Through the Bible in One Year

Day 120

John 1:1-18

John’s Gospel is different from the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—in that more than ninety percent of its material is unique.  John’s Gospel does not focus on the miracles, parables and public speeches that are so prominent in the other Gospel accounts.  Instead, John’s Gospel emphasizes the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and how we, as believers, should respond to his teachings.  So with that being said, we are going to be spending more time in the Gospel of John than we spent in any of the other three.  Which, also, means that we are probably not going to discuss all of the daily reading from John because we are going to be going into much greater detail with John than any of the other three Gospels.  Today we are going to focusing on the first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel, which is the prologue of John’s Gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.—1:1-5

The prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) sets forth in dramatic fashion the deity of Jesus Christ.  The prologue is the lens through which the rest of John’s Gospel is to be read.  Many of its most important themes are introduced here (such as light, darkness, truth, witness and world).  John applies the title “the Word” to Jesus in the prologue but nowhere else in his Gospel.  The background to the term is found in the Old Testament, where God’s word is the dynamic force of his will (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 55:11).  Though Jesus is not mentioned by name until John 1:17, the original readers would have known that Jesus is the Word from the opening lines.

The opening words of John’s Gospel are reminiscent of the opening lines of the Bible (Genesis 1:1).  In the first two verse John declares that the Word has always existed, is in the closest possible relationship to God the Father and is divine.  John continues by explaining that God created all things through the agency of the Word and that nothing has been created that the Word did not create.  This includes both physical and spiritual light and life.  In John 1:5 he hints at the future conflict between the light and the darkness.  Throughout this Gospel, we read how Jesus’ opponents tried to kill him, but their efforts repeatedly failed.  Yet there was an even bigger battle brewing: a cosmic battle between the light and the darkness, between truth and error, between the devil and Jesus.  We learn in the beginning of this Gospel that no matter how hard the darkness tries, it will not defeat the light!

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.—1:6-8

The individual named John in these verse is John the Baptist, not John the apostle.  All four Gospels associate John the Baptist with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The apostle John contrasts the Word with John the Baptist.  The contrast between them could not be stated any more plainly: John the Baptist was a man, while the Word is divine.  John the Baptist, however, was on an important mission from God to bear witness to the incarnate light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—1:9-13

John the Baptist’s testimony was not to an abstraction but to a person.  The reference to Jesus as the “true light” affirms him as the authentic light over and against every false light.  John (the apostle) uses the term “world” in several different ways.  It can refer to the universe, the earth, the people on the earth, people in opposition to God or the human system in opposition to God’s purpose.  John emphasizes the importance of the term by his repeated use of it.  He moves from one meaning of it to another without explanation.  Only context determines which emphasis John intends.  The world of people the Word created did not recognize him, and the people that  waited for him (the Jews) did not accept him.  He was not the kind of military-messiah the Jews anticipated; however, all was not lost, for many put their faith in him, as this Gospel describes.  Those who believe in him become God’s children.  Becoming a part of God’s family is a divine work, a supernatural birth.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.—1:14-18

The fact that the Word made his dwelling among us mean, he did not remain aloof of separate from those he created, but he lived among them, manifesting the presence and glory of God.  The imagery is reminiscent of the Old Testament tabernacle, where God dwelt among his people.  The Word did not cease being God when he took on human flesh, but he became the God-man.  Jesus is God’s Son in a way that is different from every other child of God.  Furthermore, Jesus the Word is the perfect balance of grace and truth.  In the Old Testament, grace and truth communicated God’s covenant faithfulness to his people.  Christ manifested his glory to his disciples by the signs he performed and by his death and resurrection.

John the apostle brings the testimony of John the Baptist back into the discussion.  What the apostle has just said about Jesus the Word is almost too marvelous to believe, and John the Baptist becomes a witness to his comments.  John the Baptist’s statement is another affirmation of the Word’s preexistence, even though John the Baptist was born six mouths before Jesus.  For in the ancient world, the older person was given higher regard and respect than the younger person.

The apostle now turns to the abundant grace Christ bestows on his people.  This grace is inexhaustible and is even greater than God’s grace demonstrated in the old covenant.  The superiority of this grace is seen in the fact that the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  John concludes the prologue as he began it: by establishing the deity of Jesus the Word.  Jesus makes the invisible God visible.  And we will pick up from there tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Judges 13-14, John 1:29-51, Psalm 102:1-28 and Proverbs 14:15-16

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