+ Dr. Marianne Meye Thompson introduces John, highlighting its key message that God offers life to all and that this life is embodied in the person of Jesus.
Marianne Meye Thompson is the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament in Fuller’s School of Theology. An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), she is the author of multiple commentaries, and coauthor of Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology.
“This is about life—the life that comes from God and is embodied in the person of Jesus.” – Marianne Meye Thompson
My name is Dr. Marianne Meye Thompson, and I’m the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament. I’m going to be talking today about the Gospel of John.
It’s a very interesting thing, I think, that Jesus is called the Word of God because if you think about what a word is, it’s something that expresses who we are in a way that nothing else does. So that when we speak, when the words come out, they are revelatory of who we are. They tell other people what we like, what we think, what we believe, what we hold dear. They express our very inner selves. So, if there were one word that Jesus is, speaks, shows us, that tells us what God is, what this word of God is, I think that one word would be this: life. That God is the life of all the world and that God gives life to all.
So, think of the opening of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word and, the Word was with God.” You will probably recognize an echo there of the Book of Genesis because Genesis begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So, the first book of the Bible, Genesis, starts with creation. Well, the beginning of the Gospel of John starts with creation as well. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
So, when John thinks about the beginning, and the beginning of the story he wants to tell, he not only calls to mind the Book of Genesis with the creation of the world, but he just flat-out says this is about life—the life that comes from God and is embodied in the person of Jesus. Not only do the things that Jesus does show us that he is the life from God but the words that he speaks are also the words of life. “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the door for the sheep.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Notice every one of these images is about life—bread that feeds, the resurrection that raises to life, a vine that gives life to the branches, a shepherd who protects his sheep. And this is what I think Jesus wants us to know. He wants us to know this one thing about God—that God is the God of all life. And that he comes from the God of all life. And that what he does as the will of God is to bring life to the world in his deed and in his word.
Another one of the emphases of the Gospel of John that runs throughout, I think, the whole gospel is that this is a story about Jesus for all times and places. So, yes, it’s narrating a man who once lived, who walked about in Galilee and Judea and did a lot of things back then. But this is what John wants to say—what he came to give and to do for people back then is what he gives and does for people now. What he once did in the past is what he still does for people today. When you read the Gospel and you see all that he gave to people—healing and feeding and love and fellowship and community in the Spirit—remember that these are gifts that he still gives. And that, above all, the gift that he gives is the gift of himself, which is the gift of God’s life to us.