, Moses, who gave Israel manna, and parted the Red Sea. The crowd rightly saw in Jesus evidence of His being the Prophet the Old Testament predicted would come (6:14). They were correct. Jesus gave an even higher meaning to the sign. He said, “I am the bread of life” (6:35); “I have come down from heaven” (6:38); “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life” (6:40).
The crowd was interested in the possibility of His being a political Messiah, but when Jesus spoke of being God, and the source of everlasting life, they left (6:66). Once they were gone, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” (6:67). God help us to echo Peter, “We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (6:68-69).
Chapters 7-10 contain the fifth sign, the healing of the man born blind (9:1-7). The crowd bluntly asked, “When the Messiah comes, He won’t perform more signs than this man has done, will He?” (7:31). Their implying Jesus was Messiah upset His opponents plenty, but He had even bolder things to say. Jesus claimed deity for Himself, saying “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58).
With one grand statement, He stated His position clearly, “I am the light of the world” (8:12). He claimed to be the solution to all the world’s darkness. Where was the sign to bolster belief? He healed a man blind from his birth.
Jesus, obviously Messiah and God, pressed faith on the healed man, asking, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (9:35). “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him? (9:36). Learning it was Jesus, the healed man said, “I believe, Lord!” (9:38). Messiah, Son of God, believing – all three were evident in this fifth sign.
John 11-12 has the sixth sign, Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from death (11:44). Jesus claimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live” (11:25). Though devastated, Martha replied, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (11:27).
His words were powerful, “Believe in Me and live.” Her words were strong, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Where is the evidence to back all this up? Jesus cried with a loud voice at the grave, “Lazarus, come out” (11:43). He who had been dead four days came out, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face bound about with a napkin. Jesus told them, “Loose him and let him go” (11:44). The evidence was overwhelming, more than ample to elicit faith.
The seventh sign, in John 13-21, was Jesus’ resurrection (20:8). He said, “You call Me Teacher (designating Messiah) and Lord (Deity). This is well said, for I am” (13:13). Where is the sign? After Jesus’ resurrection, Mary had to say, “Rabbouni!”, which means “Teacher” (20:16); John saw Divine implications in Thomas’ words, “My Lord and my God” (20:28). Thomas believed on Jesus.
These seven signs are all we need to convince us Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, and that believing in Him we shall find life. John called for a decision. His purpose was not to give information and make us smart, but to give us life to make us live. Dead people need one thing – life, the true life found only in Jesus.