John 1 – Introducing Jesus (part one)

This week, we begin a new series in the first three chapters of John’s Gospel. We’ll start with the well-known, poetic prologue – which will take us a few days to work through. Today, we’ll focus on the big picture of the prologue – what’s it trying to communicate? – before looking at the details later in the week.

Because this prologue (John 1:1-18) is designed to introduce John’s Gospel. Not just the Gospel, but the subject of the Gospel: Jesus. In some ways, it functions like an ancient letter of introduction.

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John 1 – Introducing Jesus (part two)

Yesterday, we thought about how the prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) functioned like an ancient letter of introduction. We concluded by reading the prologue, trying to identify the three key features of a letter of introduction:

  1. The name, character, and the writer’s close relationship with the one being introduced.
  2. The impending arrival of the one being introduced, and the addressee should “receive” them.
  3. The benefits of friendship with the one being introduced, and that the addressee would also benefit from their friendship.

How did you go? Here’s what I had:

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John 1:1-2 (What’s the Word?)

We spent two days looking at the big picture of the prologue to John’s gospel (1:1-18) – how it functioned like an ancient letter of introduction, describing who Jesus was, authorising him as the Father’s representative, and urging us to receive and trust him if we wanted to access the favour of God. Now, we’ll go through it line-by-line as we unpack the rich theology it contains.

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

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John 1:1-13 (And the Word was God)

Yesterday, we looked at the term “word” (logos) to see how John was presenting Jesus as the personification of wisdom and reason – the embodiment of everything that both Jews and Greeks were looking for. The eternal creative force turned up as a real person to live among us.

But Jesus isn’t just the creative “force” behind the world. He’s nothing less than God himself:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

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John 1:14-18 (And the Word became flesh)

Continuing in our series in John chapter 1, we come to one of the most important truths in Scripture:

John 1:14 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.

The eternal logos, the source of light and life, nothing less than God himself – he took on flesh to become one of us.

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John 1:1-18 recap

We’re almost ready to move on from the prologue. (I promise.) But before we leave it behind, I want to give it one last look. We’ve spent five days dissecting its poetry and theology, which can leave it a bit like a dead lab specimen in pieces all over the workbench. So I’d like to offer this paraphrase as a way of putting the bits back together and sewing it up, hopefully with a bit more understanding of what’s going on inside.

Read it slowly, then spend some time thanking God for sending Jesus to become one of us, so that we might know God and experience his eternal favour. After all, that’s the whole point of John’s prologue – and his Gospel.

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John 1:19-34 (John vs Jesus I)

In our study of John’s Gospel, we’ve now made it past the Prologue! Although today’s reading still has a strong connection with it, essentially illustrating in narrative what was said in this part of the Prologue:

John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

This first story is all about this witness to the light – John the Baptist – and emphasises the fact that he himself was not the light. In fact, it bangs on at considerable length about what John was not. He wasn’t Elijah. He wasn’t the Messiah. And he wasn’t even just a very naughty boy. Let’s take a look at the story, then think about why this is such an important point.

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John 1:29-34 (John vs Jesus II)

Yesterday, John was asked by some of the Jerusalem hierarchy who he was. He emphatically told them that he wasn’t the Messiah. Nor was he Elijah (an expected forerunner of the kingdom) or the prophet like Moses (from Deut 18:18). So if he wasn’t one of those figures, what right did he have to go around baptising?

John hinted at the answer, by talking about one who was coming after him – someone who was greater than him. But that’s where he left it. We pick up the story the next day.

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Catch-up Friday

We’ve been working through chapter one of John’s Gospel, most recently looking at the character of John the Baptist. (Attention turns to some of his followers, next week.) John denied he was the Messiah. Nor was he Elijah or the prophet like Moses. Instead, he described himself as the “voice” preparing a way for God to return to Jerusalem as king. So this week on catch-up Friday, have a look at the background to that expectation by reading Isaiah 40.

What would John’s audience have been expecting when he described himself as that “voice” (Isaiah 40:3)?

John 1:35-42 (Andrew & Peter)

Last week, we saw a comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus: John is merely a voice crying out in preparation for the eternal Word; he’s a brief lamp that guides the path to the everlasting light of the world. Today, we read of how some of John’s disciples left him to follow Jesus, as a result of John’s testimony.

John’s Disciples follow Jesus

John 1:35-37 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

John had taught his disciples well. When he pointed out the one who would come after him, they left John to follow Jesus.

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