The synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – tell the story of Jesus’ life in a narrative form. Everything in Mark can be found in either Matthew or Luke, and many events can be found in all three. The Olivet Discourse, for example, occurs during Holy Week and begins in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. John’s Gospel is different.
The narrative format of the first three Gospels begins at the beginning and progresses forward. We learn things about Jesus along the way, Jesus as resurrected savior only appearing at the end of their stories. John almost assumes the reader knows that story already. Jesus is presented as the Word of God made flesh from the very beginning. By the time John was writing he may have been aware that other Gospel accounts were going around. His account is not a narrative, is not interested in chronology, and takes a very high Christology point of view. Rather than focus on what John leaves out, another way to approach John is to consider what else he includes. The events we identify as Holy Week begins in John chapter 11. The entire book is 22 chapters – in other words over half of the book is dedicated to the final week of Jesus’ life. The book John wrote is different because his focus was different.
The Olivet Discourse mentioned earlier is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. After that event Jesus was anointed at Bethany and partook of the Passover meal with his disciples. John doesn’t seem to mention the discourse at the Mount of Olives but has a whole lot more to say about the lessons Jesus taught the night of the last supper. In John 13 Jesus washes the disciples feet, an event not recorded by any other Gospel writer. In John 15 Jesus describes himself as the vine and God the Father the vinedresser. We are the branches that produce fruit. The lesson is about abiding in Christ. John 17 records the High Priestly Prayer. We see Jesus transitioning into his role as our Great High Priest which is more fully defined in the Book of Hebrews.
There are many other events described by John that are also found in the synoptic Gospels. But give John another look this week, from chapters 11 through 17. Some things can only be found there: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” -John 15:11