John’s Picture of the Messiah

Each of the gospel writers have a slightly different representation of the Messiah. Matthew, Mark, and Luke bear several similarities in their presentations and focus, but the Gospel of John stands out from the others. John records only seven miracles in his gospel, and five of those are unique to John. He portrays Jesus in a very specific way, but, unlike Matthew, he does not continually refer to Levitical scripture to reinforce his points. Rather, he focuses on Jesus’ words describing Himself.

Imagery from John

  • In John 2, we see Jesus driving the merchants and money changers from the temple, condemning them for corrupting His father’s house. When asked for a sigh, He said He would rebuild this temple in three days once destroyed, but He has changed subjects. He is not speaking of the physical temple so much as His own body. Jesus here is pictured as God’s true temple.
  • John 3 records Nicodemus and Jesus conversing about the meaning of being born again. In verses 14-15, Jesus draws a parallel between Himself and the serpent in the wilderness, lifted up to save people. Where the serpent’s salvation would be physical and temporary, Jesus’ would be spiritual and eternal.
  • In John 6:29, after Jesus has fed several thousand from meager portions, the people ask Jesus for another sign once He retreats from them. He speaks to them of a bread from Heaven – to them, a reference to manna. Jesus, however, applies this personally and calls Himself the Bread of Life. He is the true manna.

John 7:37 has Jesus calling those who thirst for life-giving water to come to Him as Moses brought water from a rock in the wilderness. John 8:12 records Jesus calling Himself the light of the world, possibly referring to the pillar of fire the children of Israel followed through the wilderness. In John 15:1, Jesus calls Himself the true vine that bears fruit, and this compares to the vineyard song of Isaiah 5. Finally, John 19 records the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, and, starting in verse 31, John describes how Jesus’ bones would remain unbroken as a Passover lamb was to remain unbroken.


John paints a picture of Jesus as a fulfillment of many Old Testament objects and events. He sends a message that there is more to Jesus than what they thought they saw, and He could be more to us if we open our eyes and hearts. When we begin to comprehend the extent of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, how can we not love Him and obey Him?

lesson by Tim Smelser