From The Jesus of the Gospels: An Introduction
John is the only evangelist who provides us with a clear purpose statement: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so 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 20:30–31, emphasis added). In seeking to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, John concurs wholeheartedly with the other Gospel writers. All four insist that Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled an entire matrix of biblical prophecy and was sent by God to save his people from their sins.
Yet John demonstrates Jesus’s messianic identity in a creative way that doesn’t merely repeat the message of the other Gospels but deepens it significantly. While the earlier Gospels narrate many miracles that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry, John selects seven such striking manifestations and calls them “signs”—signposts to Jesus’s true nature and identity. In this way, he seeks to show that the purpose of Jesus’s works was not to wow people with amazing feats in and of themselves but to point people to who he was in the core of his being and to elicit faith in him. After all, people could see the miracle and still miss its significance!
This was John’s grave concern, that people might hear (or read) the story of Jesus and miss what mattered most—the true identity of Jesus. For this reason, he streamlined his presentation of what Jesus did and, like channeling a sprawling river, made all Jesus’s activities tributaries to his personal identity. It’s all about Jesus, John is saying. He is the one who came to earth to reveal God to us and to die for our sins on the cross. It’s that simple, and yet that profound. With a single-minded, laser-like focus, John crystallizes all our reading of the Gospels into one solitary, penetrating question: Who do you say that Jesus is?
In the end, it doesn’t matter what others are saying about him. The question is, who do you say that he is? Because one day you’ll stand before God and he’ll ask you, “What have you done with Jesus? I sent my Son to die for you. Did you believe? And if not, why not?” What’s your answer going to be? I hope that this simple volume has helped you make progress in grasping the true essence of Jesus—not merely what he did but even more importantly who he was. May God give you grace as you contemplate the all-important question: Who was Jesus? And how does he want me to live my short life here on earth?
This post is adapted from The Jesus of the Gospels by Andreas J. Köstenberger. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.
“While we have many books about Jesus and the Gospels, we have very few that do what Andreas Köstenberger’s does. Here, finally, is a volume that is introductory and accessible, but without sacrificing scholarly depth and up-to-date research. Such a combination will be a great benefit to college-aged students and to any Christian looking for a jargon-free overview of the Gospels.”
—Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Reformed Theological Seminary