Robert E. Surgenor
In articles yet to be composed, we will be keeping company with a man who never mentions his name in the gospel that he wrote. Also, most interesting, is the fact that he never records the birth of Christ, the baptism of Christ, or His temptation in the wilderness. Even more surprising is the fact that the transfigura≠tion of our Lord, the institution of the Lordís supper, His agony in the garden and His ascension, are also omitted. Yet his gospel seems to soar above the others in its uniqueness. It has been termed "the gospel of maturity," having been written many years later than the other three. It is the Gospel that commences with the Lamb and concludes with My lambs. This penman, by the Spirit, introduces material in his gospel not found in any other gospel, so much so, that ninety three percent of its contents is totally unique.
In considering this gospel, one is reminded of Genesis 2:10-14. ĎAnd a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates." You will notice that out of the four rivers mentioned, one is unique, for connected with it are three elements; gold, bdellium, and the onyx stone. Gold would indicate deity, and this divine truth relative to our Lord, is introduced at the opening of Johnís unique gospel. "The Word was God" (1:1).
Bdellium is mentioned only in Genesis 2:12 and Numbers 11:7, where we read, "And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium." Thus it is linked with the manna, bringing us to the center of Johnís Gospel where in chapter six the Lord reveals Himself as the true bread from heaven (6:32). Coming to the onyx stone we find such associated with the high priest of Israel who bore the names of Godís people (Exodus 28). "And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel.. .And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial."
Thus we see the saints borne into the presence of God in the high priestly prayer of our Lord in chapter 17 of Johnís Gospel. Not only this, but in the three elements we observe - (1) The intrinsic, the essential glories of the Son of God in the gold; (2) The moral glories of the Son of Man in the bdellium; (3) Finally, the acquired glories of our Great High Priest in the onyx stone.
Even though parables are not observed in Johnís gospel (John 10:1-5 being a proverb, not a parable), he is careful to bring to our view seven signs. The first sign is discovered in chapter two, where the announcement is made at a wedding feast, "They have no wine. It is a picture of Israel in a state of no joy. Our Lord turning the water into wine is to me a beautiful indication of the character of His public ministry just commencing at this occasion, He brought joy to an oppressed people. Not only this, but to sinners today who trust Christ, a joy unspeakable becomes theirs.
The second sign is seen in chapter four where we find a noblemanís son sick and at the point of death. The Lord never went to the scene, but simply spoke the word to the nobleman who had come to Him, and immediately the son was healed. In like manner sin is an incurable disease as far as mortal man is con≠cerned, but positive cure can be found only through faith in Christ.
The third sign brings to view an impotent man in chapter five. His back had been on a bed for thirty eight years, but the Son of God said to him, ĎRise, take up thy bed and walk." The cure was immediate, for the man who was without strength, rises and goes away, not as he came with his back on the bed, but rather with the bed on his back. Christ not only considers sinners who are without strength, but imparts spiritual strength to those who accept Him. Paul exclaimed, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).
The fourth sign, in chapter six, conveys the thought that the Lord Jesus can bring total satisfaction. A great multitude were present and the only food on the scene was five barley loaves and two small fishes. However, the Creator multiplied the scant provi≠sion to such an extent that after all being filled, there yet remained twelve baskets with the fragments. How precious is His assurance, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). We often sing, "Now none but Christ can satisfy, none other name for me." I hope we sing it truthfully.
The fifth sign is also in chapter six. In the midst of troubled waters and troubled disciples we see the calmness of the Redeemer as He walks toward His own on the sea. Upon entering the ship they immediately find themselves at the land of their destination. The Lord with us can solve any Problem of an unsettled and dangerous nature. Paul appreciated this truth as he neared the end of his sojourn here. "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.. .Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strength≠ened me" (2 Tim. 4:16,17).
The sixth sign contained in chapter nine indicates the condi≠tion of sinners in the fact that they lack divine perception. Just as the young man who was physically blind from his birth and received sight, so we too, are spiritually blind from our birth and can only receive spiritual sight from Christ. Paul was commis≠sioned in his preaching "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 26:18). "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things" (1 Cor. 2:14,15). How appropriare the words of John Newton. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see."
Perhaps the seventh sign, revealed in chapter eleven, would be the most amazing of all - the raising of a man dead four days. Sinners are dead in trespasses and in sins. Lazarus was dead physically. No situation is too difficult for the Lord and with a loud voice the command went forth and he who was bound hand and foot with graveclothes came floating out of the tomb, with physical life restored to his mortal body. In like manner, sinners who were once dead in their sins have experienced the imparting of divine life through their faith in Him Who is the source of all life. ĎI am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
John is also careful to bring to his readerís attention seven night scenes. The first scene in chapter three could be termed a night of concern turned into conversion. In the last night scene found in chapter thirteen Judas comes before us. It was the night of a fatal choice that turned into condemnation. You will notice that Judas is referred to seven times in that chapter. Verse 2, his heart. Verse 10,11, his uncleanness. Verse 18, his heel. Verse 21, his hidden purpose. Verse 26, his receiving of the sop. Verse 27, his command. Verse 30, his departure. It was night in more ways than one for poor Judas, the man who never spoke of his Master as "Lord."
John seems to be a man of sevens. He writes of the seven "I AMs" of Christ. The sevenfold witness to Christ. The sevenfold testimonies to His deity. The seven views of our Lord in Chapter 13 alone. It is the gospel of Christ, the source of all LIFE (chapters 1-7); The source of all LIGHT (Chapters 8-12); The source of all LOVE (Chapters 13-17). Thus we see the energy, the intelligence, and the character of our Lord beautifully displayed.
John encourages us to meditate on our Lordís ministry. From chapter one to chapter twelve we see the divine Soul-winner in His public ministry. From chapter 13 to chapter sixteen we view the Teacher, engaged in His private ministry. Chapter seventeen brings to our wondering eyes the Supplicator and His priestly ministry. As we draw nigh to chapters eighteen and nineteen we, with awesome wonder behold the Sufferer, employed in His passion ministry at Calvary. John tenderly closes his divine account engaging our hearts to notice the Shepherd, administer≠ing His post-resurrection ministry.
Matthew writes a BOOK. "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David."
Mark writes a GOSPEL. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Luke writes a LETTER. "A declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us."
John writes a THESIS. "In the beginning was the word."
Thus in this gospel we find many things to captivate our soul. Even though John brings so many wonderful things to our eye, yet he realizes the fact that he could never fully tell forth the value and worth of the One of Whom he has written. Thus in closing his unique thesis he exclaims, "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John 2 1:24-25).
Oh may these holy pages be, our ever new delight!
And still new beauties may we see, and still increasing light.