We Brothers have chosen as our focus for this five week course of study the Gospel of John. It is the gospel with which we have the deepest affinity. Its message defines our spirituality as a community. It shapes our theology, our spiritual practice, and our corporate life and worship. We are a Johannine community.
This has been so from the earliest days of our Society. Our founder, Father Richard Meux Benson, was captivated by the Fourth Gospel, and believed it held answers for many of the challenges the Church in his day was facing. For one thing, it was a profound telling of the story of Jesus, one that reflected decades of theological thought on the part of the author and his community. Of all the gospels, Father Benson believed, the Gospel of John had the most appeal to intelligent, well-educated Christians whose assumptions about the Bible and the world were being challenged by new revelations coming from the scientific community and from Biblical scholars in the 19th century.
The Fourth Gospel was also relevant to the needs of a society in which the poor were being trampled underfoot. It was this gospel that emphasized that “God is love” and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life.” This gospel called believers to love one another as they themselves had been loved by God, and to serve one another by laying down their lives, as Jesus had laid down his life for them. Father Benson envisioned a society of priests and brothers who were sent into the world (as Jesus had been sent by the Father) to reveal this God of love to all those who would receive him, so that they might have life – abundant and eternal life – in this world as well as the next.
Whereas the three synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – share a common viewpoint, John’s perspective is unique. In John’s gospel, Jesus is not only the long-awaited Messiah; he is “the Word” which was in the beginning and through whom all things were made. This Word was made flesh and lived among us. John’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus was sent into the world to assume our human nature and to live among us. Because he is “close to the Father’s heart,” he is able to reveal God to us, and to offer us God’s light and life. He is “full of grace and truth.” To those who believe (i.e. to those who receive him and trust in him) he offers abundant life in union with himself and with his Father and with the Spirit. He teaches his disciples the importance of “abiding” in him, so that his life can flow in and through them. He is the bread that will nourish them, the living water that will spring up in their hearts, the shepherd who will guide and protect them, the vine that will sustain them, and the light that will drive away their darkness. He is for them “the way, the truth, and the life” by which they will come to know the God of Love.
We who bear John the Evangelist’s name find in the Fourth Gospel inspiration for our own life and mission. We are inspired by its testimony that God is Love, its conviction that Jesus is the revelation and revealer of God, its insistence that the Christian community is to be a community of love, bearing witness to what they have seen and heard and experienced. We hope to share our enthusiasm for this gospel through this course of study.
As you read this gospel over the course of the next few weeks, as you watch the videos and write your answers to each day’s question, as you ponder the images and stories found in the text, we pray that you will find it as nourishing and as life-giving as
we have found it. With the Evangelist, we pray that you who hear the words of this gospel may discover more deeply the abundant life it offers.