In the coming year Harehills Lane Baptist Church will be studying John’s gospel in each of their Sunday services and in small group settings. So what’s the attraction? Why study John’s Gospel? Why now, and why a year?

Why study John’s Gospel? The answer is threefold…

History: The Gospel of John has been one of the major sources of Christian theology. The major doctrines of the Church – the Nicene doctrine of the trinity, the Chalcedonian doctrine of the unity of the human and divine in Jesus – have been based on the Gospel of John. For that reason alone it should be studied in detail.

Content: Jesus speaks more in John’s gospel than in the other synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). One of those distinctive features of John’s Gospel is that there are a lot of long speeches by Jesus, more than in any other Gospel. For example, in Mark there are two long speeches while Matthew and Luke both have five. In John there are eight long speeches and several shorter speeches by Jesus, comprising nearly half of the Gospel. Because we hear Jesus more in John than any other gospel writer it’s important for our discipleship to hear more of what he says.

Mission: Gospel Jesus’ encounters and speeches in John are to a much wider range of people than in any of the other Gospels. Because of this the Gospel invites anyone from multifaceted, multicultural backgrounds who wants to enter into the story to identify themselves with the people Jesus spoke to. It’s a gospel that is Inclusive and Missional at its core.

Why now?

Following on from this it seems that as the church of Jesus Christ we need to recapture this important gospel, that has helped shape Christians and discipleship for centuries. In this gospel we have a clear picture of the character, speeches and mission of Jesus, and we need to recover the authentic Jesus. The Jesus that John potrays is marginal, he is revolutionary and edgy. In our cities, towns and streets it is essential to come to terms with a Jesus who takes on flesh and moves into the neighbourhood and helps people answer some of life’s big questions.

Why a year?

Two factors: Firstly, so we can get right into it, there is so much meat in John that it would not do justice to the Word of God to gloss over things. We need quality time to spend in this gospel to truly come to terms with the Jesus we find and to truly incarnate the truth of the Gospel in our daily living. Secondly, it provides us with a certain amount of continuity as a church: we know where we are and where we are going. I think that helps on Sunday mornings and in our lives generally.

Is this gospel really relevant to the church in the 21 Century?

Yes, it is so relevant. The key passage in the whole of John’s gospel is John 20:31. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The focus here is on Jesus and our faith in him. We need to focus on what it means to have a relationship with him. Also the thought of “having life” with him is something that we need to address and unpack in any age.

The theme of the whole gospel of John is captured well in the title of one of U2’s classic songs When love comes to town.