John’s gospel offers account of God’s plan to know and save mankind
At first, I was confused because the book seemed repetitious and confusing.
But the more I studied the story of Jesus as told by John, the apostle Jesus loved, the more I realized that it was more than a biography of Jesus’ life on earth. It is the account of God’s plan to know mankind and to save mankind.
The opening of John has powerful rhetoric even in translation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
The story is about the Word who is not named until verse 29 when John acknowledges Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” The opening phrase echoes the opening of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The specific account of creation begins, “And God said….” All the material of the world was spoken into existence. By connecting Jesus to the Word, John strengthens the parallel between Genesis and this gospel.
“Through him [the Word] all things were made; without him nothing was made that hath been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
The gospel writer here sets up a contrast that will develop all through this gospel — the conflict of light and darkness. These early statements in this gospel make it clear that Jesus has existed since the beginning of time and that he was the instrument of God’s creative force.
The gospel of Luke, written much earlier, has this same message, but it is almost as if God wants, nearly 50 years after the crucifixion, to make Jesus’ divinity clear. He has been the creator, and now God is making him the savior of mankind. John the Apostle does not give the genealogy of Jesus or John, “the voice of one calling in the desert.”
The background of these two is provided in Luke’s gospel where we learn about their mission as Gabriel reports to Mary and to Zechariah.
Although no report of Jesus’ or John’s birth is included, John the apostle clarified the work of each.
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all men might believe.”
He was not the light but he was a witness about Jesus who was the true light coming into the world to bring light to every man. John tells about the Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove at his baptism, and concludes, “I have seen and I testify that this is the son of God.”
The Apostle shares the amazing fact that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The evangelist testifies that “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Thus John the baptizer is revealing that Jesus existed with God before his physical life began. John the apostle is revealing the amazing truth that God became flesh to reveal God to man. “No one has seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
The opening chapter requires analysis of each statement and the truth it reveals. It is a labor that is fruitful for a fuller understanding of Jesus and God’s eternal plan for saving mankind from sin and death. As the story progresses, John reports meetings with individuals and groups. Jesus is straightforward in addressing questions about worship, his identity, the importance of grace and mercy, the irrefutable justice of God and God’s abiding presence among his people.
If space were unlimited, I would like to study this whole gospel with you, but I will spend two more columns with “John,” hoping you will be inspired to dig in on your own. A study of this book in my late 20s changed me and my view of God so completely that I say it was then I fell in love with God. In fact, I was baptized at 12, but the study of this gospel made me a believer and a devoted follower of Jesus the Christ.
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