Pastor Sarah's thoughts from Calvary UMC of Arnolds Park& Okoboji
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Lenten Challenge - Read John
I hope you’re planning to join me in reading through the Gospel of John during the Lenten season this year. We’ll get started on Ash Wednesday on February 10 and read together for 40 days.
To guide you through John, we will be using Adam Hamilton's new book, John: The Gospel of Light and Life. This book is divided into 6 chapters to help you explore the major themes of the Gospel and is meant to be read alongside the Scripture.
With that in mind, the entire text of John is included. At the end of each chapter you’ll find a portion of the Gospel, and if you read each portion after you read the chapter, by the end of the book you will have completed the Gospel of John.
What if our entire church committed to read the entire Gospel of John together this Lent, and to take an in-depth look at the major themes in the gospel? Even if you can't come to worship or to the small group, I greatly encourage you to buy a copy of the book and read on your own.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to John: The Gospel of Light and Life.
Introducing John: The Gospel of Light and Life
John is unique among the Gospels.
We call Matthew, Mark, and Luke the Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic is a Greek word that means “to see together,” and it is appropriate here because these three Gospels are very similar.
They share much of the same material and general outline of Jesus’ life.
John’s portrayal of Jesus is markedly different from that of the Synoptics. Many of the events recorded in John are not found in the Synoptic Gospels. John’s Gospel is largely set in and around Jerusalem, whereas the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. Jesus sounds different in the Synoptic Gospels, where he speaks in parables and in a straightforward, plainspoken way. But in John, Jesus speaks in metaphors that are more obscure.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus describes the kingdom of God and the ethical imperatives demanded in the Kingdom. (The Kingdom is mentioned seventy-five times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.) In John’s Gospel, the focus is not on the kingdom of God (only mentioned twice), but on Jesus himself as the one who reveals God. The author of John presents Jesus as the source of life, and he wants to be sure we “get” this.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus calls people to follow him. In John, Jesus calls people to believe in him and to abide in him. Both following and believing in Jesus are important dimensions of Christian discipleship.
Clearly, we need the insights and invitation of both John and the Synoptics. None of the Gospels are, strictly speaking, biographies of Jesus. But John’s Gospel, more than any of the others, is something of a spiritual or theological commentary on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We’re not meant to read it as a journalist’s or biographer’s account of Jesus’ life. In John, details of events and even the words of Jesus are not so much about what actually happened, though clearly they are rooted in what actually happened.
Instead they are about the meaning—the spiritual significance—of Jesus’ life. For this reason, I believe, Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 150–215) described John as “the spiritual Gospel.”
To find out more about why John wrote his gospel, how it differs from the Synoptic gospels, and the spiritual significance he hopes his readers will see, check out John: The Gospel of Light and Lifeand read the Gospel of John this Lent.