“John: The Gospel of Light and Life” by Adam Hamilton. Published 2015 by Abingdon Press. This review refers to the hardcover edition.
Rev. Adam Hamilton tackles the tricky subject of the Gospel of John in his new book “John: The Gospel of Light and Life.” If you’ve ever read the New Testament, you can tell that John is a totally different beast from the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These gospels were primarily concerned with telling the biographical story of Jesus, while John, the last of the four to be written (90-110 CE), is more interested in telling you about the identity of Jesus. Some of the highest Christology in the NT is found in John.
Hamilton takes a look at most of John through 6 chapters, which makes the book ideal for use during Lent. He talks in great detail about the Prologue, The Miracles of Christ, the I AM sayings of Christ, the Farewell Discourse, the final hours of Christ’s life, and then new hope in the resurrection. If you would like to use it in an adult Sunday School class or small group, there is also a leader’s guide and DVD available, though I was less impressed with this DVD than I have been with some of Hamilton’s other studies. It features Hamilton doing some exegesis of John in a room with some other folks, who are shuffled around to different seats to make it look like different sessions while they ask questions that really felt kind of canned. Don’t get me wrong, the content of the DVD is great, but it wasn’t nearly as dynamic and engaging as some of Hamilton’s other DVDs.
My favorite chapters in the book were the ones about the Miracles of Jesus and the Farewell Discourse. In the chapter about the miracles, Hamilton talks turning the water into wine at Cana and Jesus opening the eyes of blind man, which are two of my favorite gospel stories. Hamilton also mentions that while John doesn’t specifically mention the institution of the Eucharist like the Synoptics do, he actually does bring it to the front with Jesus turning the water to wine and the “I Am” saying of “I am the Bread of Life.” In the final chapter, Hamilton discusses the prospect of eternal life through Christ, but also gives a stirring account of why he would still be a Christian even if he didn’t believe in Heaven.
I’ve studied John quite a bit over the years, even though I usually prefer the more simplistic, earliest Gospel of Mark. I was familiar with a lot of the structure, symbolism, and Christology apparent in John, but even I managed to learn a few things from Hamilton, who really is a master of explaining complex topics in simple terms. Both new and seasoned Christians can get a lot out of this study. The book also includes the entire Gospel of John from the Common English Bible.