Talking Like Jesus
Earlier this year we finished a six-month study of the gospel of John. Along the way I noticed something striking: When you compare the words of Jesus in John’s gospel with the apostle’s own words in his three letters, you find that John, perhaps more than any other New Testament writer, talks the way Jesus talked. Several passages in John’s epistles are clear echoes of things that Jesus said—and the way he said them—in the gospel of John. A few examples:
- Jesus: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11; cf. 16:24; 17:13). John: “These things we write, so that our joy may be made full” (1 John 1:4; cf. 2 John 12).
- Jesus: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15; cf. v.21; 15:10). John: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3; cf. 2:3; 2 John 6).
- Jesus: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you…because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). John: “For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him…Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:1, 13).
In fact, there are several peculiar expressions that are found in only two settings in the New Testament: the words of Jesus in John’s gospel and the words of John in his letters. A few examples:
- “Overcome the world” (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5)
- Describing us as having “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14)
- Speaking of our “abiding in” Jesus (John 15:4; 1 John 2:6, 10, 24, 27, 28; et al)
- Describing believers as being “of the truth” (John 18:37; 1 John 3:19)
- Describing Jesus’ death as “laying down his life” (John 10:11, 15, 17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16)
- Calling Jesus the “only begotten” (or “one and only”) Son of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; cf. the apostle’s introduction in John 1:14, 18)
- “Practice the truth” [lit. “do the truth”] (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6)
These parallels, as many Bible commentators observe, are solid evidence that the gospel and epistles of John were written by the same person. But they also suggest something else: because he spent so much time with Jesus, because he was a devoted disciple, and because he wanted to share the message of salvation with others, John often found himself speaking the way Jesus spoke.
Specifically, when it comes to the things that are most important, do our words—and our convictions and our actions—reflect the way Jesus spoke about those things?
For example, do we talk the way Jesus talked about…
Trust in God? “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet…not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field…will He not much more clothe you?” (Matthew 6:28-30).
Forgiveness? “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions” (Mark 11:25-26).
Material things? “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Marriage? “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).
Sincerity? “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Service? “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
Persecution? “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23).
Salvation? “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God… God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life… He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:5, 16, 36).