“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John, the last of the canonical gospels, opens with John the Baptist and includes the death, burial, resurrection, death, and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus before closing chapter 21 with “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” The Gospel of John has been recognized as the “spiritual gospel” 200 A.D. because the story of Jesus is told through symbolism which differs from the synoptic gospels.
The purpose of John’s gospel is clearly stated in 20:31,”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.” Who is the author saying this too? Why didn’t he use the narrative style of the other gospels to share his message that Jesus is the Messiah?
It is not clear, even after hundreds of years, who Johns’s aimed audience was. However, the authors’ repeated references to Jesus’ flesh leads me to believe he wanted to make people realize Jesus was the Son of God and fully man.
One proposed audience of John’s Gospel is the Johannine Christians. This group was made of early followers of Christ that defined themselves apart from the Jews. They believed the Paraclete guided them through life. Robert Hysar believes this group focused on the Spirit and their own knowledge instead of Jesus’ human body. This group only thrived for a short time and may have been the founders of the Gnostics.
Docetism is the belief that Jesus did not have a human body but only appeared to have one. This idea was common among the Gnostics in the early Church. The Gnostics were one of the three branches of Christianity that founded after the Resurrection. This group is founded on the idea that matter is evil and the spirit is good, claiming that salvation was gained through only gnoses (noun for knowledge in Greek.) They stand by the idea that Jesus’ birth, acts, and sufferings were just appearances.
Bauckham claims this Gospel was meant for all believers, but also the non-Christians that were interested in Jesus. He states the images in the gospel “come from the common experience of all people of the time: light and darkness, water, bread, vine and wine, shepherd and sheep, judgment and witness, birth and death.” [p. 122]. If John wanted everyone to read and understand this book then he would use common experiences and the senses.
You can see how the author of John would want to highlight Jesus’ humanly features as much as he could to show these people Jesus was a real human with senses. Jesus gets tired ( John 4:66), got thirsty (John 19:28), and had a real body after His resurrection (John 20:20,27). John also wants to show Jesus’ heart, mentioning that He was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” and was weeping (John 11:33-35). John 12:26 says “Now my soul is troubled.” John Calvin once said, while commenting on the Gospel of John “Christ has put on our feeling along with our flesh.” I also think John wanted to make Jesus a perfect example for man. Since God gave free will to man, it was also given to Jesus on Earth.In John 6:38, Jesus claims he came to do the will of “him who sent me,” rather than his own.
By showing Jesus’s human features, the author of John is able to convey to his readers that Jesus is fully a man. Christianity was hard to spread in the early church days because Jesus was just a carpenter’s son and wasn’t the warrior savior that some were expecting. Some groups didn’t even believe Jesus was a real person. The gospel writers did everything they knew how to do to show their audience Jesus was the Messiah, the fully God and fully man Savior.