John Chapter 1
Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 20, 2015
John 1:1-51 NLTse In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He existed in the beginning with God. (3) God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. (4) The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (6) God sent a man, John the Baptist, (7) to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. (8) John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. (9) The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. (11) He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (12) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (13) They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (14) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (15) John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (16) From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (17) For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (19) This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” (20) He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” (21) “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” (22) “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” (23) John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'” (24) Then the Pharisees who had been sent (25) asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” (26) John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. (27) Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” (28) This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. (29) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (30) He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ (31) I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” (32) Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. (33) I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (34) I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” (35) The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. (36) As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (37) When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. (38) Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” (39) “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. (40) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. (41) Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). (42) Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John–but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). (43) The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” (44) Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. (45) Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” (46) “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. (47) As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” (48) “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” (49) Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” (50) Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” (51) Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
I have to confess, I’ve been looking forward to writing this book on John’s Gospel for some time. John’s book is the most passionate Gospel about Jesus, including a number of chapters about lessons Jesus taught not found in the other three Gospels. Matthew seems to have the most events, which makes writing stories rather easy. Mark unfolded on its own showing two main themes, how Jesus taught to understand all scripture and the relationship Jesus was looking for. Luke had a tendency of skipping over some details while lingering on others. Luke’s book was perfect for showing how God’s Spirit worked behind the scenes to set up every event so Jesus was able to fulfill every prophecy about Himself. Which brought me to one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen in the Bible.
The end of John’s first chapter describes how Jesus was sent to be a connection between Heaven and earth, the perfect description of the book I wrote on Luke’s Gospel showing how God’s Spirit worked throughout Jesus’ ministry. John’s description not only says there is a connection, he says we will see that connection.
His Word is Light
John 1:1-9 NLTse In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He existed in the beginning with God. (3) God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. (4) The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (6) God sent a man, John the Baptist, (7) to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. (8) John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. (9) The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
I always loved the beginning of John’s book. I wonder how long he thought about the beginning of his book before he sat down, picked up a pen and started writing. I can see how words just flowed for John. Out of the four gospels, John’s is the most poetic. Words and sentences flow like a man writing to his love half way around the world. But in this case, John’s first love is a universe away.
Let’s pause for a moment to estimate that distance between Jesus and John. We can’t estimate that distance in meters or miles. We can’t estimate that time in hours, days, or years. Looking at the other side of the coin, we can’t estimate the closeness they shared until we experience it ourselves. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
(Romans 8:38-39, Psalms 103:1, 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLTse)
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it really slows you down, allowing you to concentrate on each word, and God’s still, small voice. Highlighting key words also slows you down. Making a list of key words helps to see the main points the author is emphasizing. Let’s look at the list of keys words John gave us up to this point.
Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.
It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.
The key words John repeated paint a picture all their own. We have a saying here on earth, “a man is known by his words and actions.” John covered both those aspects at the very beginning of his book. He also covered another aspect of Jesus he had to learn, Jesus’ divinity. Jesus lives in a different time as well as place.
John tells us, the Word is God and existed in the beginning. What beginning? John described the beginning as creation. John also pointed out how God created everything through Jesus. What does it mean to create everything through Jesus? I’m not going to speculate. Writing on the gospels has also taught me, there are some things we have to leave in God’s hands.
God’s Word gave life. We could go on and on about that. But we will stick with the context of this book and not wander away from John’s written words and main theme he is trying to convey. I am sure we are going to see that life unfold as we go through John’s book.
John tells us, Jesus’ life brought light to everyone and His Word gave life to everything. This is a reference to creation as well as Jesus’ ministry. One story could not have been fulfilled without the other. That’s why it’s important to study Jesus’ ministry as a whole. John pointed out that ministry began before creation. Maybe that’s why it’s difficult for people to comprehend Jesus as a person, friend, and all the other things He wants out of our relationship together. How can normal human beings tie in all the aspects of God’s Word, light, and life? They can’t. Not without God. Anyone whose listened to God through His Word will know, many of the most important aspects of those three are difficult if not impossible to explain. It seems strange to be in God’s Word, in His presence to see details that seem so simple to understand, but a minute later feel impossible to explain. That’s another one of those mysteries of God’s Word. Some things are better left to God’s Spirit to explain. Only God’s personal light can piece that darkness. If there was an easier way, Jesus would not have had to come here in person to feel the heat, cold, pain, suffering, ridicule, and temptations of this world. Of course Jesus came to this world to accomplish much more than face temptation. That is one aspect on the surface of Jesus’ life. Once you know Him, you will see much more about His ministry.
In addition to His Word, God works through other avenues of communication. John introduced one of those in the introduction, His messengers. John the Baptist was one of them. John not only introduced Jesus’ ministry, he also confirmed God’s Word. That’s one of the ways God communicates with us. Did that ever happen to you? There you are reading God’s Word, then suddenly see a lesson or detail that seems so clear and makes so much sense, you wonder why you never saw it before. Your excited, but not sure how other people will accept it. How does God get around that problem? If He showed you the lesson in His Word three times, your still not going to be convinced it is something to share. God goes to plan B. He puts someone in your life you meet during the week who studied the same subject. You begin talking and can’t believe your not the only person to see those details. Has that ever happened to you? If you start studying, it will.
There is another rule of context we need to look at. That rule tells us to look back in scripture to see how the Author led into this story. This rule also works with chapters. You might ask how could that work at the beginning of a book? Don’t forget who actually wrote these books in the Bible. It was God!Human hands may have put pen to paper, but John told us how God’s Word existed before the creation of this world.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author lead from one event to the next.
In this case we have to compare the last few verses in Luke’s book to the introduction John wrote. This may seem strange based on human standards and the way this world thinks, but the Bible is no ordinary book.
Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God. (Luke 24:44-53 NLTse).
Luke told us, the prophecies about Jesus’ ministry and the plan of salvation, were written long ago. John added an explanation by telling us, they were written, or at least formulated before creation. This may seem like a small detail to some, but to those who know and understand God, it shows how God obviously established an exact and perfect pattern to write His book. We know them as the rules of context. Another rule tells us the introduction and summation show us the main theme in a chapter.
This is one of the most important Bible Study rules of context you want to learn and use:
The introduction and summation of each chapter establishes the main theme, thought, and lesson on the chapter. Themes may be established by key words, thoughts, or contrasts.
“How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (John 1:48-51 NLTse).
In this case, the simple explanation shows us, God’s Word existed before creation. The summation tells us, “you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” Jesus is the conduit or connection between Heaven and earth. Once we look a little deeper into God’s Words, we see the explanation John recorded.
Jesus created everything. Jesus existed before creation. His Word gave life to everything and everyone. God sent John the Baptist as His messenger. We can see how the information about Jesus is spreading out. It’s not too much for us to understand, but it is something the world doesn’t agree with and doesn’t want us to see. John also introduced the spiritual battle, but didn’t get into details. At this point it is much more important to understand Jesus as a person and God.
You have to admit, understanding Jesus as a person and God is a lot to comprehend. It is not an easy task to understand nor explain. Looking back at the end of this chapter, we see how God gave us one explanation. Jesus saw Nathanael under a fig tree and John recorded that event for a reason. Come on now, we’re not dealing with man’s words, or man’s way of understanding. The world is doing its best to fog up the truth so we don’t understand. It’s time to put away the old way of understanding and look at God’s Word the way it was written – not the way the world wants us to look at it, but the way God wrote it.
It’s amazing how God’s Word has been recorded. I can’t explain it. The patterns occur so many times, they can’t be denied. Imagine if you will, if all of God’s messengers went out and showed the world how His Word is constructed, put together, and recorded, with the simple process to understand it. God’s Word was never intended to pick apart to create doctrines or guess at prophecies. We have to put away what the world teaches and leave doors open to God’s Spirit to teach. I’m imagining a world where we simply teach people how to seek God through His Word, and leave them in the capable hands of God’s Spirit.
We’re shown two witnesses at the beginning of John’s book, Jesus and John the Baptist. Jesus is obvious. But what was John’s role? Other gospels tells us how John was called before birth and dedicated to God. John didn’t grow up and learn about God’s plan of salvation based on worldly methods of teaching. If that were so, his father would have made sure John became a priest just like himself, and his farther before him. John marked the beginning of a whole new learning process. John was like Jacob, who saw God’s angels coming to earth and returning to Heaven. John also represented Elijah’s power we’re told will be present in the last days. But I don’t want to jump ahead of how John revealed those details.
The Word Became Human
John 1:10-14 NLTse He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. (11) He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (12) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (13) They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (14) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
One phrase sticks out here. “The world didn’t recognize Him.” It is repeated later in this chapter and is associated with the phrase, “rejected Him.” It should be highlighted the same color, but we’ll look at that rejection as well as misunderstanding about Jesus for a moment based on what we’ve seen so far.
The same misunderstanding and denial exists today. What else could God have done? He recorded sixty six books over generations, used specific patterns that are easy to follow, used simple examples in His Word, and sent not only messengers, but His Son to explain them. Not to mention His Spirit, who will guide us. But the world can’t see or understand.
I’m envisioning a father leaning over instructing His child. One of the first things a father wants to do is teach his child to walk, then talk. Remember how proud you were when your child spoke their first words? How did they actually learn those words? Was it something stored away in their brains at creation, or was your child imitating you? Put those two together in thought and focus on God teaching us. Is it a good thing or bad thing to imitate God? In this spiritual war around us, what is the last thing the enemy wants us to do?
That concept of the father and son is easy to jump to because John included those words in this section. John also shows us a simple Bible Study method most people use, looking at a few words to invoke a personal thought and reflection upon scripture. In this case, a father teaching and caring for his son – a close relationship.
Combining the father and son vision with the thought of a relationship with God’s WORD recorded and repeated in the introduction, we see a strong emphasis on verbal communication. We see it in His written Word, and John tells us about other forms of communication, His messengers, as well as a brief description of His Spirit in the summation of this chapter.
God uses all three major forms of communication, but the world still doesn’t recognize Him and chose to reject Him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John tells us this takes a change. He called it a rebirth. We can’t be like the world if we want to hear God. His plan went as far as sending His Son here to explain the process. So the Word became human and made his home among us.
John didn’t make any mention of Jesus’ sacrifice at this point. Sad to think, that’s the only people know Jesus, as a Savior who died for them. What else can they tell you about Jesus? Not much. Why? They’ve accepted the worldly view of Jesus but never learned the aspects of communication He uses to reach out and teach. What does Jesus want us to learn? He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
John tied in love with faithfulness for a reason. John called it unfailing love and faithfulness. Why? I don’t know what the world was like a hundred years ago, but the world today lacks love and faithfulness. Is this a message for all time, or specifically pointed to these days so close to His return?
The world today seems to have a lot of love, but that love lacks faithfulness. It’s happened to me. I was married and in love only to find out it was a marriage of convenience. She never had any intention of making our marriage a permanent relationship. She listed a number of excuses for the way she viewed marriage. Her first excuse was tradition, followed closely by, “God wants us to be happy,” which goes hand in hand with, “God gave us freedom of choice.”
Has God’s law been canceled by tradition and a selfish desire to be happy? The saddest part is, the church I belonged to supported her decision. Not all of them, but a large part. I was shocked. I heard a lot of people say, “God wants us to be happy,” and, “God gives us freedom to choose.” But I never thought that meant canceling out God’s law. The whole ordeal showed how people in this world lack faithfulness.
It’s not a surprise John told us, Jesus is full of unfailing love and faithfulness. It is exactly what we look for once we get tired of what this world offers. It’s exactly what this world needs. I can see why John calls it a rebirth, but after what I’ve lived through, it seems more like common sense. How much easier could God have made the choice?
John the Baptist
John 1:15-28 NLTse John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (16) From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (17) For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (19) This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” (20) He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” (21) “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” (22) “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” (23) John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'” (24) Then the Pharisees who had been sent (25) asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” (26) John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. (27) Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” (28) This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
John quickly introduced John the Baptist and his ministry and how he introduced Jesus’ ministry. We see the word testified repeated again. This shows us another role Jesus’ followers have. So far we’ve been shown three. They verify God’s Word, His messages, and tell people, or testify about Jesus. Up to this point it doesn’t seem to be a difficult job.
John the Baptist was very careful to identify Jesus as someone far greater than himself. In a way, John was a symbol of Jesus. The fulfillment of a symbol is always far greater than the symbol itself. This is important to keep in mind when looking at other characters in the Bible, such as David, if he is studied as a symbol pointing to Jesus. Another important factor to keep in mind is, God also used contrasts to teach lessons. John told about glorious blessings we receive, then immediately moved into the law as given through Moses. To emphasis that blessing, John compared the law to God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
So far we’ve seen a short list of God’s unfailing love. The first John mentioned was God’s Word. Then His Son who came to this world to explain His Word. The next mention of God’s unfailing love is associated with His law. What lesson does that teach? Here is another example between love from this world and that unfailing love from Heaven. God’s love will be according to His law. I for one am glad of that.
John the Baptist also pointed out another important detail. No one has seen God except Jesus. No one can tell you details about God like Jesus can. This reminds me of some online debates I see. People like to debate about God. Some choose to argue about what the trinity really means. When I look at those discussions, those people like to give the impression they know everything about God and there is nothing they don’t know. How can that be when John told us no one has seen God except Jesus? Would Jesus tell them to enter into such debates? I doubt it. Anyway, how can anyone know everything about our Infinite God? Only Jesus can reveal the real God to us.
John the Baptist was visited by a group of religious leaders. They heard about John and went out to investigate. This showed how news about John spread. Why shouldn’t it? John was announcing the Messiah. He was announcing the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. That’s what John told them. But those religious leaders couldn’t accept the fact the message didn’t come through them.
A group of well dressed priests and their assistants traveled from Jerusalem to investigate reports about this new prophet preaching in the wilderness. It was a long trip. Before embarking on that trip, all the religious leaders gathered to discuss the matter. They shared what they heard and thoughts about what was happening, backed up with a few pieces of scripture. They didn’t look for scripture informing them about what was happening, or about to happen. They threw around a few verses that came to mind into the conversation. Most of them were one form or another about testing a prophet or false prophets. Their minds were made up before they chose a small group to investigate the situation.
Everyone could quickly tell the difference between John and the religious leaders. Their outward appearance was a contrast to say the least. The priests dressed to announce and show their authority. John on the other hand had nothing to prove. His mission wasn’t to call attention to himself but to prepare the world for its Messiah. John’s words were sure and his message clear. On the other hand, the priests seemed confused.
The priests began a dialog by getting right to the point. They weren’t happy about making a long trip out into the wilderness and leaving the comfort and security of their homes. They brought along a few assistants for protection. To them it wasn’t a precaution, it was a necessity. They needed them to prepare whatever comforts they could find on the road.
The priests asked John, “Who are you?” John returned the favor by getting right to the point. He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” The priests wanted to get the answer they came for as quickly as possible and return to Jerusalem. They were angry because John didn’t follow requests and orders to appear in Jerusalem. “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
John quoted scripture. The rules of context tells us to look up and read the chapter that texts is located in. Prophets often quoted only a small portion of the message found in scripture. God’s prophets know what to say, and what to leave out. They are doing nothing more than opening a door for God’s Spirit to reach someone. Prophets don’t answer questions. Their main role is to lead people to God. Samuel told us how God changed the role of His messengers from seers to prophets. A seer answered questions. A prophet leads people to God for answers.
Another important Bible Study rule is, when you see scripture quoted by an author, always look up the original texts. An inspired writer will only quote a small portion of scripture. Just enough to point you back to the original texts. It’s your job to open up and read the original texts. And remember to check to introduction and summation for the chapter the original scripture is located. This a a major way God uses to communicate with us. An easy way to locate the original texts is to use a chain reference in a Study Bible. Or you can use the TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) you can download and use with E-Sword, and other Bible computer programs.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:1-5 NLTse).
When we look at the chapter John quoted from, it’s always a good idea to look at a few verses before and after the specific texts used. Some people call that checking the context. But they’re wrong. To check context in the chapter, we have to look at the introduction and summary for the chapter.
Here we included the complete introduction for Isaiah 40. We can see how it not only fits perfectly with the theme in John chapter 1, but adds to it. Isaiah 40 begins by repeating the word comfort. Isn’t that part of John’s main theme? We can see how Isaiah added details to John the Baptist’s ministry as well as Jesus’. God wanted both of them to speak tenderly to Jerusalem, as well as tell them their sad days were over and their sins were pardoned. This is a perfect illustration showing how a prophet or writer points people back to scripture at God’s command. How would this scripture have effected those priests if they would have looked at it? Now to look at the summation.
O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27-31 NLTse).
From what we’ve studied so far, we can see how the summation in Isaiah 40 adds a few more details to John’s introduction and description of Jesus and His ministry, not only here on earth, but in Heaven. It’s amazing how God shows and explains the use of those simple rules of context. It’s just as amazing that books written hundreds of years before Jesus’ ministry described what He came here to accomplish. Then to think, New Testament authors knew exactly how to arrange their books to include the right scripture in the right place.
No one could have written such a book with such clarity and consistency. To think, we’ve had these books for nearly 2000 years. There have been times when people saw this consistency, and told the world. We used to call those revivals. People, some times only a few, would look into scripture so deep, people considered it a new revelation. Then after a time, everything was forgotten and the world got back into the same old rut, thinking a few rituals and traditions was all God wanted out of them.
A lot of this stagnant form of worship is caused by human nature, the desires to place responsibility on someone else. So they create church leaders by loosely interpreting a few New Testament and maybe a few Old Testament scriptures. They make their chosen leaders responsible for reading and interpreting the Bible, as well as maintaining some sort of relationship with God. Of course for the most part, the Christian world believes God stopped talking to this world. No one can present a single scripture supporting that claim, but it does fall under the category of tradition. When we look at this and compare it to those religious leaders who confronted John the Baptist, we can see people today copied the same system.
Like those priests in John’s day, modern priests claim God’s Spirit stopped communicating with this world. They also share the same attitude. If God’s Spirit was going to speak, He would do it through them. If they hear a new message, they’ll immediately reject it based on the fact it didn’t come through them. We may see a few changes today. Some churches blended democracy with religion by electing officials. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about that either. In the long and short of things, most Christian institutions copied a failed system, made a few changes, and convinced themselves they got it right this time. But where is that communication and relationship with God the gospels and other books teach?
It wasn’t by chance the priests asked John of he was Elijah. This blows up a lot of modern concepts of what a lot of Christians refer to as the power of Elijah promised in the last days. They make the mistake of placing that power in the distant future. After John’s death, Jesus told His disciples John was Elijah. So that power was present in Jesus’ day. Jesus never said a word about that power being withdrawn. Jesus didn’t explain that power in detail. But I’ve seen a few preachers try to explain it. As far as I’m concerned, trying to explain Elijah’s power is much like trying to explain God in full detail. To understand that power, we’d have to go to Jesus.
We can understand how vast that power is when we look at everything recorded about Elijah. I don’t want to write a detailed list. That’s one of those openings for you to review scripture with Jesus. As a matter of fact, that is one phase of Elijah the prophet, to lead people back to God.
Like all of us, Elijah had good points and weaknesses. He did some fantastic things when he followed orders, but had fears like any normal man. One of the main features of Elijah I look at is how he passed his ministry over to Elisha with a double blessing. That showed how God sends us people to train when we receive a portion of Elijah’s power. We have to pass on our blessing to others. This also opens the door to look at Elisha’s ministry for more information. That shows us how details expand, not condense into a box people put God’s power into and label. One of the stories about Elisha that caught my interest is how he built a school for prophets then had to build a larger place to meet.
When we look at those details and stories in the Bible as a whole, we can see conflicts with a lot of things taught in churches today. I don’t see a need to name those differences or argue with them. Once Elijah’s life and story are studied as a whole the way it was meant to be, you’ll begin to understand. Then look at how Elisha continued that ministry. Another detail to look at is where God sent them, who they ministered to. Once you sit down to discuss those details with Jesus, you’ll wonder why no one told you about them.
The fact those priests asked if John was Elijah showed how they were looking for his return. After all, Elijah’s return was promised a few generations before John the Baptist arrived on the scene. This showed how the main stream religious leaders could tell the power they questioned was standing in front of them. Things haven’t changed.
John’s answer showed how little he understood about the prophecies written about himself. Let that sink in for a moment. What is God’s Spirit telling you about that fact? If John didn’t understand the prophecies written about himself, why do we have a bunch of prophets running around today who insist they have all the prophecies figured out. I wonder if they could explain the few prophecies written about John. I wonder how many prophecies about Jesus they could explain. Would it make sense for God to have a messenger in today’s world who can explain every detail about future prophecies, but know little or nothing about prophecies Jesus fulfilled? John was used as an example to show us, God reveals the meaning and fulfillment of prophecies at the time He chooses. Jesus didn’t reveal John’s link to Elijah until after John died.
Jesus is Baptized
John 1:29-34 NLTse The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (30) He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ (31) I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” (32) Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. (33) I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (34) I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
John recorded a rather brief description of Jesus’ baptism. I can’t say why, but I can suggest we look at details here and see if John had a reason for leaving out details other gospel writers thought were important enough to include.
One of the lessons we should see is how the four gospels work together. Not one of them alone contains the view we have of Jesus’ ministry when all four are combined. That’s a lesson we have to learn before God puts us on the front lines. We can’t go taking credit for saving people and there is no way we should ever feel we have the power to change people’s lives. No one person stands alone. God requires teamwork.
I can see how parts of John’s chapter go against the grain of modern Christian philosophy. Many churches follow a particular system. Get people in the door by sensationalizing something. It may be prophecies, healing, prosperity, or any number of other subjects. The goal is to offer something other churches don’t. In any case, you’ll hear a lot of speeches about them being the only church with this or that. They may use terms like the remnant or last day church. The Church of Laodicea is another popular claim.
Once they get you in, the next step is to indoctrinate you. That means to change you into a predetermined mold, the type of member they feel comfortable with. So you’ll get a consistent supply of doctrines. They may call them sermons, or Bible Studies, but all they are is a never ending stream of doctrines.
Other churches will call churches like those cults. But look at the source. That’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Most Christian churches follow the same fundamentals. Their actually copied from those Jewish leaders and adopted by the early Christian church. If you study history, you’ll see how those rules, regulations, doctrines, and traditions got out of hand. They really got out of hand. Finally people began breaking away. But it was never a clean break from the institutional style of worship. Each splinter church took the basic concepts of the mother church, made a few changes, created a new name, and convinced themselves everything was in order. I’d like to see that process explained in the Bible before I believe it.
John’s ministry represented a total break from the established man made system of worship. John’s father was a priest and wanted John, his firstborn son, to follow in his footsteps. That wasn’t God’s plan. That was the first in a long line of traditions God was going to break. John not only announced Jesus’ ministry, but a return to a primitive, simple, and pure from of worship. You’ll notice, John received his education in the wilderness, away from the world. That doesn’t mean we have to move into the woods to learn from God, but we have to find time to be alone with Him. We also have to find a way of putting the influence of the world behind us. John was also a symbol of that new birth he talked about.
Once again John tells us, Jesus existed long before He began His ministry on this world. John didn’t want us to forget, Jesus is God’s Son. Here John referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. We can’t be certain how much John knew about Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice. All we can see at this point is, God’s Spirit used John to point people, especially those priests back to scripture. Those priests were supposed to be experts on scripture. Do you think they made the connection between the Lamb of God and story about Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac? John added another detail. Jesus came to take away the sins of the world.
John did something few men are able to do. He said he didn’t know. To be specific, John admitted, he didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. We can’t assume if that was physical or spiritual. God’s plan of salvation had not yet been revealed, so John may have been referring to the spiritual details he didn’t know.
John said he saw God’s Spirit resting on Jesus. As with other gospel writers, John described God’s Spirit like a dove. I’m not sure why God’s Spirit appeared like a dove. Neither have I looked at a dove as a spiritual symbol or how its been used in other stories in the Bible. This does of course verify the presence of God’s Spirit in this world.
John also repeated the fact he didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah. John most likely repeated this to draw attention to Jesus’ ministry. It also showed how we have to learn about Jesus’ ministry from Him. This was an important matter worth repeating. It was an import part of John’s testimony.
Andrew and Peter Meet Jesus
John 1:35-42 NLTse The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. (36) As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (37) When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. (38) Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” (39) “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. (40) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. (41) Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). (42) Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John–but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).
The next day John saw Jesus and once again called Him, “the Lamb of God.” Bible writers don’t repeat things unless they’re important. It’s obvious John wanted to point out Jesus’ ministry. But John made it clear, he didn’t know what Jesus’ ministry was, or God’s full plan of salvation. This makes me think, how many people refer to Jesus as, “the Lamb of God,” and still don’t know much about Jesus’ ministry and don’t understand His sacrifice.
John had an excuse. John’s contact with Jesus was at the very beginning of His ministry. We can’t be certain which details John knew, and which he didn’t know. We know John had some doubts about Jesus when he was locked away in Herod’s prison. But we can’t discount the fact, this world is filled with people who know about Jesus, but don’t really know Him or His Word.
John was very passionate about Jesus and His ministry both in earth and in Heaven. We saw that in his introduction. On the other side of the coin, John the Baptist showed how we don’t have to know everything about Jesus to be a messenger. John admitted there were details he didn’t know about, but he didn’t let that slow him down or stop him. John displayed the power of Elijah and he admitted he wasn’t perfectly prepared. Neither did he have all the answers. When we compare those details about John with Elijah’s ministry, we can see they both had faults. If people are looking for perfection when Elijah’s power displays itself in this world, they are going to miss the vast majority of that work when it operates in front of them.
Follow is the predominate key word in this section of John chapter 1. Of course they are following Jesus. This story covers two of John the Baptist’s disciples. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men. According to John’s book, Andrew was the first disciple to follow Jesus. John also tells us, Andrew met Jesus where John was baptizing. This seems contrary to other books.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers–Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew–throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (Matthew 4:18-22 NLTse).
Matthew didn’t provide much detail, except to say Jesus saw Peter and Andrew in their boat fishing and called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” The same is true with John and James.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. (Mark 1:16-20 NLTse).
Mark recorded much the same details Matthew did. Luke recorded the strangest twist in the story.
Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me–I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:3-11 NLTse).
The three writers seem to agree Jesus met with those four disciples on a lake and called them to follow Him. But was that the first time they met Jesus? Luke didn’t record his account that way. Luke pointed out the fact Simon had contact with Jesus before He called them and they began following Him. After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them.(Luke 4:38-39 NLTse).
Some people like to search for errors in the Bible and point them out. They’re minds are focused on details they think are inconsistent, and fail to look at all the details. They use a man made type of Bible Study. There are no rules, no recorded process, no consistency. How can anyone in their right mind expect to understand a collection of books written with God’s perfect consistency if they don’t have consistency in how they approach and study God’s Word? What they do is separate out a few pieces of scripture and create a story based on what they feel. Their not guided by God’s Spirit, nor are they interested in looking at the Bible as a whole. So they search and search for any little detail they think doesn’t fit, then make a big deal out of it.
Not one of the gospel writers said this was the first time the disciples met Jesus, or that was the first time. Is it their fault they can’t understand? I don’t think so. Not when the vast majority of the Christian world teaches some miraculous power sweep over the disciples, they dropped everything and immediately followed Jesus. When we put the four gospels together, we don’t get a story like that at all. But that’s what a lot of preachers teach. Why?
It makes their job easier. Walk in the door, let us tell you what a good Christian has to be, get baptized into our church and your saved. Simple enough for most people to understand. They leave off the part about a personal relationship with Jesus and they close the door to a lot of questions they may not be able to answer. They condense God’s plan of salvation and Jesus’ ministry into something small enough to fit in a box with no questions asked. If you don’t experience the immediate type of transformation they preach, there must be something wrong with you. They’re answers are all the same. Go back and study our doctrines and the proof texts we gave you. Is that really what Jesus came to this world to teach?
Look at John’s account of what may be Andrew’s and Simon’s first meeting with Christ. Do you see anything telling us, those two left everything and immediately followed Jesus? John didn’t write anything to indicate that.
The first thing Andrew did was find and tell his brother, “We have found the Messiah.” John made it clear Andrew told Simon that after spending one day with Jesus. Was one day really enough to convince them Jesus is the Messiah? Now try doing what few Christians are able to do, look at the Bible as a whole and question God on every detail.
Now do something few people do, put yourself in the place of the characters in the Bible. This is something control freaks really hate to see people doing because it brings up details and questions they don’t want to deal with. This also puts you in the presence of God’s Spirit in a very personal way. In other words, placing yourself in scenes with Bible characters gives you a view of scripture no one can provide. But this is exactly what Jesus came to teach.
We see Andrew spent one day with Jesus and was convinced He is the Messiah. Andrew searched for his brother Simon and told him, he was convinced he found the Messiah. Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John–but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). That’s it. That’s the only detail we’re given up to this point. Now what do we do? We consider the facts we’re given.
Andrew spent a day with Jesus. We don’t know what was discussed, but Andrew saw the Messiah in Jesus. It wasn’t the worldly view on the Messiah, but a personal view Andrew understood. He was so excited, he couldn’t wait to tell someone. So Andrew found his brother Simon and took him to Jesus. That was a simple and short meeting. Jesus gave Simon a new name. That’s all John recorded up to this point.
The next thing we can do is compare other details in the gospels. Matthew recorded, “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers–Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew–throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.” The term one day, showed us time passed between that first meeting the day after Jesus was baptized and when Jesus called them at the lake. Jesus gave them time to think about it.
This is where it takes some personal reflection with God and review of the full story in the gospels. For some reason John didn’t mention anything about Jesus going into the wilderness to face Satan’s temptations. But use a little common sense here. Do you think all of Satan’s agents left Andrew and Simon alone while they thought about Jesus during those forty plus days? Look at Simon’s reaction when Jesus asked him to follow. “Oh, Lord, please leave me–I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” While Jesus was in the wilderness fulfilling His defeat over Satan, other demons were having their way with Simon. This is a plain and simple lesson as well as an experience we all go through when we decide to follow Jesus.
I don’t know why preachers tell people it’s such a simple process to follow Jesus when scripture tells us a different story. The fact of the matter is, Jesus faced off against Satan and won. He is the only person to accomplish that task. So if we want someone to help us in our battle, it makes sense to follow the winner.
Philip and Nathanael
John 1:43-51 NLTse The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” (44) Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. (45) Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” (46) “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. (47) As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” (48) “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” (49) Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” (50) Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” (51) Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
Most people won’t see this, but John repeated a lesson here. When God repeats Himself, it’s time to pay attention. He doesn’t want us to miss the lesson. Philip was the second of John’s disciples to sit and spend a day with Jesus. When we see lessons repeated, it’s always a good idea to look at what they have in common.
John only wrote about one of the disciples who followed John the Baptist and listened to his sermons. That gave him a better view of the Messiah than the religious leaders and the world had. Another sign of Elijah’s power. Andrew spent a day with Jesus before going to find his brother. This explains the role of an early disciple as well as another feature of Elijah’s power. It’s becoming clear, the power of Elijah points to a ministry rather than some miraculous power people teach will change the world in a flash. When we look at the timing in John’s book and compare it to other gospels, we see more than a month passed between their first meeting with Jesus and the time they left home, jobs, families, and everything to follow Jesus. We should expect to see the same pattern repeated as Elijah’s power moves from generation through generation.
God also teaches using contrasts. We see a contrast in these stories. Simon went with his brother to see Jesus. Nathanael had doubts and questions. Did that cancel out Nathanael’s chance to be one of Jesus’ disciples? Look how Jesus handled the situation. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” Jesus responded with a small display of His power. The power to see things other people can’t. In fact, this was a display of Jesus’ connection with God’s Spirit. Look at Nathanael’s response. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!”
This shows us, all we can do is lead people to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to convince people He is the Messiah. Jesus used a specific process to teach a lesson here. He displayed His connection with God’s Spirit and told something Philip could never have told Nathanael. Jesus showed us how He is with people and watches over them long before we can deliver any message. This is one detail we have to keep in mind and a process we have to follow before we can become effective workers for Jesus.
I love the way John ended this chapter, as well as Jesus ended the conversation. “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” This reminds me of Jacob’s vision when he was running away from his brother Esau. Which would be a contrast if this story was actually related to Jacob’s vision. Neither Jesus nor John provided a definitive connection to Jacob, his vision, or the story. That shouldn’t stop you from taking a look and comparing the chapters.
Jesus told Nathanael he will see would see Heaven open up and angels. How many of you have seen angels? How many visions of angels are listed in the Bible? A few, but not many. Sticking to the New Testament, we can name a few. John the Baptist’s father was visited by Gabriel as well as Mary, Jesus’ mother. The women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body also saw angles. Shepherds saw many angles in the sky when Jesus was born. If we looked at each occurrence in the New Testament, we can see the increased role angles played in the plan of salvation. Jesus promised Nathanael he would see those angels. But I don’t know of any events either of the gospels writer recorded showing a meeting with an angel. There were a few in Acts and other letters in the New Testament. Maybe that was what Jesus referred to. If that’s the case, the lesson shows how we need to develop patients.
John by far is the most passionate writer in the New Testament. His style of writing in not like any other writer in the Bible. His love for Jesus shows through. John also included a number of stories not found any where else in the Bible. Those will be the chapters to really concentrate on and dwell on in prayer.
This entry was posted on November 20, 2015 at 11:43 pm and is filed under Bible Study Aids, Bible Study Methods Explained, Bible Study with Context, Christian Books, Explained Studies, God's Love, Gospel Messages John, Simple Studies. Tagged: baptize, John Chapter 1, life brought light, reborn, unfailing love, world he created. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.