The Gospel of John, one of the four canonical Gospels in the New Testament, offers a distinct perspective on the life, ministry, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In our fifth session of Bible study on the Gospel of John, we delve into the profound themes and unique details that set this Gospel apart from its synoptic counterparts—Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The Crucifixion in John: A Revelation of Kingship and Passover
John's account of the crucifixion is marked by two major themes: the Passover and the kingship of Jesus. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John presents Jesus as a King reigning from the cross. It is in this pivotal moment of suffering that Jesus is unveiled as the long-awaited messianic King.
One key aspect to consider in John's narrative is the distinctiveness of details. John's Gospel often diverges from the synoptic accounts, and these differences are far from insignificant. They hold a deeper meaning, serving as clues that shed light on the profound significance of Jesus and the cross.
Divergences in the Crucifixion Narrative
Timing of the Last Supper: In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper is portrayed as a Passover meal, while in John, Jesus is crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, suggesting a different timeline.
Jesus' Anguish: While the Synoptics emphasize Jesus' human anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, John's Gospel portrays Jesus as a divinely in-control King, highlighting his strength and dignity.
The "I am" Statements: When Jesus identifies himself with "I am he" during his arrest in the garden, John uniquely records that the soldiers fall to the ground, underscoring Jesus' divine identity and power.
Pilate's Interrogation: John's Gospel offers a more extensive dialogue between Pilate and Jesus, focusing on Jesus' kingship and the nature of his kingdom.
Carrying the Cross: Unlike the Synoptics, John omits the mention of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the cross, emphasizing Jesus' self-sacrifice.
Inscription on the Cross: John provides the most detailed account of the inscription on the cross, which reads, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Jesus' Last Words: John records Jesus' final words as "It is finished," emphasizing the completion of his mission, in contrast to the Synoptics' varying statements.
Presence of Jesus' Mother: Only in John is the presence of Mary, Jesus' mother, explicitly mentioned at the foot of the cross, symbolizing the care of a beloved disciple (traditionally believed to be John).
Details about Jesus' Death: John uniquely describes the soldiers piercing Jesus' side with a spear, resulting in the flow of blood and water.
Role of the Beloved Disciple: Throughout John's Gospel, the Beloved Disciple, presumed to be John himself, plays a significant role, unlike in the Synoptics.
These differences highlight the Gospel of John's distinctive focus on the divinity and kingship of Jesus, and the profound theological implications of his crucifixion. While the core message of Christ's sacrifice remains consistent across all four Gospels, each Gospel writer brings forth unique perspectives and emphases that cater to their specific audiences and theological goals.
In our journey through the Gospel of John, we continue to unravel the richness and depth of the life and ministry of Jesus, ultimately leading us to a deeper understanding of the light and life he offers to the world.
Study Guide - Session 5 (Download)