There are four gospels in the Holy Bible. This we all know perfectly: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Of the four of these, three are called the synoptic gospels; meaning, content-wise these three have very striking similarities. Can you guess the three? If you guessed Matthew, Mark and Luke, then give yourself a pat on the back! Now try to browse these three, do you see the sameness in the themes? Now go to John and spot the difference.
The gospel of John when compared to the synoptics “draws upon an independent and different tradition of Jesus’ deeds and sayings.” (Brown, 1994) When you read the whole of John, you would usually come across more of references to Jesus as the Living Water (Baptism) and Jesus as the Bread of Life (Eucharist). In fact, not all of Jesus’ miracles were chronicled in John. John specifically chose to narrate the events in Jesus’ life to drive the reader towards one central thought: Jesus is the Word made Flesh (Jn 1:14).
Unbeknownst to many, John’s narration of Jesus life is divided into four parts: The Prologue (Jn 1-18), which summarizes the whole of the gospel; Part One: The Book of Signs (Jn 1:19-12:50), where The Word (Jesus) reveals Himself to the world through miracles but He finds the world rejecting Him; Part Two: The Book of Glory (Jn 13:1-20:31), which chronicles Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection—revealing His glory to those who accepted Him; Epilogue (Jn 21:1-25), which is a series of Resurrection appearances in Galilee.
But of the four, do pay more attention to The Prologue. Reading it initially and without reading the whole of John may confuse you but with much reflection, you will discover that it actually summarizes the whole gospel! How cool is that! Here in this special part of the Gospel of John, John often mentions a great cycle in the Lord’s life: The Son descends from heaven to be man like us and ascends back to heaven, bringing us with Him to the divine level.
Written after the synoptics were made, there had been many questions why John was added to the four. Just like the rest of John’s writings, it was a very mystical gospel! But do try to read its totality and you will fall in love at how poignant John, the disciple “who Jesus loved,” wrote about who Jesus was to him, the purpose for writing the gospel: “This has been recorded that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God” (Jn 20:31).
Reflective, profound and spiritual was how John wrote the fourth gospel. More than the factual accounts narrated in the synoptics, he wanted us to delve deeper into the nature of Jesus. Just like the symbol given to him—the eagle (Matthew-Man, Mark-Lion, Luke-Ox)— St. Augustine of Hippo describes John as someone who “soared not only above the earth and above the whole compass of air and sky, but even above the whole army of angels and the whole order of invisible powers, and reached to him by whom all things were made, saying, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Harmony of Gospels 1.6.9)
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and read the Gospel of John in its entirety and reflect on the Word! Let John fly you straight into the heart of God!