There is so much theology, hope, and amazing insight we could unpack from John chapter one, but I want to focus on a detail that is perhaps overlooked. At verses 35 and 36, we see that John the Baptist saw Jesus and shouted, I’m sure with plenty of excitement, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” There were two of John’s followers with him. One was Andrew, Peter’s brother. Out of joy and wonder, the disciples rushed toward Jesus and wanted to know where he was staying for the night. Jesus’ response was simple, inviting, even a little odd, “Come and you will see.” Keep that interesting response in mind.
Later in verse 45, we see a conversation between two of Jesus’ disciples, Philip and Nathanael. With excitement, Philip is breaking the news that the promised one that Moses spoke about long ago is actually here, his name is Jesus, and he comes from Nazareth! By the way, Nazareth was a very small village that was looked at as a run down place where nothing exciting or important happened. That is why Nathaneal responds the way he does: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” How does Philip respond? “Come and see.”
Now, I want to come back to both Jesus’ response earlier and Philip’s response to Nathanael. Jesus was just starting his ministry on earth. He knew that he needed to grow a following of people so that they could observe the things he taught and the way he lived. Jesus just met two strangers; he could have told them to stay somewhere else and come back and see him tomorrow. Instead, we see Jesus taking every opportunity he could to invite people into his life for one main purpose: so they could see what it truly means to be made in the image of God. We also get to see how Philip used this approach with Nathanael. Philip is evangelizing to his friend and he is met with skepticism. Rather than trying to make sure he had the right wording or seeing if he could win the debate about whether or not anything good can come from Nazareth, he decided to simply let the power of God, through Christ, speak for itself. “Come and see”.
That simple response speaks to the heart of how we should tell the gospel to those around us. We often are nervous when it comes to evangelism, because we too often try to sell the gospel to people rather than having the gospel sell itself! We need to remember that it is God who gives the increase, not ourselves. Rather than trying to come up with the perfect strategy, we simply need to bring people to the spot where they can “come and see” the incredible things God is already doing. I promise you whatever God has planned will be better than what you have planned. Do what Jesus did and invite people into your life in hopes they can see the Kingdom. Do what Philip did by pointing people towards the One who actually is worth seeing. The Kingdom seed’s growth is not dependent on you, but on God. All we need to do is ask others to “come and see.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How can Philip motivate you? Did he wait to introduce Nathaneal to Jesus until he knew all the details and could quote every sermon of Jesus’ backwards and forwards? How can you do the same as Philip with enthusiasm and urgency?
Who do you know who needs to meet Jesus?
Specifically how can you invite people into your life with the purpose of introducing them to Jesus and His Heavenly Father?
Don’t wait to make the introductions until you know everything there is to know about Jesus – but how can knowing more about who He is excite you into action and evangelism? What can we find out about Jesus in this chapter – what names and titles is he given? What is the meaning of each? Does this sound like a person the world (and our family, friends and neighbors) should get to know?
How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?
What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?
John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.
John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.
John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.
It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.
John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.
So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.
So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).
Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.
Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.
In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.
Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.
We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.
I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 19-20 and John 1
We’ve been studying the presence of God this week. We’ve seen how God made the heavens and earth, especially the Garden, to be a temple, i.e. where God’s presence rests or where heaven (God’s realm or dimension) and earth are connected. We saw how we lost the full access pass to the presence of God when we were exiled from the Garden. We saw how God worked through Moses to provide a new way to access God’s presence, the Tabernacle, which acted almost like a portable Eden amidst the Israelite people. We saw how God’s people were exiled because they kept breaking their covenant with God, but how God remained present among his faithful while they were in exile. And we saw that even after the return from exile there was still something amiss. The Old Testament ends with a longing for something better to come along.
As usual, God is up to things that are much bigger than expected. Yesterday I teased that there is a new temple, but it isn’t like any temple we have seen yet.
Today I want us to look at John 1. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have similar ways of giving us the story of the appearance of Jesus. We usually read these accounts around Christmastime. Well, John does his own thing and doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other guys. He doesn’t do it with genealogies, mangers, or wise men or John the Baptist. John hits us right away with something called the Word, or the Logos (the greek word used).
Who or what is the Logos? In the context of this passage, it seems like something highly conceptual and lofty. It’s a spoken word, or a thought, or a concept. You might think of it as God’s will, or outward expression, or his wisdom or reason. It is hard to pin down. I like to think it is connected to Genesis 1, when God creates by speaking his divine purpose, function, and order into the world. The Logos is something belonging to God, like an extension of his nature. We’re only scratching the surface of the meaning, but this gets us started.
With our working definition(s) of what the Logos is, it starts to make sense that in verse 1, we learn that it is there in the beginning, and that it’s with God, and that it is God. It’s God’s nature to express himself, and we see that even from the beginning, we can’t separate this nature from God. It’s just who he is. In verse 3, we learn that everything was made through the Logos, and in verse 4, it is described as being the light of all mankind.
Leading up to verse 14, this concept of the Logos starts to sound more and more like someone we know. Verse 14 explains that this Logos has been made “flesh” and dwells among us (it has tabernacled among us). This sounds strange, right? What it means is that this concept of the Logos has been made a physical reality with us here, in Jesus. To be clear, this isn’t to say that Jesus existed at the beginning of time with God, or that he created the world, or that he is God. It means that when we look at Jesus, we see a perfect representation and expression of who God is. He is the fruition of God’s will, wisdom, and expression among us. He is called “Immanuel”, or “God with us” (see Mat 1:23). Jesus is like God’s best idea fleshed out, the perfect embodiment of his will.
Jesus, being the representation of God walking among us, is the newer and better version of the temple. After he was baptized, the Spirit of God came down and rested on him in the form of a dove (see verse 32). This is imagery that reminds us of how God filled the tabernacle with his presence at its completion. In John 2:18-22, Jesus explains that a sign for his authority is that if they destroy this temple, he will raise it up again in three days, referring to his body being crucified and risen. Col 1:19 says that “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.”
Jesus says in John 14:9 that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father. As Christians, we want to understand the heart of God and follow his will for our lives. Sometimes that can seem like a difficult task. What’s God really like? How do I know what his will is for my life? Thankfully, we can look at his son to get a better idea. Jesus was a human. He had struggles and temptations like you or I have (Heb 4:15). We’re able to read about the things he said, the miracles he performed, and what he thought was important. By figuring out what Jesus was all about, we get a much clearer picture of who his Father is.
We’re seeing this week that scripture gives us a long narrative of God’s attempts to be with us, to bring us closer to Him. He started by occupying a garden with two people and has gradually expanded out the circle to include tribes and nations as his children. Making the Logos near to us by giving us Jesus was the next step in continuing that process. Being the temple, Jesus carried around with him the presence of God, so that when people encountered him, they were also encountering the Father.
But God didn’t stop here. He’s relentless, wanting to be closer yet. In Mat 3:11, John the baptizer says of Christ, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
I’ll leave you with that as a teaser for what comes next.