John’s Invitation to Real Life
Many Christians cite the Gospel According to John as a major landmark in their journey to living faith in Jesus Christ.1 This is not surprising, for its author discloses his primary goal: to convince his audience to entrust themselves to Jesus.
Near the end of the book, John:
1. Acknowledges he left out significant information about Jesus’ teaching and ministry.2
2. Tells his audience why he wrote the book: “…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.”3
John’s Gospel has an intricate literary structure: the narrative is laden with rich symbolism, working on many levels and with multiple layers of meaning. While much of John’s sophisticated theological content—and many of his subtle Old Testament allusions—will go over the head of the new reader and listener, Jesus’ persistent plea of invitation to trust him and find life is forceful and clear, conveying earnest compassion.
Jesus invites Nicodemus (and John’s audience) to believe in him and be reborn from above;4 welcomes a Samaritan woman to ask him for living water;5 rebukes Jerusalem’s religious elite for refusing to come to him and live;6 boldly informs the multitudes they must eat and drink of him to find life;7 urges his spiritually-thirsty hearers to come to him and drink;8 proclaims that those who follow him will have the light of life;9 and promises a dead man’s sister: “Those who believe in me will never die.”10
John tells us less about Jesus’ public life and more about the private side of his ministry than Matthew, Mark, and Luke do—the fourth Gospel displays Jesus in a more personal light. Unique features of John are Jesus’ extended, often one-on-one conversations, and the Nazarene’s many “…long, somewhat rambling discourses.”11
John aims for his readers and listeners to see themselves in Jesus’ conversation partners, and hear his invitations as if they were directly from Jesus to the reader and listener. John desires that through his Gospel, the Living Word12 would jump off our pages (as well as our screens and speakers), so that we might encounter him, gaze upon his glory, and find life in his name.
1. For more on the Church’s adoration of the fourth Gospel, see Gary M. Burge – John (NIVAC) (p. 15); and D.A. Carson – The Gospel According to John (PNTC) (p. 21)
2. John 20:30
4. John 3:1-21
5. John 4:1-26
6. John 5:39-40
7. John 6:22-59
8. John 7:38
9. John 8:12
10. See John 11:25-26
11. N.T. Wright — Broken Signposts (Kindle Edition, p. 32)
12. See John 1:1-18