Monday, March 11, 2013

John 1 - The Word Becomes Flesh

Prologus Ioanni Vulgata Clementina
By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Prologue of the gospel of St. John from the Clementine Vulgate,
edited by P. Michael Hetzenauer, O.M.Cap. 
Biblia Sacra, vol. V,
Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1922, p. 197.
LINK: John 1


As one of Jesus' 12 disciples, John gives a first-hand account of Jesus. John's gospel was the last to be written, probably about A.D. 85-90, after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John's exile on the island of Patmos. It is written to both a Jewish and Greek audience. 

This book is unlike the other three "synoptic" gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Over 90 percent of this book is not found in the other three. It does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus' early years. It does not include the temptation (Matthew 4), transfiguration (Matthew 17), or appointment of the disciples (Mark 3). There is no account of the parables, ascension, or Great Commission. It is really relational in nature. It is the only place where the Upper Room Discourse (and subsequent teaching on the Holy Spirit) Jesus gave to his disciples is recorded (John 14-17). 

This gospel is unique in that John tries to prove that Jesus is God in the flesh, born to die as a sacrifice for our sin. He does this by including the seven "I am" statements by Jesus:

1) I am the bread of life (6:35)
2) I am the light of the world (8:12)
3) I am the Gate for the sheep (10:7,9)
4) I am the Good Shepherd (10:11,14)
5) I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
6) I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (14:6)
7) I am the true Vine (15:1, 5) 

You might like to mark all of these in your Bible or Bible Worksheets. 

A major part of the Gospel (2:1-12:50) contains seven "Signs" that point to Him as the Messiah: 

1) Changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana (2:1-11)
2) Healing the officials son in Capernaum (4:46-54)
3) Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-18)
4) Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5-14)
5) Walking on the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21)
6) Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7)
7) Raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany (11:1-45)

This is supported by the purpose of the book stated in 20:31:

but these have been written so that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;
and that believing you may have life in His name.

A key word in this verse as well as the whole gospel is "believe" (pisteuĊ).  It occurs 98 times! You might want to mark it in a special way as you read.

Another way that John is unique is that 40% of the book is devoted to the last week of Jesus' life (John 12-20:25).  I have made our Bible Book Club schedule coincide with this year's Holy Week concluding on Easter Sunday! 

In the past, we have watched this version of the book of John as we have read it:

The Gospel of John - Visual Bible
The Gospel of John
I have studied privately and led studies in this book more than any of the other three Gospel accounts. So, I am really looking forward to digging deeper with you! Let's begin!


(The number at the beginning of each section refers to the 250 Events in the Life of Christ.) 

2. God Became a Human (1:1-18)

In John's theological prologue to this book, he wastes no time in stating who Jesus was (and still is): The Word that was God from the beginning and became flesh so that we could behold His glory!  This is so important. I recommend that you memorize John 1:1,14 today! 

The term "Word" in Greek is  logos. It was used in Greek philosophical teaching as well as Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy. In Hebrew Scripture the Word was an agent of creation (Psalm 33:6), source of God's message to His people through the prophets (Hosea 1:2), and God's law, the standard of holiness (Psalm 119:11). In the Greek world is was the principle of reason that governed the world.  Jesus was a human being but He was also the creator God, the ultimate revelation of God, a living picture of God's holiness, and the promised One in which "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). 

19. John the Baptist declares his mission (1:19-28)

Just so you are not confused, John the Baptist is NOT the author of the gospel of this book. You will remember he is Jesus' distant cousin, son of Elizabeth and Zacharias (Luke 1). He also did not live to write anything down. For more background about the author of the book of John, click on "The Four Gospels" link above.  (I once had a "not yet believer" tell me in a study of the book of John that there were entirely too many Johns and Marys in the book, and she was hopelessly confused. LOL!)

The city leaders wanted to know who John was, so they sent the priests and Levites to check Him out. He was not the Light but he bore witness (testified) to the light. Witness/testify is a key word in the book of John (1:15, 32, 34, 3:11, 26; 5:31-32, 36-37; 18:37; 19:35; etc.). John the Baptist was the forerunner to Jesus. Even though He had an "Elijah-like" ministry of pointing people back to God, he was not Elijah. He was merely the voice in the wilderness, making way for Jesus (Isaiah 40:3) to whom he was not even worthy to do the most menial of service (tying a sandal). John knew his place in the whole scheme of things.

20. John the Baptist proclaims Jesus as the Messiah (1:29-34)

John's job was to testify. Thus he proclaimed:

"Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" 

John 1:29 is a key verse to memorize.  If you have been in the Bible Book Club, this ties the Old Testament to the New Testament. For more background on the "lamb of God," see the REFLECTION section.

John testified that Jesus was the Messiah as confirmed by the Spirit coming down from heaven and remaining on Him at His baptism. The book of John does not record the actual event of Jesus' baptism, but he refers to it here. 

21. The first disciples follow Jesus (1:35-51)

John is the only gospel to give an account of the first disciples who followed Jesus: John (although his name is not mentioned, most commentators believe it was John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James), Andrew, his brother Simon Peter (the "rock"), Philip, and Nathanael.   Note the different names that they gave to Jesus: Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah (the anointed One), Son of God, and King of Israel. 

Nathanael said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nazareth was despised by the Jews because of the Roman garrison there. Some commentators believe it was a place of loose morals and religion. Jesus' supernatural knowledge of Nathanael's whereabouts under the fig tree convinced him that he was the Son of God and King of Israel. 

REFLECTION - The Lamb of God

This is where our study of the Old Testament really comes in handy and The Scarlet Thread of Redemption flows seamlessly together!  Please read the background study in Exodus 12 for an explanation of the Passover lamb!


Memorize and meditate on John 1:1, 14 and 29 today!


We praise You God for sending the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. Amen!
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