Have you ever wondered about the similar patterns and phrases that exist in the Gospel and Epistles of John? No matter how many times we may have read John’s inspired writings, there is always refreshment and there are new things to learn. To make it very simple, John wrote about 600 different words in his books which are very simple for even a child to read and understand. The three words beginning with the letter ‘L’ ‘life,’ ‘light,’ ‘love,’ are very frequent in the gospels and epistles of John.
It is my intention to draw on a few patterns in the gospels and epistles of John, but before that I would like to point out that John, during his time with the Lord on the earth, did not speak many words. In fact, he spoke some very short words, and the last words he uttered from his mouth physically are very effective indeed, “It is the Lord” (Jn 21:7). Although John did not contribute audibly, he appreciated the fact that he is “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” which is mentioned at least five times in the gospel. In another instant, he called himself “the other disciple” when he was at the wrong place, for example when he was in the palace of the high priest when the Lord was on trial (Jn 18:15-16). Throughout the time the Lord Jesus was on earth, John was seen in or at “the bosom of Jesus,” a place of affection and dearness. This we find in a few occasions in the gospel (see Jn 13:23 for example). By remaining so close to the Lord Jesus, John was able to write his wonderful gospel, epistles and the book of Revelation. John was able to write about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God Himself, and appreciate how Jesus loved him. We too can appreciate and enjoy what John had as we draw closer to our Lord and Saviour, and learn more about His Person, beauties and glories.
Firstly, it may strike the attention of the careful reader to observe that the gospel of John is presented to us very simply, and there are many sets of ‘three.’ I do not wish to give an exposition on all of them, as there are numerous, but it is a very healthy study to look at these different sets or patterns of three. I started looking at this, and every day I would find more sets of three. In these days of technology age, it is simple to find this, as you can conduct searches on Bible software or on your device. I listened to some recorded ministry from a brother in the U.K and he mentioned that he found about over 100 different sets of three in the gospel of John, but I only found about 50 so far! However, it is a rich blessing to take up an exercise like this (1 Tim 4:13-15).
I will now give a list of some of the different sets of three along with Scripture references so that the reader can judge appropriately. Some of the more prominent sets are:
- Peter denying the Lord Jesus three times (John 18)
- The Lord Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves Him (John 21).
- Of-course, Peter responds three times to his love for the Lord (Jn 21).
- Three things the Lord said to Peter after the disciple replied to his love for his Lord in John 21 – “Feed my lambs,” “Shepherd my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.”
- The phrase “come and see” is found three times (Jn 1:39; 1:46; 11:34).
- Andrew is seen bringing someone or something to Christ (Jn 1:40; 6:8; 12:22).
- We read scenes involving Nicodemus three times (Jn 3; 7:50ff, 19:39ff).
- The word “Holy Spirit” is found three times (Jn 1:33; 14:26; 20:22).
- There are three “signifying” (Jn 12:33; 18:32; 21:19).
- The Lord Jesus said, “Follow me” three times to His disciples (Jn 1:43; 21:19; 21:22).
- “Abide in me” is found three times (Jn 15:4, 6, 7)
- In the same chapter, John 15, the progression of fruit is seen – fruit, more fruit and much fruit (verses 1-5).
- There are three “morrows” or three days from John 1:29 to chapter 2 (the marriage at Cana). Each day is significant, where the first day is from ch 1:29-42, the second day is from verse 43-51, and the third day is from chapter 2:1. The morrow in verse 35 reads, “again on the morrow,” referring to the same day in the previous section, as if John wants to say that something else happened on that same day.
- The phrase “his hour had not yet come” is found three times (Jn 2:4; 7:30; 8:20).
- There are three “lifting up” (Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32).
- The Lord commands His disciples three times to love one another (Jn 13:34; 15:12; 15:17).
- The feast of the Jews is mentioned three times (Jn 5:1; 6:4; 7:2).
- The Lord appeared to His disciples three times (Jn 20:19; 20:26; 21:1-14).
- “Where I am” is found three times (Jn 12:26; 14:3; 17:24) – the Lord saying that where He is, His disciples will also be, along with all who believe in Him.
- Three utterances of the Lord on the cross (Jn 19:26; 19:28; 19:30).
- Three Sabbaths (Jn 5; Jn 9: Jn 19). The Sabbath in chapter 7 is the same one as in chapter 5. Each of these Sabbaths is significant as it involved the Lord being the centre, i.e. healing (in chapters 5 and 9) and his crucifixion in chapter 19.
- Three Passovers (Jn 2:13; 6:4; 11:55). It may be noted that the Passovers in chapter 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19 occurred in the same year. The Lord was also the centre in reference to these Passovers.
These are just a few of the many different sets of three in the gospel of John. Other ones that may not seem very prominent:
- Pilate says three times that he finds no fault in Christ (Jn 18:38; 19:4; 19:6).
- Three times or progressions of the word “hour” – the hour is coming (Jn 4:21; 5:22, 28; 16:2), “and now is” (Jn 4:23; 5:25) and “has come” (Jn 16:32).
- Three times the phrase “where goest thou?” (Jn 13:36: 14:5; 16:5).
- “The Lord was troubled” is found three times (Jn 11:33; 12:27; 13:21).
- In John 19, three times it reads, “scripture might be fulfilled” (19:24; 19:28; 19:36).
- The Lord Jesus says to His disciples “peace be to you” three times after He rose from the dead (Jn 20:19; 20:21; 20:26).
- Three times it is written about Christ that “He must” (Jn 3:30; 4:4; 20:9).
- Christ says of Himself three times “I must” or that He must (Jn 3:14; 9:4; 10:16).
- John says three times, “no” or “I am not” when asked who he was (Jn 1:20-21).
- Three times it is mentioned about nothing good out of Nazareth/Galilee, or no honour from Galilee (Jn 1:46; 4:44; 7:52).
- Three times we read about the judgment given to Christ (Jn 5:22; 5:27; 9:39).
I would need to stop here, as we can go on and on about how many different sets of three there are and where they are found in the Gospel of John. These are just some of them so that you can do the research or study on your own, at your own pace. It is a wonderful blessing to carefully study this beautiful Gospel, and the other great feature is that the miracles the Lord performs are not called miracles in the original text, but are called signs. There are at least seven or eight of them (I do not wish to limit myself to an exact number as there may be different views). Each sign has a meaning or significance and should be carefully examined for a profitable study. The Lord Jesus also says of Himself “I am” at least eight times in this Gospel, showing to the people that He is truly God. “I AM” is the name God gave to Moses when asked about His name in Exodus 3, and so the Lord Jesus used this name, which is proof that He is the God or Jehovah of the Old Testament. These “I am” phrases are and have been used quite often as gospel messages, but also profitable for teaching at the same time.
Such is the wonderful way and presentation of this beautiful Gospel written by John, the disciple whom Jesus loved and the one who really appreciated that Jesus loves him. His gospel, epistles and the Revelation were the last to be included in the divine Word of God.
One thought on “Some Patterns in John’s Writings”
Very, very nicely done. Thank you. I have started my commentary on 1 John just today, so this was timely.