Finding the Gospel (3)

Few stories that are in all four gospels:

a) Stories relating to John the Baptist - his purpose, ministry, teaching and his baptism of Jesus.

Matthew and Mark are quite close on John, though Matthew adds quite a lot of material about John’s teaching. Luke adds still more, and has a birth narrative for John as well. He also records encounters with John’s disciples in Acts. All three Synoptics have John speaking of one to come after him who is mightier than he, that where he baptises with water, this One will baptise with the Spirit (and, in Matthew, with fire). Matthew is more pointed in having John acknowledge his need to be baptised by Jesus. John’s Gospel has the Baptist pointing out Jesus to his own disciples and saying that he must decrease in relation to Jesus. Clearly the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus was of great importance to the early church.


b) Call of the first apostles - members of the Twelve

All three Synoptics have Jesus calling the first members of the Twelve beside the lake. Luke has a special story about this, a draught of fish. In John’s Gospel, the first disciples come from the circle of John the Baptist, and are called beside the river Jordan. John does use the draught of fishes story, but in his appendix, after the resurrection, when the call of Peter is confirmed following his denial.

Lists of the Twelve appear in all the Synoptics, but no such list appears in John. (Question: does John refer to the Twelve?)


c) Stories told in parallel by the Synoptic Gospels, but just referred to in John

- Jesus visiting his own country (see John 4.43-45; 6.42)

- The death of John the Baptist (see John 3.24)

- Peter’s confession of faith & sequel (see John 6.66-71)

- The Transfiguration (see John 12.28)


d) Themes and teaching that appear in all four Gospels

- Parable of the sower (see John 12.24)

- Use of parables (see John 12.39-40)

- Teaching on humility (see Matthew 10.40; 18.1-5; 23.11; Mark 9.33-37; Luke 9.46-48; 10.16; 22.24; John 12.44-45; 13.20; 14.24; 15.23)

- The request of James and John (see John 10.15; 15.13)


The Passion Narrative

The entry into Jerusalem

The prediction of Peter’s denial

The betrayal

The trial before Caiaphas

Peter’s denial

The trial before Pilate

The crucifixion

The burial

The resurrection


Three stories seem to have been part of the “Passion Cycle” but not as firmly so as the main ones given above:  

The Cleansing of the Temple & the fig tree (Matthew 6.14-16; 7.28; 17.20; 21.12-22; 22.33; Mark 11.12-25; Luke 13.6-9; 17.5-6; 19.45-48; 21.37; John 2.13-16; 14.13; 15.7, 16; 16.23)

The anointing at Bethany (Matthew 26.6-13; Mark 14.3-9; Luke 7.36-50; John 12.1-8)

The Last Supper ( Matthew 26.17-30; Mark 14.12-26; Luke 22.7-23, 39; 1 Corinthians 11.23-25).


John 13 uses a supper as the setting for Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, but the main focus of the teaching is betrayal and denial. The context is the cleansing of the company, not its feeding and resourcing as such. It is as though here, in this context (the Eucharistic context) the light and dark are most closely engaged. Night is expelled by day; hostility is expelled by love; dirt is expelled by cleansing; pride is expelled by humility; danger is expelled by unity. This is the radiant community, holding together in mutual service, bound together as Christ’s friends, living together as a seed of hope in an environment ruled by the “prince of this world.”


Although John 13 does not describe the Last Supper in the way that the other Gospels, and Paul, describe it, it is clear that this is the occasion that John has in mind - the last time that Jesus met and ate with his disciples. It may be that we are to put our own eucharistic experience into this “space”. And it can be that John is taking the Eucharist for granted, as it were, and pointing to what it is for. What is the resourcing of God intended to achieve?  


Feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14.13-21; 9.36; Mark 6.30-44; Luke 9.10-17; John 6.1-14)

Feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15.32-39; Mark 8.1-10)

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