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Bible Commentaries

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

- John

by Paul E. Kretzmann

The Gospel According to John


Although the author of the last Gospel does not mention his name, he describes himself with sufficient exactness to make it clear that he was none other than John, the "beloved disciple. " He was the son of a Galilean fisherman, by the name of Zebedee, and of Salome, a very faithful and devoted follower of Jesus, who did not even forsake her Master when He was hanging on the cross, Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40. John, together with his older brother James, followed his father's occupation on the Sea of Galilee at the time Jesus called him to the apostleship, Matthew 4:21-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:1-10. There are some indications that John was well acquainted in Jerusalem and in Judea, where he had become a disciple of John the Baptist, John 1:35-40. He was known to the high priest, John 18:15. He had an intimate knowledge of the Temple, the Temple equipment, and the Temple worship, as the entire Apocalypse shows, and may therefore have been of priestly descent, He seems to have owned a house in Jerusalem, John 19:27. He returned with Jesus to Galilee, John 2:2-12, and therefore could hardly have been the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana, as tradition has it. When Jesus, soon after, publicly entered on His Messianic ministry in Galilee, John and James were among the first to be called by Him, Matthew 4:21-22. These two brothers, together with Peter, were the most confidential disciples of Christ. They alone were chosen by Him to be present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus, Luke 8:51, at the transfiguration, Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28; during His agony in the garden, Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33. And John was present also under the cross, John 19:26. He was a witness of the Lord's death and saw the soldier pierce His side with a spear, 19:34-35. He was one of the first of the disciples to visit the sepulcher after the resurrection of Christ, and was present with the other disciples when Jesus showed Himself to them on the evening of the first Easter Day, and likewise eight days after, John 20:19-29. Together with Peter, John cured a man who had been lame from his mother's womb, for which act he was cast into prison, Acts 3:1-10. He was afterwards sent to Samaria, to invoke the Holy Ghost on those that had been converted by Philip the Deacon, Acts 8:5-25. The Apostle Paul informs us, Galatians 2:1-21, that John was present at the council of Jerusalem, of which an account is given Acts 15:1-41.There can be no doubt that John was present at most of the happenings related by him in his gospel, that he was an eye- and ear-witness of the Lord's labors, journeyings, discourses, miracles, Passion, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

So far as the character of John is concerned, he, with James, was in his younger days of an excitable temperament, for which reason Jesus surnamed them Boanerges , or Sons of Thunder, Mark 3:17. This part of their nature came out when they asked the Lord for permission to "bid fire to come down from heaven and consume" the people of a certain village in Samaria who would not entertain their Master, Luke 9:51-55, and when they forbade a certain man to cast out devils in the name of Jesus, since he was not one of His followers, Luke 9:49. But when the fires of youth had burned down to a steady glow, John's nature became quiet, receptive, without, however, losing its zeal for the Master.

Of the later life of John, history reports that he went to Asia Minor about the end of the seventh decade, probably after the death of Paul. He was exiled to the island of Patmos, probably under the reign of Domitian (81-, and there wrote the Apocalypse. Under Nerva (96- he seems to have regained his liberty, returning to Ephesus, where he may have spent a decade or more before. By the unanimous consent of the early church historians he reached an advanced age, for Polycarp, who died in 167, at the age of eighty-six, had seen him, Irenaeus relates that he died under Trajan (98-, and Polycrates states that he died at Ephesus, where his grave was later shown.

The purpose of the gospel is expressly stated by the author. It is to bear witness of the fact "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through His name," John 20:30-31. This is the chief aim of the gospel, and the reader cannot escape its compelling force. "On the other hand, however, the fourth gospel is so unlike the other gospels and so unique in its character that the attentive reader will involuntarily seek for some special reason why this book should have been written. We find it in the fact that in the latter years of John's life the Church began to be threatened by a dangerous heresy, which made it necessary to describe the life of Christ precisely from the point of view which John chose. Under the eyes of the aged apostle a certain Jewish agitator by the name of Cerinthus is said to have denied the essential and true divinity of Jesus Christ, rejecting the statement that the Son of God suffered death for us. That must have been the beginning of the heresy which later became known as Gnosticism, the adherents of which essayed to amalgamate the Word of God with heathen philosophy, and necessarily fell into blasphemous error. It is well within the limits of possibility that John, recognizing the danger in its beginnings, wrote his gospel against the errors of Cerinthus, since he actually makes it his point to demonstrate the divinity of Christ. " Incidentally, the purpose of John to supplement the narrative of the first three gospels is evident throughout. Acquaintance with these gospels is presupposed by John. They had pictured principally the Galilean ministry of Jesus; John confines himself almost exclusively to that in Judea. And even in the parallel passages there are many additional features that tend to make the aims of Jesus clearer in a number of instances.

The gospel was written chiefly for readers of Greek descent. Hebrew words and Jewish customs are explained, cities of Palestine are located. John uses the Roman division of time, and speaks of the Jews from the standpoint of an outsider. But his gospel was not written under the influence of Greek philosophy, nor was there any connection between his doctrinal exposition and that of the Jewish school of Alexandria. John wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and his gospel is a part of the message of God for the salvation of men.

There are a number of peculiarities or distinguishing features in the gospel which should be noted. The book is remarkable for its vivid dialog, in such a natural tone that there can be no doubt as to its correctness. The intimate addresses of Christ in chapters 15 and 16 are especially noticeable. Chapter 17 ranks with the most beautiful passages in the entire Bible. The person and the work of the Holy Ghost are treated in detail, chapters 14-16. Only eight miracles are recorded in this gospel, but a number of them are treated at some length and become the basis for extended discussions addressed to the people.

The Gospel according to St. John was, by the unanimous testimony of the early teachers of the Church, written at Ephesus, during the last years of John's residence in that city. Its style, content, and language place it into the last decade of the first century, after the Apocalypse had been written.

The outline of the gospel is very simple. Opening with the beautiful prologue, which contains the key for the understanding of the entire gospel, it offers a brief historical introduction. Then comes a detailed discussion of the work of Jesus in the world, His introduction, His revelation in Galilee, in Jerusalem, in Samaria, His battle with the world, with the unbelief of His fellow-citizens, by whom He is finally rejected. The second part of the gospel pictures the Savior in His characteristic work of active and passive obedience, the way through suffering to glory, His last discourses, His high-priestly prayer, the story of the Passion, the story of the resurrection and glorification.

The Tabellary Harmony of the Gospel-Story

· The prologue of John's gospel. John 1:1-18.

·Preface of Luke's gospel. Luke 1:1-4.

·Birth of John the Baptist promised. Luke 1:5-25.

·The Annunciation to Mary. Luke 1:26-38.

·The Annunciation to Joseph. Matthew 1:18-25.

·Mary's visit to Elizabeth. Luke 1:39-56.

·Birth of John the Baptist. Luke 1:57-80.

·Birth of Jesus the Christ. Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-14.

·The adoration of the shepherds. Luke 2:15-20.

·The circumcision and presentation of Christ. Luke 2:21-39.

·Simeon and Anna. Luke 2:25-40.

·The wise men from the East. Matthew 2:1-12. The flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth. Matthew 2:13-23.

·Childhood at Nazareth. Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39-40.

·The twelve-year-old Christ-child in the Temple. Luke 2:41-52.

·The ministry of John the Baptist. Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18.

·The baptism of Jesus. Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22.

·The temptation in the wilderness. Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13.

·John's testimony before the priests and Levites. John 1:19-34.

·The first disciples of Jesus. John 1:35-51. The marriage at Cana. John 2:1-11.

·The first cleansing of the Temple. John 2:12-25.

·The discourse with Nicodemus. John 3:1-21.

·John the Baptist's last testimony of Christ. John 3:22-36.

·The departure from Judea and the woman of Samaria. Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; John 4:1-26.

·The Gospel in Sychar. John 4:27-42.

·Imprisonment of John the Baptist and beginning of Christ's Galilean ministry. Matthew 14:3-5; Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 6:17-18; Luke 3:19-20; John 4:43-45.

·The healing of the nobleman's son. John 4:46-54.

·First rejection at Nazareth. Luke 4:16-30.

·Healing of the sick man of Bethesda. John 5:1-18.

·Testimony of Christ concerning Himself. John 5:19-47.

·Removal to Capernaum. Matthew 4:13-16; Luke 4:31.

·The call of the four. Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11.

·A day of miracles in Capernaum. Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:31-41.

·A preaching tour in Galilee. Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:35-45; Luke 4:42-44; Luke 5:12-16.

·The miraculous draught of fishes. Luke 5:1-11.

·The call of Matthew. Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32.

·The question about fasting. Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39.

·The disciples plucking grain. Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5.

·The man with the withered hand. Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11.

·The wide-spread fame of Jesus. Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:3-12; Luke 6:17-19.

·The choosing of the Twelve. Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-19.

·The Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29; Matthew 8:1; Luke 6:20-49.

·The healing of a leper. Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16.

·The centurion's servant. Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10.

·The raising of the widows son at Nain. Luke 7:11-17.

·John the Baptist's last message. Matthew 11:2-19; Luke 7:18-35.

·Anointing of Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Luke 7:36-50.

·Christ's companions on His second preaching tour. Luke 8:1-3.

·Warnings to the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 12:22-45; Mark 3:19 b-30; Luke 11:14-36.

·The true kindred of Jesus. Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21.

·The parables by the sea. Matthew 13:1-53; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18.

·The stilling of the tempest. Matthew 8:18; Matthew 23:1-39; Matthew 24:1-51; Matthew 25:1-46; Matthew 26:1-75; Matthew 27:1-66; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25.

·The Gadarene demoniacs. Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39.

·The raising of Jairus's daughter. Matthew 9:1; Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56.

·The two blind men and the dumb demoniac. Matthew 9:27-34.

·The third preaching tour continued. Matthew 9:35; Mark 6:6 b.

·The mission of the Twelve. Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6.

·Death of John the Baptist. Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9.

·The feeding of the five thousand. John 6:1-13; Matthew 14:13-23; Mark 6:30-46; Luke 9:10-17.

·Jesus walking on the water. Matthew 14:24-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:14-21.

·Discourse on the Bread of Life. John 6:22-71.

·Discourses on commandments of men. Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23.

·The Syrophoenician woman. Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.

·Return through Decapolis. Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37.

·The feeding of the four thousand. Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-9.

·The demand for a sign from heaven. Matthew 15:39; Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 8:10-21; Luke 12:54-57.

·The blind man near Bethsaida. Mark 8:22-26.

·Peter's confession. Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21.

·Christ foretells His death and resurrection. Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-38; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:22-27.

·The transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36.

·The demoniac boy. Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-32; Luke 9:37-43 a.

·Discourse on humility and forgiveness. Matthew 18:1-35; Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50.

·Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles. John 7:1-52.

·The woman taken in adultery. John 7:53; John 8:1-11

·Jesus the Light of the World. John 8:12-30.

·Discourse on spiritual freedom. John 8:31-59.

·The final departure from Galilee. Matthew 19:1-2; Matthew 8:19-22; Mark 10:1; Luke 9:51-62.

·The mission of the seventy. Matthew 11:20-30; Luke 10:1-24.

·The good Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37.

·The visit to Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42.

·Healing of the man born blind. John 9:1-41.

·The Good Shepherd. John 10:1-21.

·Christ at the Feast of Dedication. John 10:22-42.

·Discourse on prayer. Luke 11:1-13.

·Woes against the Pharisees. Luke 11:37-54.

·Warning against the spirit of Pharisaism. Luke 12:1-59.

·The Galileans slain by Pilate. Luke 13:1-9.

·The woman healed on a Sabbath. Luke 13:10-21.

·The question whether few are saved. Luke 13:22-35.

·Discourse at a chief Pharisee's table. Luke 14:1-24.

·On counting the cost. Luke 14:25-35.

·Three parables of grace. Luke 15:1-32.

·Two parables of warning. Luke 16:1-31.

·Concerning forgiveness and faith. Luke 17:1-10.

·The raising of Lazarus. John 11:1-46.

·The withdrawal to Ephraim. John 11:47-54.

·The ten lepers. Luke 17:11-19.

·The coming of the kingdom. Luke 17:20-37; Luke 18:1-8.

·The Pharisee and the publican, Luke 18:9-14.

·Concerning divorce. Matthew 19:1-15; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 18:15-17.

·Christ and the rich young ruler. Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.

·The laborers in the vineyard. Matthew 20:1-16.

·Christ foretells His crucifixion. Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34.

·Ambition of James and John. Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45.

·The blind men near Jericho. Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43.

·Visit to Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10.

·Parable of the pounds. Luke 19:11-28.

·Anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 11:55-57; John 12:1-11.

·The triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19.

·The cursing of the fig-tree. Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14.

·Second cleansing of the Temple. Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48.

·The fig-tree withered away. Matthew 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-25.

·Christ's authority challenged. Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8.

·Three parables of warning. Matthew 21:28-46; Matthew 22:1-14; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19.

·Three questions by the Jewish rulers. Matthew 25:15-40; Mark 12:13-34; Luke 20:20-40.

·Christ's unanswerable question. Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44.

·The discourse against the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 23:1-39; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47.

·The widow's two mites. Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4.

·Testimony of Jesus concerning His glorification. John 12:20-50.

·Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:1-38.

·The ten virgins. Matthew 25:1-13.

·Of the Last Judgment. Matthew 25:31-46.

·The conspiracy against Jesus. Matthew 26:1; Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-6.

·Jesus washing the disciples' feet. John 13:1-20.

·The Passover meal and the institution of the Lord's Supper. Matthew 26:17-36; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-30; John 13:1-30

·Christ's farewell discourses. Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38; John 13:31-38; John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27; John 16:1-33.

·The intercessory prayer. John 17:1-26,

·The agony in Gethsemane. Matthew 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.

·The betrayal and arrest. Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-12.

·The trial before the Jewish authorities and the denial of Peter. Matthew 26:57-75; Matthew 27:1-10; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:12-27.

·The trial before Pilate. Matthew 27:11-31; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 22:1-25; John 18:28-40; John 19:1-16.

·The crucifixion and death of Jesus. Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37.

·The burial of Jesus. Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42.

·The watch at the sepulcher. Matthew 27:62-66.

·Easter morning. Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18.

·The report of the watch. Matthew 28:11-15.

·The walk to Emmaus. Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35.

·The appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem. Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-31.

·The appearance to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee. John 21:1-25.

·The appearance to the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee. Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18.

·Christ's final appearance and His ascension from Mount Olivet. Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:44-53.

·The conclusion of John's gospel. John 20:30-31; John 21:25.

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