I love John’s Gospel. Here’s some some notes from the sermon series on John in 2012-2013.
The first section of John, the Prologue, is like a cinema foyer with posters advertising what is coming…
- Need for Speed – Pretty people drive cars fast while engaging in criminal activity.
- Die Hard 43 – Bruce Willis is still bald, but now packs a Zimmer frame
- Captain America – a non Twinkies eating superhero saves the day for USA.
John’s prologue draws us in with some poster themes of the rest of the book
- Jesus is the light of the world
- Jesus is the life
- Be born of God
- Jesus is the one and only son
- Jesus is full of God’s glory, grace and truth
John’s Gospel was written much later than the other three Gospels with new material, presented differently. 90% of it is not in the others. John is more writing the “why” of Jesus’ ministry than the “what” – it’s a more reflective eye witness account by one of the 12 disciples.
In ch20:30-31 he tells us why he wrote it – “so that we may believe” – I think that forms part of the fourfold purpose of John
1)Evangelistic – to help people to believe, to come to faith
2) To strengthen believes to believe more!
3) To combat some heresies just beginning to emerge like Gnosticism with its duality of good and evil with the spiritual as good and physical as evil.
4) To supplement the other gospels with more material
John writes in a more simple style of Greek than the Synoptics – which is strange to say given the first few sentences!
Read 1-2 again.
Actually a simple explanation.
Words enable us to express ourselves. I love my wife and children. Using the words “I love you” allows me to communicate that love. Jesus is the Word of God, he expresses God’s heart and mind perfectly. Heb 1:2 says the same thing but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
There is more to it than that. The word “Word” or “Logos” was an important concept in both Greek and Jewish thinking – so John was a smart cookie using it, taking the best of both thinkings and extending it to bring truth about Jesus.
The Greeks had lots of gods, but behind them was the One Supreme being and the logos was the mediator. That’s a great start, but the Logos was separate from God and because physical creation was essentially evil, the Logos was needed because Spiritual God could have nothing to do with the physical – a radical departure from the Gospel.
Jewish thinkers thought of the Word as God’s activity in creation eg Gen 1:3 and the Word of the Lord came to the prophets. As DA Carson puts it “In short God’s Word in the Old Testament is His powerful, self-expressing revelation and salvation”. So John pulls these threads together inspired by the Holy Spirit to write John 1:1-3.
The identity of the Word is not revealed until v17, but we are in on it. The original readers would have been captivated in the first few sentences. This is a genius sermon starter to the 1st Century thinker.
“In the beginning was the word”
What does that make you think of immediately? The first four words of Genesis 1 “In the beginning God”. Matthew & Luke start with a baby in a manger. John takes us back to Jesus pre-existence, He is eternal!
“And the Word was with God”
This hits out at the Greek idea that the word is separate from the One Supreme Being. There has always been intimate fellowship in the Godhead of Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus didn’t come into existence at the virgin birth/conception!
“And the Word was God”
Here is the challenge to the Greeks, the Muslims, The Mormons and the JWs. The word is and was God. With a capital G. The JW will argue that in the Greek there is no definite article, so it must be “a god”. Inconsistent nonsense. They don’t apply that made up rule consistently, only when it fits their heretical interpretations.
The curtain has drawn open – Screen 1 movie starts
- Continuity with the Father
- Complete identity with God
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing has been made that has been made.
Jesus is the agent of creation – that means He was there doing it! John is knocking the Greek thought that the physical world is inherently evil because it is physical. God made it, Jesus made it and it was good! The world is the handiwork of Jesus – who is creator and sustainer of all things.
Paul says the same thing in Col 1:15-17.
In Genesis God speaks and creation comes into being – the activity of the Word.
Skip to v14 The Word becomes flesh.
Again John is hitting out at the Greeks who felt flesh was evil, impure and despicable. John is unambiguous – the Word who is God became flesh – fully human.
The One who created the universe, was in Mary’s womb for 9months.
The One who has no beginning in time, was born into time.
The one who is eternal, sets out on a 33year journey to the cross.
Mankind was created in the image of God – flesh is not inherently evil. Sin is evil. So God became flesh, a perfect man without sin to rescue sinful humanity.
“And made his dwelling among us”
I’ve always loved this phrase, since in my teen years first studying this passage. It literally means tabernacle among us. God tabernacle among us. Early in the OT Moses made a tabernacle for God’s glory and the law to reside in the ark of the covenant. The tabernacle was the place of God’s presence on the earth. Later a temple was built for God’s presence – although declares He doesn’t live in man made temples. Jesus came as the place of God’s presence on earth and then sent the Spirit to dwelling us, so we together become the place of God’s presence on earth – what a marvellous progressive revelation and increase of God’s presence.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only
John was one of the 12 and was at the transfiguration, so saw Christ glorified in terms of light, but for John glory is so much more than that. It’s centred in the cross.
Moses begged God to show his glory in Ex 33. The Lord replied I will cause allof my goodness to pass in front of you and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion of whom I have compassion.”
God’s glory is primarily about His goodness and His grace – John sums up God’s glory as full of grace and truth.
Whereas Moses brought the law, now Jesus has come to tabernacle among us full of grace and truth. One commentator Carson, says truth is grammatically subordinate to grace in the sentence, so it could be translated that Jesus came truly full of grace!
So how do we fulfil screen 1 of John 1
1 It’s all about Jesus
Be Christ centred – it starts with Him, flows from Him and back to Him.
Make worship Christ centred – I was troubled by a recent conference, where the songs were about the cloud, rather than Jesus – that seems to be idolatry!
Jesus is the good news – He is our rock, he is our foundation for everything and our hope for the future.. The Word became flesh, full of grace and truth/
2) John is in your face about Jesus.
We don’t need to tip-toe around who Jesus is to be culturally relevant. John was hitting culture with who Jesus is.
Jesus is not just a good man, an inspired prophet or great historical figure. He is God. John shows us that in the first paragraph of his Gospel – this cinema foyer shows us that it is possible to be culturally relevant without diluting the message of who Jesus is!
3) It is okay to not understand it all!
Most of John is plain and simple, but there are bits that needs some teasing out. Embrace the mystery. I have no idea how Jesus can be fully God and fully man. Embrace the mystery. If we could put God in a box, he would not be God.
4) The glory is inseparable from the glory of the Cross.
The cross is gory, but in it is the glory of God – the ultimate turn around. What looks like the victory of Satan destroying God in the flesh actually disarming him and rescuing us.