Of all the Gospel writers, John spends the least amount of time on the early ministry of Jesus. Almost half of the book is taken up by Jesus’ last week. In contrast, the Synoptic Gospels give up to 80 percent of their space to the years of ministry prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry, crucifixion, and resurrection. Even though relatively little time is spent on Jesus’ early ministry, three emphases emerge from the first chapters of John’s Gospel.
First, there are seven signs that give structure to John’s retelling of Jesus’ ministry. Each of these signs gives us insight into Jesus’ mission and allows us to see how he connects his ministry to the broader story of Israel. On this subject, we are honored to feature the fine work of Anthony Selvaggio, a Presbyterian minister and author of The Seven Signs: Seeing the Glory of Christ in the Gospel of John.
The next emphasis that emerges in John’s Gospel is on Jesus’ authority—one who teaches with an authority not possessed by the scribes or the Pharisees, who in turn demand to know by what authority Jesus conducts his ministry. The idea of “authority” is a difficult concept for modern people to accept—especially in Western culture, which has moved more to center authority in the self. Anyone who asserts to have authority over us is a danger to our self-willed lives. In his article in this issue, Episcopal minister Rutger-Jan (R-J) Heijmen takes up this difficult question of authority. R-J is also a part of Mockingbird Ministries, where he speaks and writes regularly on issues of Christ and culture.
The third emphasis that we explore in this issue is on the conflict Jesus engenders. Before the crowds turned against him late in his ministry, he had already experienced conflict with the religious leaders—conflict that often centered around false expectations of what the Messiah would do and who he would be. In his article, Lutheran minister Matt Richard explores that conflict. MR readers who wish to explore how our modern world is in conflict with Jesus would do well to read Pastor Richard’s book Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs (Concordia, 2017).
Signs. Authority. Conflict. Each theme gives us an interesting angle to explore our own understanding of Jesus. Are we looking for a Jesus different from the one presented to us in John’s Gospel? What drives our need for a Jesus of our own making? What prevents us from fully trusting in the biblical Christ?
Our hope with this yearlong exploration of the Gospel of John is to enable you to meditate more deeply on the person and work of Jesus. For it is only as we believe the Jesus presented to us by the eyewitness testimony of John that we can be saved. Take your time, then, to carefully read and reread the articles in this issue. As you do so, may you be renewed in your discipleship and encouraged in your faith.
Eric Landry executive editor