The Greatest Book Ever Written?

Different people find comfort in different places. Linus van Pelt found it in a blanket. Southerners find it in “comfort foods.” Addicts might find it in any number of vices. Mormons know that peace can be found in temples. I find comfort in the Gospel According to John.

The 21 chapters of John are full of beauty – in words; in concepts; in what is taught about the nature of Christ; and in what is taught about His relationship to us and ours to Him. We believe in seeking after things that are virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy. When in doubt about where to find such things, turn to John’s rendering of the gospel. Here are some of the beautiful and comforting things we find there.

Chapter 1: Besides the poetic beauty of “the Word,” we read twice the invitation, “Come and see,” which in many ways sums up the simplicity of strengthening our testimonies. Come, do, and see for yourself what living the gospel of Jesus Christ does for you.

Chapter 3 (and 7 and 19): We learn of Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews,” who loved Jesus and whom Jesus loved; whom Jesus taught and ministered to; who stood up for Jesus, though perhaps too quietly.

Chapter 4: The woman at the well, a Samaritan. Another example of Jesus ministering to an individual. We find him here responding to his own questions: “If ye love them which love you what reward have ye?” and “If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?”

Chapter 5: Here is an illustration of Jesus as the Master Healer. Four times in the story of healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, we read the phrase “made whole” and we are beautifully reminded that we, too, can be made whole. We also find a sermon-in-a-phrase when Jesus afterward “findeth him in the temple.”

Chapter 6: The Bread of Life sermon! “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” When his teachings were ill received, we hear sadness in the voice of the Savior, “Will ye also go away?” And we read Peter’s confident and faithful reply, “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” I am reminded that there are many others to whom I could go, but none others fulfill the Savior’s promise when he said, “Come and see.”

Chapter 7: Living Water! In this chapter, the Savior follows that “come and see” invitation with the promise, “If any man will do his will, he shall know.” But the most tender part is when he stood among the masses at the conclusion of the feast of tabernacles – a conclusion which featured a great outpouring of water, literally – and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”

Chapter 8: The woman taken in adultery. “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” There is hope for me! Talk about comfort!

Chapter 9: My favorite story. First we learn that not all hardships are the result of sin. Then we learn (again) that the Savior can do the “impossible.” Then, as in Chapter 5, we learn (again) that the Savior continues with us in our needs when he “found him” again. Perhaps most beautiful of all, we read the healed man’s perfect response to the “come and see invitation: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Amazing grace!

Chapter 10: The Good Shepherd. He is the door to the sheepfold. And He is the Good Shepherd. The hireling “fleeth,” but the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and they know Him and He gives his life for them. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.”

Chapter 11: Lazarus. That we may know that we are never beyond Christ’s capacity to heal. Everyone should read Crime and Punishment.

Chapter 13: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Indeed! And this: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Can any men, let alone all men, see me as the Savior’s disciple? If ye have not charity, ye are nothing.

Chapter 14: More gems: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And speaking of comfort… “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Chapter 15: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” And again, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” And yet again, “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” I should like to be his friend. It feels wonderful to be loved by Him. I must increase my love for others.

I will stop there, but one last thing about the book of John—perhaps my favorite thing. John refers to himself, not by name, but as the one Jesus loved—at least four times. (The word “loved” is found in John more often than in Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined.) I imagine if I spent time with the Savior, I, too, would no longer think of myself as Chris, but as one Jesus loved. Perhaps it is no coincidence that in all four of those verses, John also refers to himself as a disciple.

Is the Gospel According to John the greatest book ever written? I don’t know. But it’s definitely in the top two.

May I (and you) be His disciple and His friend. May we drink living water and partake of the bread of life. May we love one another. And may we truly “come” and “see” and “know” – that He can heal us and that His peace is real.  Happy are we if we do.

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