The Gospel of John, Chapter 1: Who Do You Think You Are?
Before we begin, let me share with you the reason, the purpose John wrote this Gospel. He is an old man, the last surviving of the original 12 disciples who spent 3 ½ years with Jesus in his earthly ministry. He had survived exile on Patmos and was living in Ephesus, where he writes about those years with Jesus. He tells us toward the end of his gospel why he wrote it: “ But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
Chapters 1-12 are about the Lord’s public ministry, his miracles, or “signs” as John often called them. In hindsight, looking back in the mirror of time, John is able to see what those miracles represented.
In chapters 13-21 John allows us alike no other gospel to see behind the public scenes to see the private ministry of Jesus with his disciples to prepare them for service after He has returned to heaven and the Spirit has come. This is a very special section for us believers.
It is a book which is filled with metaphors which allow us to visualize the attributes of the Lord: the Lamb of God who takes away sin, the door, the sheep gate, the good shepherd, the ladder, the bread of life and many more which help paint a word picture of the Lord. John is giving us word pictures with captions which allow us to visualize the Lord Jesus. He is God with us, Immanuel. God in Flesh. God in man. God as man.
From the very beginning of creation, God revealed His desire to dwell with His people. “But will God indeed dwell on earth?” asked King Solomon at the dedication of the temple in I Kings 8:27. We know the glory of God filled the tabernacle in the wilderness in Exodus 40. And on the day the temple Solomon built, God’s glory filled the temple. God’s presence was revealed in His glory with a cloud which filled the tabernacle and the temple. But then His Glory departed we read in Ezek 9-11, as God’s glory departed from the disobedient children of Israel. John tells us in his Gospel; the Glory has returned in the One and Only begotten Son, God the Son, the Son of God. He witnessed it as did others when Glory came down to earth in the incarnation. God became flesh.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. “ Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word. Eternal not only means a future without end, it means also a past with no beginning. He has always existed, no beginning, no end. Always has been, always will be. Go back to the beginning in Genesis 1, and what does it say: “In the beginning God… Do you see that? God was already there in the beginning, because He always has been.
Now let’s take this profound statement and realize what John is telling us when he calls Jesus, the Son of God, the Word. Words are used to reveal to others our hearts and minds. God gave to man the gift of language. When you fall in love you express that love in words spoken and written which reveal your heart. Jesus Christ is God’s Word to reveal God’s heart and mind to us. He uses words. Words are composed of the letters of the alphabet. We are told Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega- this is the first and last letters of the alphabet.
In Hebrews 1, we read: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…” Jesus is God’s last word to us. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was God in flesh. God with us, Immanuel. He clothed his glory in flesh. But Jesus Christ, The Word, is God. When Phillip asks Jesus to show him God the Father, Jesus said, Phillip have I been with you this long, and you do not realize God the Father and I are one ‘ if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Now do you understand Jesus’ invitation to you: Come and see. Come and see Jesus is who He says He is.
Jesus Christ is not a created being. He is eternal God who put on flesh, born of a virgin with a sinless nature. The Word became flesh by the miracle of the virgin birth foretold centuries before in Isaiah 7; 14.
Jesus told the Pharisees before Abraham was, I am. He is the eternal Word which spoke the creation into existence. He is the Creative Word. He spoke and creation came into being. Paul tells us in Colossians 1- Jesus is the overall creation. “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
He is the Incarnate Word. Not a spirit, but flesh and blood body which many touched. He was God in flesh and now He is in a glorified body. John lets us see his humanity: Jesus was weary; he was thirsty, hungry, wept, groaned, bled and died. After his resurrection He proved to Thomas and the disciples he had a body; although now a glorified body. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus came to reveal God to us. To reveal God’s glory to us. To reveal God’s love for us. The Glory of the Old Covenant was a fading glory as the glory faded from Moses face. The religious Jews of Jesus’ day were blinded to the truth. Satan had veiled their mind. The veil is removed when one turns to Christ. The law could reveal sin, but it could never remove sin. But the glory of the new covenant in Christ is one of an increasing glory we read about in 2 Cor. 3.
Light is a theme which runs through the Gospel of John. Light is one of the essentials for life: light, air, water and food. Jesus is the Light of the World. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. He is the one who began life; he breathed life into the nostrils of Adam. He is the source of life. He is the Water of life. He is the Bread of Life. He is light, life, water and food. He is everything we need.
Light and darkness are recurring themes in John’s gospel. God is light. Satan is the power of darkness. People either live in the light of God or in spiritual darkness. Those who live in spiritual darkness love the darkness and their love of this darkness controls their actions. We who are believers are called the lights of the world. We are spiritual lights, lamps in a world of spiritual darkness. We are like streetlights in the night.
Now watch what God had done to prepare men to receive the light. John tells us there came a man who was sent from God: his name was John (John the Baptist) He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. John the Baptist was a witness sent by God to testify. He came to bear witness of the Light. A witness is not an attorney; they are called solely to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. John the apostle tells us John the Baptist was not the light; he came just as a witness to the light. Here is an eternal truth: The true light who is Jesus Christ, God with us clothed in flesh gives light to every man was coming into the world. Did you see that? EVERY MAN- EVERY PERSON. God has revealed Himself to everyone through the light of his creation.
John the Baptist had come like a herald proclaiming the Light has come into the world. The nation of Israel had been given many spiritual advantages from God. God had revealed his Word through them and from the very beginning God’s covenant with Abraham when God told Abraham he would make a great nation from Abraham’s offspring and God would bless them and all the people of the earth would be blessed through them. They were given the prophecies concerning the Messiah; they had been given the sacrificial system, the Law of Moses and the Prophets. But they missed it. How did they miss it?
They were blinded to their own Messiah in spite of all the signs Jesus would perform to show them who he was. Why did so many of them reject him? We are told Jesus came unto his own, but they did not recognize him. There is a key here in this description of Jesus as the light of the world. He is described as “the true light.”
The true light is the original light. They had with all of their rituals and ceremonies and man-made laws and self righteous – become content with their copies of the true light. Which is what all the sacrifices and holy days were a symbol of.
They had the temple, Moses and the law, the sacrifices and were content with those. And for their religious leaders, it was their source of power, prestige and wealth and they were satisfied with their exalted positions and did not want them changed. Jesus tells us exactly what the problem is: “This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3; 19)
Now John let us know Jesus came to his own, the Jews, but they did not recognize him. He was not what they expected. He was not important, rich, powerful, king-like or from a well known family. He was a nobody. A carpenter’s son from Nazareth. He could not be their Messiah, their King. He was the most unlikely candidate. He was judged by his outward appearance and a resume which spoke of mediocrity. He could not be their warrior king like David and overthrow the Roman Empire who was over them. The word, Messiah, means anointed one. To them the Messiah would be an anointed person with oil. A king, a priest, a prophet. We will see Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit.
The Jews were looking for a messenger, someone like a Moses who would confront the Roman Empire and bring them to their knees. The Jews were looking for a king who would make Israel and Jerusalem great again. Jesus had to come first as a Redeemer, before He comes the 2nd time as a Ruler.
But John makes it clear, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and they had seen the glory. They had seen the light- the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Now the attention shifts for a moment to this important character who had but a brief time on the stage of history, John the Baptist. He had a phenomenal ministry for a short time. He was attracting large crowds coming out to hear his preaching and calling for repentance to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The Pharisees, the religious leaders came out to question him, who he is… which really to me means they were saying ‘ who do you think you are?’ John is baptizing Jews as well as Gentiles for repentance. This delegation of Pharisees are there to see if he is a threat to them. John has created fervor, a revival of sorts and a renewed interest in the coming of the Messiah. His preaching was powerful and the leaders of the temple could not ignore him. Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you a prophet? Then who are you they asked after he replies no to each question. John the Baptist tells them, “I am the voice of one in the wilderness calling in the desert. Make straight the way for the Lord. John the Baptist then tells them there is one coming after him whose sandals he is not worthy to untie.
The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said, “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John the Baptizer is given the high honor of baptizing the Lord Jesus Christ. It memorialized as we are told in the Gospels by the Spirit coming down on from heaven on Jesus in the form of a dove. We also read in the Gospels John heard a voice from heaven say “this is my son in whom I am well pleased.” There is the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The great question of the Old Testament was voiced by Isaac on Mount Moriah, “Where is the Lamb?” (Genesis 22:7) And Abraham answered, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was there in the Jordan River.
John was baptizing a baptism of repentance. The immersion in the water was a symbolical cleansing sins. But what can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 10 tells us the blood of bulls, and goats could never take away sin. Not the ordinary blood of a lamb, but the precious blood of the Lamb of God, which Himself provided. Jesus was not baptized for sins, for he had no sins. It was a foreshadowing of his death, burial and resurrection.
The next day John the Baptist points out Jesus to his two young disciples, John and Andrew and tells them: “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
What takes place next is a conversation and interaction which would change their lives forever. Turning around Jesus asked them, “What are you seeking?” Is this not the question of life? What are you seeking in life? Where are you looking? What have you found? How is working for you?
When Jesus asked the two young men what they are seeking, Andrew answers- “Where do you live?” Was he too overcome to ask a more in-depth question? Perhaps startled by Jesus’ turning around and inquiring what they were looking for- or maybe it was a natural question. After all when we meet someone new, we ask “where are you from?” We ask, especially men, some standard questions: what do you do- meaning what kind of work do you do. This allows us to know what their income level is, their education and background. We are forming an opinion of where this person is on the economic, social status and are they level with us, below us or above us.
We just talked about judging last week. Yet we judge by outward appearance, and by: where one lives, their physical appearance, their speech, their education level, economic status. Is this not what happened with Jesus? And his disciples? After all the privilege of birth opens doors. The sons and daughters of the rich, famous, and powerful have doors opened for them and opportunities others do not. Remember what Paul wrote: “The Jews look for signs, the Greeks looked for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.
Jesus’ answer to Andrew and John is His invitation to all: “Come and see”.
So begins their journey which will travel with them in the Gospel of John. We will put on their sandals and walk with them through the next three and ½ years and we will see Jesus up close and personal. His public ministry and his private ministry. We will hear from Jesus his plans for us, his prayers for us and his love for us.