In case being hit over the head with it throughout the gospel wasn't enough for you, we'd like to repeat: John's Gospel tells us that no one can really know God unless they know Jesus.
So who is Jesus?
Jesus Is the Man (and He Knows It)
According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is God's only son, sent by his father to finally tell the people of the world what God is really about. So, yeah, he's impressive. And boy does he know it. Over the course of the entire gospel, Jesus tells us that he is
- "the Son of Man" (1:51)
- "the bread of life" (6:35)
- "the light of the world" (8:12)
- "the gate" (10:9)
- "the good shepherd" (10:11)
- "the resurrection and the life" (11:25)
- "the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6)
- "the true vine" (15:1)
We'd say he's a bit full of himself, but then again, he is co-equal with the Creator of the Universe, so he's probably earned some bragging rights.
Just a Little Bit Emo
When you constantly use metaphors to describe yourself, you run into a little bit of a problem: nobody understands you. Everyone is always misinterpreting the things that Jesus says. Even believers have a tough time. When Jesus tells Nicodemus "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (KJV 3:3), Nicodemus thinks that means you have to literally go jump back up your mother. Seriously, Nic?
The poetic stuff doesn't help him much with his detractors. They obviously never had to take ninth-grade English because they freak out every time Jesus breaks out some figurative language. To be fair, these misunderstandings push the story forward and eventually lead to Jesus's death. Plus, listening to Jesus is kind of like reading The Divine Comedy—even his footnotes have footnotes.
We have to say, all this confusion helps the reader feel a little bit smarter. Yup, that's right. We're way brainier than the religious authorities who have completely written off Jesus because they just don't get him. We're also one step ahead of the disciples who keep forgetting that Jesus is a miracle worker.
The constant questions also give Jesus a platform to expand on his teachings. So, you're the bread of life? Oh, do go on…
Death Becomes Him
In the other three gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—Jesus is just a tiny bit leery about being nailed to a cross to die a slow, painful, and humiliating death. But not in John's Gospel. Nope, John's Jesus is totally fine with it:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour." (12:27)
Not dying on a cross is for wimps. And people who don't listen to everything God tells them to do.
Bottom line: Jesus is utterly and completely faithful. He aligns himself with God by being 100% in tune with everything God wants him to do. God wants him to deliver his message to the entire world? Check. God wants him to confront some non-believers holding sharp rocks? Done. God wants him to be nailed to a cross? No problem.
Jesus is like the ultimate yes man. But in this case, it's a good thing—after all, his direct supervisor is the Ruler of Heaven and Earth.
Sure, Jesus is a literary figure, but he was also a real, live person who walked the earth (and maybe the water) thousands of years ago. John's Gospel tells us a little about what everyday life was like for Jesus.
Up until he started his ministry, he lived in Galilee in a Jewish home. When all the Gospel of John drama goes down, he's in his 30s. We've heard it's the best decade of life, although John Stamos might have proved us wrong. The 40s really worked for him.
Okay, back on track. Other things we knew about Jesus:
- He probably spoke Aramaic, but may have known some Greek, the language used throughout the Roman Empire.
- He's the son of Joseph, but spent time with his mom, too.
- He apparently had some brothers, who may have been disciples, and who also might not have been his biggest fans. Yep, even Jesus had to deal with sibling rivalry.
Not too far off from a normal human life, right? Oh, except he traveled from town to town with his followers, preaching about what God had told him and living off donations from sympathetic listeners. You don't see that too much these days.
Jesus is probably one of the most influential figures in all of human history. His life, death, and resurrection are hugely important to just about every artist in the western world. You don't have to go very far to find a Christ-figure in art or literature:
- Uncle Tom
- Billy Budd
- Randle McMurphy
- Frodo Baggins
- Jim Casy
- Harry Potter
- The Doctor
- Andy Dufresne
- Anakin Skywalker
We could go on. Trust us.