I have recently begun a Bible study through the Gospel of John. I have entitled this series The Unobstructed Jesus because at the heart of all that John seeks to show us is who Jesus is. Indeed, John is workmanlike in his removal of the obstructions that so easily cloud our sight of the true Christ. John labors to peel back the thin veneer of cheap ideas that would prevent us from knowing who Jesus really is and falling on our knees with Thomas to cry out “My Lord and my God!”
While this might seem obvious, I have come across many sermons, talks, and articles on John’s gospel that have fallen far short of this. So much so that while many see Christ as the main character, he exists merely to illuminate us or at least about some steps to a better version of us. Our preoccupation with ourselves is stifling indeed.
But listen to how D. A. Carson speaks about the heart of this blessed Gospel in his commentary The Gospel According to John.
John’s presentation of who Jesus is lies at the heart of all that is distinctive in this Gospel. It is not just a question of some titles being ascribed to Jesus that are not found outside the Johannine corpus (e.g. ‘Lamb of God’, ‘Word’, ‘I am’). Rather, fundamental to all else that is said of him, Jesus is peculiarly the Son of God, or simply the Son. Although ‘Son of God’ can serve as a rough synonym for ‘Messiah’, it is enriched by the unique manner in which Jesus as God’s Son relates to his Father. He is functionally subordinate to him, and does only those things that the Father gives him to say and do, but he does everything that the Father does, since the Father shows him everything that he himself does. The perfection of Jesus’ obedience and the unqualified nature of his dependence thereby become the loci in which Jesus discloses nothing less than the words and deeds of God. Although ‘Son of God’ could be used in extraordinarily diverse ways in the ancient world, this distinctive emphasis in John casts back its glow on many of the other Christological titles. ‘Son of God’, as we have seen, can be parallel to ‘Messiah’; but so powerfully is it constrained by this relation between the Father and the Son that ‘Messiah’ itself becomes not merely a prophetic category bound up with the line of David and the expectation of the prophets, but also a title that connotes the profoundly revelatory work of God’s promised servant.
Similarly, although ‘Son of Man’ can bear something of the shadings it enjoys in the Synoptics, where it characteristically falls into one of three categories (the Son of Man ministering on earth, suffering in humiliation and death, and coming in apocalyptic glory to inaugurate the consummated kingdom), the configuration of sayings in John is quite independent. Typically, the Son of Man is ‘lifted up’ in death, glorified through death, so that those who believe in him will have eternal life. But this title, too, has overtones of revelation: only the Son of Man has been to heaven, and therefore can speak what no other human being knows; only he is the link between heaven and earth (1:51; 3:11–13).
Small wonder, then, that John’s summarizing title for Jesus is the ‘Word’. It is a brilliant choice. In the beginning was the Word; in the beginning God expressed himself, if you will. And that Self-Expression, God’s own Word, identified with God yet distinguishable from him, has now become flesh, the culmination of the prophetic hope. (p. 95-96)
Carson’s Commentary on The Gospel According to John in The Pillar New Testament Commentary series is by far my favorite of the commentaries that I am using. Here are some others that I have enjoyed using so far in my study:
- The Gospel According to John by Leon Morris in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series.
- John by Andreas J. Kostenberger in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.
- The Message of John by Bruce Milne in the Bible Speaks Today series. While not really a “great commentary,” Milne helpfully synthesizes much of the text. This would probably be a great resource for churches to provide lay leaders with for a study through John’s Gospel. One severe limitation of this commentary is the size of the chapters (chapter 2 covers 2:1-12:19 – more than a hundred pages of material!).
There are other commentaries and resources that I have and am utilizing but these are the ones I thought most helpful.
What are some resources on this Gospel that have proven helpful to you?