- Religion and Philosophy
A new look at John's Gospel - 2
John's Gospel - A New Look number 2: Chapter 1 - God becoming flesh.
1. Introduction: One could spend a whole series of articles on the first chapter of John. But here we will look at just a couple of mind blowing and challenging concepts from John 1.
2. The Word (Logos): Right in the beginning of the Gospel (John 1:1-5) John tells us that the Logos, that is Jesus as he clearly identifies him in 1:14, was present in the beginning, was with God, and was God. Through him all things were made and in him is life. These verses speak of two important issues with which the writer opens his book. Jesus and God are revealed as one in creation and Jesus is the light and life that brings salvation to mankind.
When Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders of his time they accused him of making false claims about who he was. In John's gospel there is no doubt about the truth of these claims. Not only does John tell us that Jesus was with God, and was God, from the beginning, but as John develops the Gospel he builds it around the seven signs and the seven "I am" statements. Together with those "I am" statements are the miraculous signs that Jesus performed to back up those statements.
"I am" was clearly understood to be the name of God. "I am" sent me is what Moses said to the Israelites on God's instruction.(Exodus 3:14) In this Gospel the first fact that John clearly states is that Jesus is deity and this fits in with his clear aim of the Gospel; "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:21- NIV translation) We are challenged in our thinking to understand how the Father and the Son are one, and how the Holy Spirit fits into the picture. At the same time John simply accepts the unity of the Father and Son. Then in verse 14 he takes the concept one step further by stating that "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory. the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV translation) Here John is referring to Jesus the man, who according to Paul's explanation "emptied himself" or "gave up what he had", to become fully human.(Philippians 2:7/8)
3. The call of the first disciples: John then records these great spiritual truths that he, as one of the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him, experienced. Later these disciples would be sent to take the message of truth and light into the world. While John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus, he was also one of the first witnesses as to who Jesus was, calling Him; "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"(John 1:29). John the Baptist also saw the Spirit come down on Jesus as John records in verses 32-34 of chapter one. Andrew, who at this time was a disciple of John the Baptist, goes to tell his brother Simon Peter that "We have found the Messiah", mind blowing news (John 1:41). John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, is already building up a strong case in order to achieve the stated aim that he has. One after the other reliable witnesses testify to what they see.
4. Jesus begins to reveal his power: In the discourse with Nathanael in the last verses of chapter one, John uses the interaction between Jesus and this man who is "without guile" and who questions whether anything good can come out of Nazareth, to further build his case. As Nathanael declares that he has indeed seen the "Son of God and King of Israel" (1:49), John is weaving his evidence like an inspired advocate to prove his point. As readers today we cannot but be convinced that the events recorded by the writer of the fourth Gospel are true and of vital importance as we travel along the path of spiritual understanding. A man "without guile" would be a good witness in any place.
5. Conclusion: It is evident already in this first chapter that the Gospel according to John is indeed deep and challenging to the theologian, but at the same time also understandable on a more obvious level to all readers. It brings us to the question even at this early stage, "what must I do with Jesus?" A question that only you can answer.
NIV translation of Bible
Good News Bible Translation
Barclay, W. The Gospel of John
Morris, L. The Gospel according to John
Tenney, M.C. John-the Gospel of Belief