The Gospel of John differs substantially in structure from the three synoptic gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke altogether consistently regard the life of Jesus Christ. In a similar chronological order they describe the way of the King of the Jews on earth, the self-sacrificing servant who works hard, and the spotless Son of Men who came to save us.
If you read through the New Testament from the beginning to the end, logically the question arises during the study of the fourth book – the Gospel of John – why is it different? As a citizen who seeks further education you don’t have to complete theological studies or even to obtain a doctorate to disclose the secret. The love for God’s word and the meditating over concealed symbolism leads on the right track:
The Gospel of John is a model of the tabernacle!
Therefore, it is important to internalise chapters 25-40 of the Second Book of Moses (Exodus). It would be also useful to read “The mysterious Tent” in the same topic columns “Education”.
And the word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of truth and mercy. John 1, 14
The Greek word skenoo is often translated with dwelt, but it means more precisely “tabernacled” as in some good English commentaries.
The tabernacle (tent sanctuary in the dessert), that Moses exactly built according to God’s instructions, is in German better known by the from Luther given name “Stiftshütte”.
Apostle Yochanan knew the word of God like no other. Of course, in his description of Jeschua Ha’Maschiach he also had the law and prophets of the Old Testament in mind. The similar structure of the tabernacle and the temple structure was so familiar to him that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he could use their hidden symbolism to write the fourth, well known gospel after the same manner.
To approach God’s glory, a special procedure was required for the Levites in the Old Covenant. Thereby, the altar of burnt offering, the brazen laver, the table of shewbread, the seven-branched candlestick, the altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant with the mercy seat had to be approached in a chronological order.
John the Baptist teaches us in his encounter with Jesus in the event of baptism in chapter 1: “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (Verse 29) And looking on Jesus, who passed by, he shouted: “Behold the Lamb of God.” (Verse 36)
= Altar of Burnt Offering
Six waterpots of stone were prepared according to Jewish custom for purification at the wedding in Cana (John 2). Thereupon, Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, got washed his head. Jesus answered him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3, 5
= Brazen Laver
The Samaritan woman draws water at Jacob’s well and met the living water which is the source of eternal life (drink offering, chapter 4). Later, the hungry crowd didn’t understand that Jesus himself is the bread of life, coming down from heaven to give life to the world (chapter 6).
= Table of Shewbread
The Pharisees believed that the testimony of Jesus is not true, who again spoke to them: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8, 12
The conspicuous light of the world in addition gets visible in John 9, 5 / 11, 9 / 12, 46.
= Seven-branched Candlestick
The close circle of disciples approached the heart of God and learned in chapter 14 / 15 / 16 a new way to ask. The prayers in the name of Jesus are pleasing to the Father and will be heard. Sadness about death will be transformed into eternal joy.
= Altar of Incense
The prayer of the greatest High Priest is narrated in John 17. Jesus appears in a long intercessory prayer for his disciples and also for those, who will believe through their testimony. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, his followers will be one.
= High Priest
Jesus died in chapter 19 on the cross of Calvary. It is finished. He bowed his head and gave up the spirit. His blood has been shed in a new, better covenant before the earthly and heavenly mercy seat. The veil in the temple was rent in the midst as a sign for his consecrated flesh. (Hebrews 10, 20)
= Veil into the Most Holy Place
= Ark of the Covenant
= Mercy Seat
At the sepulchre Maria Magdalena was weeping for she thought that the Lord was taken away. Then she saw two Angels with white dresses, sitting at the head and the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying. She turned herself and behold Jesus. (John 20)
= Cover of the Ark of the Covenant with two Cherubims
= Staff of Aaron that Budded
In the evening, the disciples gathered out of fear behind closed doors. Jesus entered in their midst and spoke twice “Peace be unto you”. As the father has sent him, he sends his disciples. The risen one breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
= Cloud of Glory
Finally, seven disciples went fishing at the Lake Tiberias. They caught nothing. Then the risen Lord appeared on the shore and provided for them miraculously fish and bread. Disciple Peter got restored by the commandment of perfect love from his fraternal friend and master. (John 21)
= Pot Full of Manna
= Tablets of the Law
The blueprint of the tabernacle along with its inventory is divided into three parts. There is an Outer Court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Quite natural the Gospel of John can be equally subdivided.
In the first twelve chapters the Saviour met many people in need in the promised land. Enslaved by sin, they got help from the divine mediator, serving mightily with words and deeds in a new and better covenant. The Lamb of God did not condemn us, on the other hand, he also gives a clear statement that we must not continue to sin. This is the Outer Court.
From Chapter 13 on, a peculiar part in the upper room is described, which is only reserved to his disciples. The truth they know shall make them free. First, Jesus washed them the feet, like a priest before entering the Holy Place. Then he taught them about the Holy Spirit and prayer. No other Gospel describes so extensively the event of the last supper. The Brazen Laver, the Seven-branched Candlestick, the Table of Shewbread, and the Altar of Incense can clearly be perceived.
The eternal High Priest enters the Most Holy Place in chapter 17 in a long intercession. The cross (Mercy Seat) is the new and living way, leading to a better covenant initiated by God (Ark of the Covenant). The risen Lord appears to his disciples as often as in no other gospel (Cloud of Glory).
Eye-catching in the fourth gospel are the many “I am” words. A famous statement can be found in John 14 verse 6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No-one cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
What a wonderful description in symbolic words of the true and only path to find God, by the entrance through the fence into the Outer Court, through the door into the Holy Place, and through the four-coloured veil into the Most Holy Place.
Even the sequence of the signs and wonders of the Lord describes an increase in three parts on the way to the glory of God:
For 38 years the man at the pool of Bethesda was afflicted with his illness. No one helped him to get into the healing water, until Jesus told him on the Sabbath to take up his bed and to walk around (John 5, Outer Court).
The Pharisees in the temple were annoyed at the man who was born blind and got healed by washing his eyes at the pool of Siloam. In their sight it was again forbidden for Jesus to make the clay and to anoint his eyes on the sabbath day. (John 9, Holy Place – no natural light).
The biggest miracle happened in John 11 in a dark burial crypt in Bethany, where the dead Lazarus already was lying for four days. “Did I not tell you if you believe you will see the glory of God?” At first glance Martha didn’t understand the “I am the resurrection and the life” determination of the Messiah (Most Holy Place – staff that budded).
One or two readers will ask themselves why they should know all these things or what’s it good for? The sermon about the crucified Jesus was an annoyance for the Jews and a folly for the Greeks. God’s ways are different from ours. He, who confesses with his mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and believes in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, shall be saved.
Many folks stumble against the precious cornerstone which was laid in Zion, and they reject Jesus as the Messiah.
Saviour or judge? His claim of power can not be discounted by people’s opinions. For there are seven “I am” words in the Gospel of John which are all connected with the tabernacle or the temple. “Bread of Life”, “Light of the World”, “Way, Truth and Life”, “Ressurection and Life” were addressed. In addition, the following comparisons with the “I am, who I am” God, who revealed himself to Mose at the burning bush, are worth to be considered:
“I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he shall be saved and will go in and out and will find pasture.” John 10, 9
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10, 11
“I am the true vine and my father is the vine dresser.” John 15, 1
A short “I AM” is enough for the persecutors in the Garden of Gethsemane to be thrown on the ground. But in chapter 18 did not start the day of the Lord, but the hour of those who should take him captive. In full obedience to the will of the Father Jesus endured the shame, since he could evaluate the consequences. He died as a substitute for you and me, because he came to save and not to condemn us. Theron, I would like to have a share in bringing good fruit for his glory.
Beside the Epistle to the Hebrews the final book of revelation hides too the symbolism of the tabernacle and the temple. Woe, woe if the Holy God from the opposite direction comes out from the heavenly Temple to judge through the sword all flesh.
His first appearance on the earth was full of grace and truth. The eternal Word of God became flesh and tabernacled among us. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Unfortunately his own didn’t welcome him first. But all who received him, he gave the right to be children of God, all those who believe in his name.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1, 1
The Gospel of John gives an illustration of the Son of God. The beginning of all things, the one who created all things. Even the world with all written books can not comprehend all that Jesus did. Will the readers embrace the true life and enter in a new dimension, in comprehending the breadth and length and height and depths of the fourth Gospel?