40 Days in John is a blog project of the Harvard Ichthus, a student journal of Christian thought and expression. Our blog will host reflections, commentary, and exegesis of the twenty-one chapters of the Gospel of John, one of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Last year, we completed 40 Days in Luke, during which we proudly featured posts from talented writers, including students, alumni, and ministers. Topics ranged from prayer and temptation, to Jesus’s inclusion of those excluded by society, to Mary’s song of praise. Two years ago, we completed 40 Days in Mark, during which our posts covered topics ranging from the role of the apostles, to the active faith of the blind Bartimaeus, to fitting prayer into a busy schedule. This year, our Lenten blog project continues with John. All posts will be united by a single goal: to better understand who Jesus was and what that means for us today.
Why 40 Days?
The “40 Days” of the project are the 40 Days of Lent. Lent is a Christian holy season, spanning late winter and early spring every year. It begins with Ash Wednesday (March 1 this year) and concludes with Holy Saturday (April 15). The first day after Lent is Easter Sunday (April 16), the day on which Christians celebrate the central moment in Christianity: Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
For those who are interested in learning more about Christians and Christianity, Lent is the perfect time to dive in. That’s why we’re doing this project now. As the spirit of anticipation of Jesus’s death and resurrection builds, it’s hard not to become interested in the person and the story at the center of it all.
For those who are Christians, we hope that 40 Days in John will serve as a daily Lenten devotional to help you grow in your relationship with Christ during this holy season. Wherever you are on your journey of Christian faith, we believe that 40 Days in John will aid you in continuing that journey, preparing you to celebrate a joyous Easter.
One of the best ways to learn about Christianity is to read one of the four gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each of which describes the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. While each gospel has its own structure and advantages, John has several features that make it exciting for study and reflection.
In contrast to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are collectively referred to as the synoptic gospels, the Gospel of John is the non-synoptic gospel, indicating that the content, emphases, chronology, and literary style of the Gospel of John are distinct from those of the synoptic gospels. John lacks content related to Jesus’s baptism and the Last Supper. However, John is unique in including content related to Jesus’s miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’s washing of the feet of his disciples, and Jesus’s many visits to Jerusalem. John emphasizes the divinity of Jesus; John is the only Gospel in which Jesus speaks openly about his divine role as the Son of God. John emphasizes the individual’s relation to Jesus, while the synoptic gospels focus on the Church as a collective body of believers. According to the narration in John, Jesus’s ministry takes place over three years, rather than just one year as in the synoptic gospels. John’s chronology also differs from that of the synoptic gospels in terms of the date of Jesus’s crucifixion. Whereas the styles of the synoptic gospels are based on Jesus’s short sayings and parables, John’s style relies on longer quotations by Jesus and allegories rather than parables.
The structure of the Gospel of John is highly schematic. After a brief prologue, the account is divided into the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory, which are then followed by a brief epilogue. The Book of Signs relates seven miracles, or “signs,” that Jesus performs; the book also contains Jesus’s dialogues, discourses, and “I Am” sayings. Culminating with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Book of Signs then gives way to the Book of Glory. This second book of the Gospel of John narrates Jesus’s passion (suffering), death, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances.
Is It True?
Much could be said about the historical accuracy of the Gospel of John. While the Gospel of John is an anonymous account, Christian tradition has historically attributed authorship to John, one of Jesus’s Twelve Apostles. John is also considered to be the author of the three surviving Johannine epistles and the Book of Revelation. Though we will not herein try to prove the historicity of the Gospel of John, for a starting point to that discussion, we invite you to check out Jordan Monge’s He Is Risen: A Defense of the Historicity of the Resurrection, published in the Harvard Ichthus in Spring 2011.
Through the Gospel of John, the mission and identity of Jesus will be slowly revealed. In 40 Days in John, we will be exploring and grappling with these revelations about Jesus. With each post, we will share links to the relevant Bible passages we discuss. We hope you join us in contemplation and reflection as we trace the lines of Jesus’s ministry during this season of Lent.