If the first verses of Genesis introduce the beginning of the world, the first verses of John’s Gospel refer to a much, much earlier time! Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, is given the name “The Word”, which in Greek is ‘Logos’, meaning ‘Reason’. Indeed, Jesus is the first and the last word on any matter, and the reason behind everything in life. The first two verses are tightly packed with fundamental theology and tell us that:
- The Word is not a created being – since He was there at the beginning of creation
- The Word was distinct from God the Father – since He was with God
- The Word was and is fully God in his own right
- The Word is a Person – He was with God in the beginning
Having established Jesus’ key identity, the next three verses set out what his precise role is:
- He is the template of all created things – everything has its origin in Christ
- He is the source of life (a word found 36 times in this gospel, twice as much as any other book of the bible) and the life–giver of all mankind
- He, like light, shines in the darkness, which can never comprehend, overcome, or extinguish him. “For with you is the fountain of life; in you light we see light”. (Ps 36:9)
John ‘The Baptist’ came as a witness to testify (this word occurs 33 times in John and barely at all elsewhere) so that all might believe (the word occurs 98 times in John). But the Baptist was only a witness, not the light himself.
Christ, the Light of the World, appeared physically, humanly, in his world, but his own people, his own DNA, did not recognize him – those he should have been closest to turned out to be the most distant and to reject him.
Like any gift, it needs to be received – and those who did receive Christ, by trusting in his name (‘Saviour’) became legally part of God’s family, since they had been born of the Spirit of God.
In verse 14, the gospel writer comes to the highest point of his theology, four words in English that single-handedly changed the course of human history: “The Word Became Flesh”. This fact explains every miracle that occurred afterwards, makes sense of every teaching that he uttered, and became the driving force behind our redemption. Without these four words nothing else was possible! John deliberately used the most basic Greek word for ‘flesh’ – as if to emphasise how down-to-earth the Eternal Son of God had become. You might even say ‘meat’. John is trying to get the biggest possible contrast in the transformation of an eternal divine spirit into a perfect man.
And he lived among us – literally “he pitched his tent among us”. Rather like the Tent of Meeting in which Moses saw the Lord in his glory, face to face. So, we have seen His glory, Jesus’ glory, God’s glory! When the brilliance of God’s glory is directed through the perfect man that Jesus became (and still is), then like light through a prism, it focused into two main qualities: Grace and Truth.
Meditate on that verse for a day or two – it has much goodness hidden in it.
In 1:19-34, John the Baptist was himself being questioned about his own identity: the Messiah or Elijah (see Malachi 4:5-6) or ‘The Prophet’ (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)? Instead he quotes Isaiah 40:3 – “I am the Voice…”. Next day, the Voice points out the Lamb! What identified the Lamb the most was the fact that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained on Jesus – very gently, like a dove.
John 1:35-51 talks about Jesus beginning to disciple (or ‘mentor’) a small group of men. The first two were John the Baptist’s disciples and they moved on to Jesus, with John’s blessing. (“I must decrease…”). Discipleship isn’t the best way to build the Kingdom of God, it is the only way! Jesus’s methods therefore bear close attention; he first called them to be with him and spend time observing how he lived. Soon, they were convinced that he was the Messiah, and so worth following, and so he called them to down tools and follow him permanently.
Nathaniel’s response was particularly interesting, since he was a man of integrity and was down-to-earth; he was convinced by how well Jesus knew him and the miraculous powers he displayed, and so he followed Jesus too. Verse 51 recalls the dream that Jacob had (Genesis 28:12) of the stairway to God – but the subtle difference here is that Jesus calls Himself that stairway, the Mediator between mankind and God the Father.
Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? How do you deal with temptation? Are you being discipled / mentored by anyone more experienced in the Christian life too? Are you passing on the benefits of your Christian experience by mentoring someone younger in the faith? It’s the only way that the Kingdom of God will grow.