Introduction to Song of Songs

We live in a culture that needs clear answers about the relationship between love and sex. Song of Songs answers questions about the limits and joys of appropriately expressing human love.

Contents — Song of Songs is a collection of love songs or poems that tastefully portray the genuine love between a man and a woman in marriage. Some scholars see the book as a picture of Christ’s love for the church.

Purpose — The book describes love between a man and a woman as God intended it to be.

Themes — The book celebrates the beauty of sexual love and emphasizes the importance of a man and woman finding mutual satisfaction exclusively in the marriage relationship.

Writer and Date — The authorship of the book is traditionally ascribed to Solomon, whose name appears several times in the book, and was probably written in the tenth century BC.

Introduction to Ecclesiastes

As a result of feverishly pursuing the things that make life pleasurable and comfortable, many people are left feeling dry and thirsting for something more. Ecclesiastes maps the routes that Solomon explored while searching for the meaning of life under the sun. Ecclesiastes can help us to chart a course past dead-end routes to the source of life’s true meaning.

Contents — Ecclesiastes examines and questions a variety of efforts to find fulfillment in life apart from God. The book cautions against searching for life’s meaning in the accumulation of things, in the pursuit of human wisdom, and in pleasurable experiences. The book concludes with the practical instruction to trust and obey God.

Purpose — Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s candid journal of his experiments with various pleasures, possessions, power, and knowledge in an effort to find the meaning of life under the sun. When he summed up the total of his findings, Solomon concluded that life apart from God had no meaning.

Themes — The theme of Ecclesiastes appears in the prologue, “Everything is futile” (1:2), and moves toward the conclusion in the epilogue, “Fear God and keep His commands” (12:13). The discourses between these verses lead to the conclusion that life’s ultimate meaning is not found under the sun (where “everything is futile”), but above or beyond the sun (in God).

Writer and Date — The absence of the writer’s name in Ecclesiastes has led scholars to debate its authorship. Assuming, however, that Solomon was the author, Ecclesiastes was written in the tenth century B.C.

Introduction to Job

People take all kinds of measures to build hedges around their lives to keep suffering and pain at bay. And yet, often without warning, suffering and pain intrude—and life is never the same again. Their arrival prompts a search for answers to renew hope and strengthen resolve to go on. The book of Job offers wisdom to navigate the dark and perplexing territory of human suffering and pain.

Contents — The first two chapters present the problem of evil and describe Satan’s assault on Job. Chapters three to thirty-seven contain three cycles of speeches in which Job’s friends misrepresented God by claiming to know why Job was suffering and by thinking that they knew why and how God does what He does. The final chapters present Job’s humbling encounter with God and the restoration of his fortunes.

Purpose — The book explores the mystery of human suffering and the question of divine justice. The Bible teaches that no one sins with impunity and that trust and obedience to God are rewarded. Job, however, does not fit neatly into that pattern. A pious and upright man, Job was buffeted by waves of indescribable suffering. His friends erroneously concluded that he was being punished for some terrible sin. The book challenges the notion that all suffering is caused by sin and suggests that God may have other purposes for suffering.

Themes — The opening chapters introduce the theme of why one serves God. Satan contended that people like Job serve God because of God’s blessings and not because of God Himself. The theme of undeserved and unexplained suffering is introduced when God allowed Satan to unleash his fury against Job and his family. The book also explores the theme of God’s sovereignty.

Writer and Date — The Scripture does not supply the answer to the authorship of Job. Although the book offers few indications of its date, some scholars believe it was written either prior to or in the days of the patriarchs because of the absence of any clear reference to any known historical event.

Overview of Job

Job 1:1-22 — Job was a pious and prosperous man highly regarded on earth and in heaven. Satan accused Job of serving God for selfish reasons. God permitted Satan to test Job’s motives for serving Him with the stipulation that he not harm Job himself. Job responded to Satan’s attacks by worshiping rather than cursing God.

Job 2:1-10 — Satan again questioned Job’s motives for serving God. He received permission to strike but not to kill Job. Satan struck Job’s body with ulcerous sores. Job again accepted this adversity and refused to curse God.

Job 2:11-13 — Three of Job’s friends visited him in hope of offering sympathy and comfort. They wept and grieved with Job for an entire week and did not speak a word because of the intensity of his suffering.

Job 3:1-26 — Following a week of silence, Job spoke in the presence of his friends. Filled with emotion, he cursed the day of his birth and wished he had never been born. Job lamented that he had not been stillborn and expressed his desire to die in the midst of his present sufferings.

Job 4:1–7:21 — Eliphaz believed that Job was suffering because he had sinned against God. He urged Job to turn to God, implying that Job had turned away from God. Job asked Eliphaz to bring up specific charges against him rather than vague insinuations.

Job 8:1–10:22 — Like Eliphaz, Bildad believed that Job’s adversity came because he was guilty of sin. He argued on the basis of cause and effect and callously told Job that his children had sinned and received what they deserved. Job maintained his innocence and concluded that it would have been better for him to go from the womb to the tomb.

Job 11:1–13:19 — Like his companions, Zophar assumed Job was guilty until proven innocent. He too believed that Job was being punished by God and that he needed to repent. Job rejected the explanations of his friends. He called them worthless physicians who were unable to give a proper diagnosis and branded their counsel as worthless as ashes.

Job 13:20–14:22 — Job asked God to reveal to him any sin in his life, including any he might have committed in his youth. He lamented that the future looked hopeless and asked God to let him have a little peace before his death.

Job 15:1–17:16 — Eliphaz challenged Job’s contention that the wicked prosper in this life. He insisted that the wicked are punished, again implying that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Job called Eliphaz and his friends “miserable comforters” and maintained his innocence. Job prayed that his blood would cry out and declare his innocence if he died without being vindicated.

Job 18:1–19:29 — Bildad graphically described the fate of the wicked and told Job that he was getting exactly what he deserved. Job lamented that he felt forsaken by all who were dear to him. Yet, Job looked forward to the day when God Himself would clear him of all charges.

Job 20:1–21:34 — Zophar told Job that he must surely be aware of the end that awaits the wicked. Job responded by telling Zophar that the wicked are not always overtaken by punishment and the righteous do not always enjoy prosperity.

Job 22:1–24:25 — Eliphaz opened the third round of speeches with the direct and heartless precision of a sniper. He took aim at Job and accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. Eliphaz offered no supporting evidence for his charges and maintained his simple logic: Since only the wicked suffer and Job was suffering a lot it followed that Job must be very wicked.

Job responded to Eliphaz by ignoring him and speaking to the Lord instead. He lamented that no matter which way he turned he could not find God. Job wanted desperately to be able to present his case before God, if he could but find him or know his court schedule. Job detailed many of the sins of the wicked and complained that they seemed to sin with impunity.

Job 25:1–27:23 — Bildad’s brief speech focused on God’s greatness. He remarked that God is infinitely greater than His creatures—who Bildad described as maggots and worms. Since even the works of God’s creation are not pure when compared to Him, Bildad said that no person (including Job) could claim to be clean before God.

Job rebuked Bildad for talking about God’s greatness but offering no practical help to him. He was well aware of God’s greatness and sovereignty. However, Job was more concerned about God’s justice. He wanted his day in court. He told his friends that he would maintain his integrity and would not give a false confession of his sins just to please them. Job concluded his response with a description of the fate of the wicked.

Job 28:1-28 — Job turned his attention to the matter of wisdom. While his friends had knowledge (intellectual information) they lacked wisdom (spiritual perception). Job said that wisdom is not found by digging shafts deep into the earth, nor can it be purchased at a market. True wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. God’s wisdom, not that of his friends, would help Job face his perplexing situation.

Job 29:1-25 — Job recalled better days when he had thought his future was secure. In days past, Job had looked forward to dying with his children around him. He had once felt that his life was deeply rooted, secure, and prosperous. He reminisced about the days when he had a good reputation, strength, and was highly regarded for his opinions and judgments.

Job 30:1-31 — The opening words of this chapter signal a contrast to the thoughts of the previous chapter. Job lamented that in his present miserable condition he had to endure the taunts and abuse of others. He complained that even God had turned on him and would not listen to him. Job felt he had lost the respect of others and the friendship of God. He felt alone and forsaken.

Job 31:1-40 — Job turned the spotlight on himself and examined every area of his life. Intent on affirming his innocence, Job examined his marriage, his business, his home, his relationship to his employees and the people of his community, his attitude toward money, his spiritual life, his treatment of enemies, and his stewardship of the land and resources entrusted to him by God. Job then reaffirmed his personal integrity and rested his case.

Job 32:1–33:33 — Elihu, a new voice, entered the debate. He was the youngest of those present and spoke a total of four times. Elihu’s messages form a transition from the words of Job and his critics to the words of God. He rebuked Job’s friends for making unsupported accusations against Job and addressed Job’s complaint that God would not speak to him. Elihu pointed out that God speaks to people through dreams, through pain, and through others.

Job 34:1-37 — In his second speech Elihu rebutted Job’s claim that God was not fair (34:1-9). He affirmed that God is fair and always acts according to His nature (34:10-15). Elihu reminded Job and his critics that no one is in a position to criticize God regarding how He enforces judgment (34:16-20). He praised God as the omniscient Judge of the universe (34:21-30). God is not accountable to us nor does He owe us any explanations (34:31-37).

Job 35:1-16 — Elihu began his third speech by quoting Job’s earlier complaint that God seemed not to punish the wicked. He reminded Job and his friends that God is infinitely higher and beyond the grasp of than human beings. The wickedness or righteousness of people, Elihu said, impacted their fellow human beings but did not change God. He also said that God had no time for those who only called on him in emergencies but disregarded Him in good times.

Job 36:1–37:24 — In his fourth and final speech, Elihu contended that God is powerful and in control. He judges the wicked, helps the oppressed, and exalts the righteous. He reminded Job that no person is in a position to reprove or instruct God concerning His actions. God manages the universe with skill beyond our comprehension. Because we do not know, understand, or can explain how God does wondrous things in nature, we should fear Him and trust Him to do what is right.

Job 38:1–40:2 — The Lord broke His silence and spoke directly to Job from the midst of a whirlwind. This is the longest conversation in the Bible in which the Lord speaks. However, rather than being questioned by Job, the Lord asked Job to answer questions concerning the created order. His questions exposed the inadequacy of human wisdom.

Job 40:3-5 — Job responded by telling the Lord that he could not answer His questions. He concluded that it would be better to remain silent than to try to contend with God.

Job 40:6–41:34 — The Lord confronted Job with trying to discredit His justice and trying to condemn Him in order to justify himself. He then invited Job to try to do a better job than Him of running the universe. If Job was incapable of capturing and controlling a hippopotamus or a crocodile, then he was in no position to question the Creator of these animals. Job, who earlier could not wait to argue his case before the Lord, was speechless.

Job 42:1-6 — Job humbly submitted himself to the Lord and demonstrated a teachable spirit. He acknowledged the Lord’s sovereignty and the inscrutability of His ways. Job admitted that he had presumptuously spoken about things he did not understand and that his own wisdom was woefully inadequate. He repented of his presumptuous words and attitude toward God. Job was a broken man. Satan had lost. God was glorified.

Job 42:7-17 — The Lord addressed Job’s friends and expressed his displeasure over their misrepresentation of Him. They had reduced God to a formula and a cliché. The Lord ordered them to offer a sacrifice for their sin and instructed Job to pray for his friends. The three friends did exactly as the Lord instructed. After Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and family. Job lived an additional one hundred and forty years.

Overview of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 — Solomon introduced the theme of futility in the opening verses of the book. He observed the fleeting and transient nature of everything under the sun and concluded that fulfillment is not found in these.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 — Solomon experimented with pleasure and possessions to see if these avenues led to fulfillment in life. He tried wine and folly and the accumulation of possessions. Solomon found that these pursuits failed to satisfy and were futile.

Ecclesiastes 2:12-26 — Solomon bemoaned the fact that even his work failed to satisfy. He hated to think that all he had worked for would be bequeathed to others who may be wise or foolish. He concluded that the best thing to do was to simply enjoy the normal activities of daily life as gifts from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 — Solomon declared that there is “a time for every activity under heaven” (3:1 . He listed a variety of human experiences that come from God and are good in their time. Solomon also affirmed that life is a gift from God and should be enjoyed and lived with eternity in mind.

Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 — Like others before him, Solomon acknowledged the mystery of the wicked prospering in their sin and the righteous suffering in their obedience. Solomon found comfort in the assurance that there is an appointed time when God’s judgment will set matters straight.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16 — Solomon lamented the oppression and sadness he observed in the world. He said that the dead are better off than the living because they do not have to put up with this evil. He also commented on the loneliness of wealth. Solomon did not see the point in a man without an heir working hard all of his life to acquire wealth. It is better to go through life with friends than to try to make it alone.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 — Solomon cautioned against making and breaking vows to God. He also said that bureaucracy and corruption are facts of life and should not surprise us. Returning to the topic of wealth, Solomon stated that wealth cannot satisfy people’s deepest longings. Wealth cannot solve all of the problems of the poor and creates problems for the rich.

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 — Solomon noted that some who have great wealth are not able to enjoy it at all. Some die with so little that their families are not even able to provide them with a decent burial. Both the wise and the poor give themselves to the futile pursuit of wealth and never seem to get enough.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-13 — Solomon wrote a series of proverbs that illustrate some of the lessons that are learned only when facing death or thinking about it. The inevitability of death gives one a needed perspective on the realities of life. God’s wisdom reminds us of the brevity of life and encourages us to listen to wise critics.

Ecclesiastes 7:14-29 — God allows us to experience days filled with prosperity and days filled with adversity. He uses each of these extremes to give balance to our lives and to help us grow. Solomon also observed other of life’s extremes and urged that one follow a course of wisdom through these.

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 — Life is filled with all sorts of injustices and inequities that we must deal with. Among these are bad rulers and people who do not get what they deserve. Solomon concluded that while wisdom cannot explain every mystery under the sun, we need wisdom in order to get the most out of life.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 — Death is inevitable for the righteous and the wicked. However, the reality of death should not overshadow the enjoyments of life. God wants us to enjoy feasts, family, and our work. And, in doing this, we should allow God’s wisdom to guide us in living each day for His glory.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 — Life is not fair and is often unpredictable. At times there seems to be no relation between what we deserve and what we actually receive. Sometimes the race goes to the swift and at other times it does not. Nevertheless, we should look to God for the wisdom to live each day for His glory.

Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 — Just as a dead fly in ointment will cause it to stink, so a little folly can destroy the character and reputation of a wise person. The wise person and the fool can be identified by the way in which they live. The wise display calmness in tense situations and know how to offer gracious words. Unfortunately, kings often make the mistake of promoting fools to positions of power. Fools have a high regard for their opinions, give bad advice, and even presumptuously try to predict the future.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 — Solomon counseled that it is best to diversify investments, work hard, and take calculated risks. The one who sits and waits for every condition to be perfect before acting will miss valuable opportunities in life.

Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 — Solomon advised people to enjoy every minute of being young. Young people should live their lives within the boundaries of God’s revealed will because they will one day give an account to God for everything they have done.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 — Solomon said that people should make the most of life and its many opportunities while they are young. The young are irresistibly and steadily drawn toward old age and progressively lose the capacity to pursue many opportunities. Solomon poetically and graphically described the physiological changes we undergo as we grow older.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 — Regardless of our age, we should continuously seek to learn and to apply the truths of God’s Word. Solomon concluded Ecclesiastes with sober advice — “fear God and keep His commands” and live each day with the knowledge that God “will bring every act to judgment.”

Overview of John 13-21

John 13:1-11 — Jesus and His disciples gathered to eat the Passover meal in an upper room. Before beginning the meal, Jesus got up from the table and washed His disciples’ feet. Peter protested that Jesus should not wash his feet. Jesus explained that those who wanted to be connected to Him had to be cleansed by Him, a reference to the spiritual cleansing He would make possible by His death on the cross. Jesus also explained that not all of those present were clean within, a reference to Judas.

John 13:12-17 — Jesus asked the disciples if they understood what He had done for them. He explained that He had set an example of service He expected them to follow. Jesus did not institute foot washing as a church ordinance but rather set an example of the kind of humble service believers should show one another.

John 13:18-30 — After His startling display of service, Jesus made an equally startling announcement. Jesus informed His disciples that one of them would betray Him. John, who was seated next to Jesus, asked Him to identify the betrayer. Jesus identified His betrayer by giving a piece of bread, a gesture of friendship, to Judas Iscariot. Judas accepted the bread and then left the room. Judas would later betray Jesus with a kiss, another gesture of friendship.

John 13:31-38 — After Judas left the room, Jesus told His disciples that the time had come for Him to be glorified—something which would be accomplished through His death and resurrection. He also commanded His disciples to love one another. Love, said Jesus, should be the distinguishing mark of His followers. Peter boasted that he was willing to protect Jesus with his life. Jesus informed Peter that during the next several hours he would deny Him three times.

John 14:1-7 — The disciples were troubled at the news that one of them would betray Jesus (13:21) and that Jesus was leaving them (13:33). Jesus told the disciples that He was leaving to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. He identified Himself as the way to the Father.

John 14:8-11 — Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus explained that to see Him is to see the Father. After hearing Jesus words and seeing His works, the disciples should have known that Jesus was God in human form (1:14,18).

John 14:12-14,18-21 — When Jesus returned to the Father He would send the Holy Spirit to empower His followers to expand the scope of His kingdom. Jesus promised that God would hear and answer requests in line with His will and kingdom purposes.

John 14:15-17 — Jesus promised to give the disciples the Holy Spirit. He identified the Spirit as the Counselor and the Spirit of truth. Jesus also promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be with them forever.

John 14:22-24 — Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus to clarify how He would manifest Himself to them but not to the world. Jesus explained that He and the Father would abide with them in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Their obedience would be the proof that they loved Him.

John 14:25-26 — The Holy Spirit would teach the disciples all they needed to know about Jesus and the way of salvation. The Counselor would cause the disciples to remember all that Jesus had said to them.

John 14:27-31 — Jesus gave the disciples His peace—a resource they would need to calm their troubled hearts. He told His disciples that He would complete His redemptive work and return to His Father.

John 15:1-3 — Jesus used the analogy of a vine and its branches to clarify His relationship to believers. God, the gardener, personally tends the vineyard in order to increase the potential for fruit bearing.

John 15:4-8 — Jesus said that He is the Vine and believers are the branches. Believers must remain in vital union with Christ in order to bear fruit. Apart from Christ, believers can do nothing worthwhile or of eternal value. Believers who remain in Him are assured that God will hear and answer prayers that are in line with His will and purposes.

John 15:9-15 — Jesus urged His disciples to obey His commands just as He obeyed His Father’s commands. Jesus called His disciples friends and challenged them to demonstrate a sacrificial kind of love toward others.

John 15:16-17 — Jesus appointed His disciples to bear fruit that will last. He reminded them that prayer is essential to a productive and fruitful spiritual life.

John 15:18-20 — Jesus taught His disciples that they would experience the hatred and opposition of the world. The world hates those who are identified with Christ. Jesus told His disciples to remember that the world hated Him first.

John 15:21-24a — Jesus explained that the world’s hatred is fueled by spiritual ignorance. Jesus’ life and works made people uncomfortably aware of their sin. Those who refused to believe in Jesus were without excuse for their sin.

John 15:24b-25 — In spite of evidence that indicated Jesus is the Christ and God’s Son, many Jews refused to believe in Jesus. Instead, they hated Him, thus fulfilling what was written in their Law.

John 15:26-27 — The Holy Spirit always points others to Jesus. The disciples, under the power of the Holy Spirit, were to tell others about Jesus and how to find salvation in Him.

John 16:1-4 — Jesus warned His disciples about persecution so that they would not be caught off guard when it came. He said that the hatred of the world would manifest itself in expulsion from the synagogue and even death.

John 16:5-15 — Jesus identified the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the world. The Holy Spirit convicts the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit guides believers into all truth concerning the significance of Christ’s life, ministry, and death.

John 16:16-18 — The disciples were confused by Jesus’ announcement that they would not see Him and then would see Him. They were also puzzled by what He meant by the statement that He was going to the Father. They discussed their confusion among themselves and wondered what Jesus meant by these statements.

John 16:19-22 — Jesus overheard the disciples’ discussion concerning His statements. He explained to them that they would weep and mourn His death while the world would rejoice. He also assured them that their grief would turn to joy when they saw Him again.

John 16:23-24 — Jesus told the disciples that a day was coming when they would make their requests directly to the Father in Jesus’ name. He assured the disciples that they would be heard.

John 16:25-28 — Jesus told the disciples that a time was coming when they would understand everything He had taught them about the Father. He also spoke to them of a time when they would have direct access to the Father through prayer in His name.

John 16:29-33 — Jesus questioned the disciples’ declaration of faith. He predicted they would forsake Him in the coming hours. Jesus offered hope to the disciples by assuring them that everything He had shared with them was meant to give them peace. He also promised to give them victory over tribulation.

John 17:1-5 — Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him so that He might glorify the Father. Jesus glorified the Father by completing the work God had given Him to do. For this reason, Jesus asked the Father to restore to Him the glory He had before He came to earth.

John 17:6-12 — Jesus prayed for His disciples. He acknowledged that God had given them to Him. He asked the Father to protect them and to keep them united.

John 17:13-19 — Jesus not only asked the Father to keep His disciples together but to keep them from the enemy as well. He did not ask that they be taken out of the world, but that they be sanctified and consequently live distinctive lives in the world.

John 17:20-24 — Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him as a result of the disciples’ message. He specifically prayed that they be one, as He and the Father are one. Christian unity tells the world that Christ makes a difference in the lives of those who believe in Him.

John 17:25-26 — Although the world had failed to recognize who Jesus was, the disciples had come to believe that He was the One sent from God. Jesus prayed that the Father’s love would be in them and that He (Jesus) Himself would be in them.

John 18:1-14 — At the conclusion of His prayer (17:1-26), Jesus took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus agonized in prayer to the Father (Matt. 26:39; Luke 22:42-44). Soon, Judas escorted an armed crowd to the garden to arrest Jesus. Those who arrested Jesus bound Him and took Him to Annas, a former high priest.

John 18:15-18 — Peter and an unnamed disciple followed Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard. A servant girl asked Peter if he was a disciple of Jesus. Peter replied that he was not one of Jesus’ disciples.

John 18:19-24 — Annas asked Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus did not disclose any information about His disciples. He told Annas that He had taught openly and challenged him to produce witnesses against Him. An official struck Jesus in the face. Jesus challenged the official to provide proof that He had said or done anything wrong.

John 18:25-27 — Peter denied a second and third time that he knew Jesus. As Jesus had predicted, a rooster began to crow after Peter’s third denial.

John 18:28-40 — The Jewish leaders led Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate in an effort to secure from him the death sentence for Jesus. Pilate questioned Jesus but did not wait for an answer to the most important question, “What is truth?” Pilate gave in to the pressure of the Jews and released Barabbas instead of Jesus.

John 19:1-7 — Pilate handed Jesus over to Roman soldiers who physically and verbally abused Him and dressed Him in mock royal attire. Pilate then presented Jesus to the crowd. The crowd called on Pilate to crucify Jesus because of His claim to be the Son of God.

John 19:8-12 — Pilate was afraid when he heard that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He questioned Jesus a second time and told Jesus he had the authority to crucify or release Him. Jesus reminded Pilate that His only power over Him came from God.

John 19:13-16 — Pilate gave in to the pressure of the Jews to crucify Jesus. He presented Jesus to the Jews as their King. The Jews shouted that they had no king but Caesar. Pilate then washed his hands before the crowd (Matt. 27:24) and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

John 19:17-30 — Jesus was required to carry His own cross to Golgotha where He was crucified between two others. Pilate wrote an inscription and placed it on Jesus’ cross to the dismay of the Jewish leaders. The soldiers who made up the execution squad divided and cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. Jesus instructed “the disciple whom he loved” to care for Mary, His mother. Jesus then uttered His final words from the cross and died.

John 19:31-42 — The Jews asked Pilate to hasten the death of Jesus and of those crucified with Him. When the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that He was already dead. A soldier thrust his spear in Jesus’ side thus confirming that Jesus was dead. Pilate released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. These men prepared His body for burial according to Jewish burial customs and placed Jesus in Joseph’s own new tomb.important question, “What is truth?” Pilate gave in to the pressure of the Jews and released Barabbas instead of Jesus.

John 20:1-9 — Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb early on the Sunday morning after the crucifixion. Mary reported the news to Peter and the disciple who Jesus loved. These men ran to the tomb to investigate her report.

John 20:10-18 — After looking into the empty tomb, Peter and the other disciple returned to Jerusalem but Mary stayed outside the tomb crying. Mary saw two angels seated in the tomb who asked her why she was crying. Mary replied that she wanted to know where the body of Jesus was. Mary then turned and saw a man who she presumed was the gardener. When he called her name, she recognized that it was Jesus. Jesus asked Mary to tell the disciples about His resurrection.

John 20:19-29 — The disciples, with the exception of Thomas, were hiding behind locked doors when Jesus appeared to them without announcement. Jesus showed them His hands and side. The disciples tried to convince Thomas that Jesus was alive. Thomas refused to believe without bodily proof. A week later Jesus again appeared to the disciples and Thomas had the opportunity to see Jesus for Himself. Thomas acknowledged the deity of Jesus.

John 20:30-31 — John stated the evangelistic purpose for writing his gospel. He wrote in the hope that his readers would believe in Jesus and that by believing they would receive the gift of eternal life.

John 21:1-11 — Seven of the disciples were together on the Sea of Galilee. As they fished from their boat, Jesus appeared on the shore and called out to them, but they did not recognize Him. He instructed them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. The result was a large catch of fish. John realized and told Peter that the stranger on the shore was Jesus. Peter swam to shore while the others hauled the catch of fish in.

John 21:12-14 — Jesus invited the disciples to share the breakfast He had prepared. He served them bread and the fish He had prepared. This was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection.

John 21:15-23 — Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter replied that he loved Jesus all three times. Jesus commissioned Peter to feed or shepherd His sheep. Jesus also predicted that Peter would die a martyr’s death. Peter asked Jesus about John’s fate. Jesus told Peter not to be concerned about what God had planned for John. He urged Peter to fulfill his specific calling. Some people misunderstood Jesus’ statement about John remaining until He returned. John included a brief statement to clear up the misunderstanding.

John 21:24-25 — John affirmed that he was an eyewitness to all that he had recorded in his gospel. He also affirmed that Jesus did much more than was contained in his gospel or that could be contained in an endless number of books.

Introduction to John

The Gospel of John is like a photo album containing selected snapshots from the life of Jesus—scenes from everyday life. John included a photo of Jesus at a wedding. On another page he mounted a photo taken at night in which we can make out the figure of Jesus conversing with a nervous religious leader.

John included a photo of a woman at a well who discovered how to find living water and a panoramic photo of Jesus feeding bread to thousands on a mountainside. John took a close-up of Jesus weeping at a friend’s funeral and included a rare photo of Jesus’ washing the dirty feet of His disciples.

He chronicled the gruesome death of Jesus and took a snapshot of His empty tomb in early morning light. John’s candid snapshots help us to understand exactly who Jesus is—the Son of God who came to help real people find real life in the real world.

Contents — John introduced Jesus as God in human flesh. He showed how Jesus related to ordinary people in need. The first twelve chapters of his Gospel cover events that occurred during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry. The last nine chapters of John’s Gospel describe the final days and private ministry of Jesus to His disciples. John recorded intimate details about the twenty-four hour period immediately preceding the crucifixion.

All of the Gospel writers recorded that Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. However, John’s account ushers us in to the upper room and allows us to hear the final words of Jesus to those He dearly loved. Following the crucifixion, John recorded the appearance of Jesus to His disciples as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Purpose — John clearly stated his strong evangelistic purpose for writing in 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.” John carefully selected and recorded details of events, miraculous signs, and personal conversations between Jesus and others so that his readers would realize that Jesus is God.

John repeatedly used his favorite word to describe the response he wanted from his readers—“believe.” The term “believe” appears in John’s Gospel more than in the other three Gospels combined. We cannot escape the fact that John wanted his readers to believe in Jesus—to acknowledge the facts about Jesus and to abandon themselves to the truth of those facts.

Themes —  John presented Jesus as the second Person of the Godhead (1:1) who came to take away “the sin of the world” (1:29). In keeping with his evangelistic purpose, John shared facts about Jesus that would lead people to believe “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” and thereby “have life in His name” (John 20:31). John made it clear that real life is found only in Jesus.

John’s portraits of real people searching for meaning in life provide solid answers and hope to earnest seekers today. John also honestly portrays the difficulties Jesus’ followers can expect to experience as they seek to truly follow Christ in the real world. His Gospel challenges us to live out our faith in a real way in the real world.

Author and Date — John the Apostle is considered the writer of the Fourth Gospel. He was one of the closest friends of Jesus. Although his name is not written anywhere in the Gospel, John identified himself in other ways. The author of the Gospel identified himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 21:20). At the conclusion of the book we read that this was the same person “who testifies to these things and who wrote them down” (John 21:24).

The early church believed that John is the author of the Gospel that bears his name. Irenaeus, an early church leader, identified John as the disciple who had leaned upon the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper (John 13:23). He testified that John had published a Gospel while living in Ephesus in Asia. The Gospel itself does not give us a precise date, but most Bible scholars believe it was written between A.D. 85–95.