The Gospel of John is often given to new Christians to read because its central message is the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is often given to unbelievers for the same reason. Many have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior after reading John’s Gospel.
Adam Hamilton’s JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF LIGHT AND LIFE (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016) is an exposition of the Gospel of John for both the Christian layperson in search of a better understanding of John’s Gospel and the non-Christian seeking to know more about the Christian faith and the person and work of Jesus Christ upon which that faith is built. It is not a commentary. It is not a ponderous scholarly study intended for the seminary student.
Because the book is about John’s Gospel and its central theme, “the identity and meaning of Jesus,” Hamilton includes the entire Gospel of John from the Common English Bible. Thus one can read the Gospel along with Hamilton’s guide to its major themes. The study is divided into six chapters, each of which is followed by a portion of the Gospel. Hamilton notes in his introduction that the book is suited for small group study. If used for a small group study, a DVD is available for purchase, as well as a paperback guide for the small group leader.
As fallen creatures we live in darkness until that darkness is pierced by the light of the Gospel. The light brings life both now and beyond physical death, for the darkness cannot overcome the light. The life of the believer is lived in the light that is the Word, the Word that was in the beginning, was with God, and was God. The born-again follower of Jesus Christ lives knowing, as Hamilton puts it, that “Death is just a period at the end of a sentence before a new sentence begins.”
Hamilton points out that John’s Gospel should not be read as though it were some sort of mini biography. The emphasis is on the “meaning—the spiritual significance” of the events in Jesus’ life and the words he spoke. It must be read at two levels, even allegorically at times.
On one level the account of the various miracles performed by Jesus are related in a straightforward manner. They tell us that water was turned into wine, that a blind man was made to see, or that a lame man was made to walk. On a deeper level they answer the questions that confront all of us: Who is this man Jesus? How does he affect my life? What is required of me? We are compelled to answer the question that Jesus asked of his disciples in Matthew 16:13-17: “But who do you say that I am?” It is the most important question that must and will be answered by every human being.
Here and there Hamilton points out interesting insights that otherwise might go unnoticed. One example is John’s mention that when Jesus was on the cross the soldiers “affixed a sponge to a hyssop branch, dipped it in sour wine, and raised it to his lips.” Why does John include that little detail?
In suggesting an answer, Hamilton calls our attention to Exodus 12:21b-22a, Leviticus 14, Numbers 19, and Psalm 51:7 to help us understand the important symbolism of the hyssop branch. When we read those Old Testament passages in light of John 19:28-30, we are reminded that the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is a book about Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He is the “second Adam” who came to restore what was ruined by the first Adam.
In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (KJV). Later John reminds us that for the Christian living a more abundant life does not mean a life of idle contemplation. At the end of his Gospel John again quotes Jesus: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to serve, to witness, and yes, to suffer, always knowing that Jesus Christ stands on the other side of the Jordan with his arms open wide to welcome us home.
JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF LIGHT AND LIFE is the first book by Adam Hamilton that I have read. Having done, I will go on to read other titles by him.
Until next time be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.