John 1

Introduction

Author

The apostle John, the brother of James and son of Zebedee and Salome, Mark 1:19-20, is the author of this Gospel. Although John doesn’t specifically identify himself in the letter, the early Christians and most scholars associate him as the ‘beloved disciple,’ who was a close companion of Jesus, John 13:23 / John 18:15-16 / John 19:25-27 / John 21:20. The name John means, “the Lord is gracious.” He is also the author of 1,2,3 John and Revelation.

Date

There has been some speculation concerning the date of John’s Gospel, some suggest a date somewhere between A.D. 80 and 90. However, it could have been written earlier, possibly between A.D. 60 and 70.

Theme

John’s Gospel is unique, in that John has a specific purpose. John wants his readers to know that Jesus is divine. He is the Messiah Who came down from Heaven. He is God in the flesh, John 1:1-3 / John 1:14. And everything in this book wraps itself around that grand theme.

Purpose

Like a lawyer presenting a case, John brings up the evidence to support the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, John 1:41 / John 1:49, God’s Son, John 3:16, and that by submitting to His will and believing only in Him, men and women can have eternal life. John presents the case by showing us Who Jesus is.

He shows us the claim that Jesus Himself made, that the Father made and that others made about Jesus. He shares with us 8 of Christ’s ‘I am’ statements, John 6:35 / John 8:12 / John 8:58 / John 10:9 / John 10:11 / John 11:25 / John 14:6 / John 15:1.

He also shares with us 8 signs of Jesus which proved who He was, John 2:1-11 / John 4:49-53 / John 5:1-18 / John 6:1-14 / John 6:16-21 / John 9 / John 11 / John 21:1-14, all which were done in an effort to bring people to faith in Christ and who He was, John 20:30-31.

It isn’t enough to say that He was ‘a good teacher,’ Luke 18:18-30. It is not enough to say that He is Lord, Matthew 7:21, until we submit to the fact that Jesus, who came to Earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, is God Himself.

Outline

Incarnation Of The Son Of God. John 1:1-18
Presentation Of The Son Of God. John 1:19-4:54
Confrontations With The Son Of God. John 5:1-12:50
Instruction Given By The Son Of God. John 13:1-16:33

The Text

‘In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.’ John 1:1-3

The Word Became Flesh

In this text, Jesus is identified as being the eternal Word Who was in the beginning with God, and Who is God in the flesh. John’s message is to convince men and women that Jesus is divine, John 20:30-31.

John presents Jesus as the Word of God, as the light from God, and as the only way to have eternal life with God. He begins by showing us that Jesus is the eternal Word. In the beginning, was the Word.

In John 6:68 Jesus spoke some hard things to His disciples. Some of those disciples then decided to walk with Him no more. Jesus is the eternal Word, and the words He speaks give eternal life.

We must have access to the teaching of God through Jesus and His disciples before we can go to Heaven, John 7:17. Jesus, as the eternal Word, shows us the power of His message.

John tells us that Jesus existed before creation. ‘In the beginning, was the word.’ In Greek, the word ‘was’ means literally ‘already was.’ It is not as though the beginning arrives and then Jesus arrives, too. In the beginning, the Word of God, Jesus, ‘already was.’ Jesus, as God, has always existed, Psalm 90:2.

In Genesis 1:26 God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’ In Genesis 2:7 we read, ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man, became a living being.’

The ‘Us’ used to describe God is the plural personal pronoun. Who is the ‘Us’? It is Jesus the Son, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Colossians 1:15 shows us that Jesus was God’s agent in creation. All things were made by Him. God created all things through Jesus, His Son.

In Revelation 5:5 we learn that He is the root and offspring of David. How can He be both the root and the offspring? As the root, He is the Creator of all life. As the offspring, Jesus was born Joseph and Mary, who was of the seed of David. Christ existed before creation.

John affirms his absolute conviction concerning the deity of Jesus. In John 1:19-20:29, he presents the evidence which compelled him to that conviction. Only John describes Jesus as the Logos, John 1:1 / John 1:14 / 1 John 1:1-2 / Revelation 19:13.

The apostle is saying, ‘Jesus is the complete and perfect expression of deity,’ John 14:19. John is responding to Gnostic errors which greatly threatened the church.

Gnosticism was widespread when John wrote his Gospel and letters and the Gnostics spoke much about ‘the Logos’, their ‘Logos’ but it was much less than God, a mere emanation of deity. John asserts that ‘the Logos was God’, John 1:1.

John is also responding to pagan ideas about God. Pagans applied the term ‘apatheia’ from which we get the word ‘apathy’ towards God. They thought of God as totally indifferent to man. John stresses not only Jesus’ absolute deity but also His true humanity, John 1:14.

He portrays a God totally involved in human life. John rebuts Gnostic error by showing that Jesus is not a created being, not an archangel or lesser god, but that He is Deity, John 10:30-33 / Colossians 2:9.

He rebuts pagan error by showing that God is passionately concerned about man actually became man, ‘the word of God became a human being and lived among us’ John 1:14.

The combination of ‘thought’ and ‘word’ between which the Greeks didn’t make the distinction we do. Therefore, logos is never merely an utterance but a concept message, John 8:43. In Hebrew thought, once a word is spoken it has a kind of existence of its own, Isaiah 55:10-11.

Once ‘the word of the Lord’ has been spoken, its effects continue. The ‘Word of God’ is the self-revelation of God to men, the essence of His being rather than mere sounds, John 5:37-38.

John appears to use ‘logos’ to denote the eternal truth revealed to men by God, previously, in the Old Testament, now in Jesus, John 1:17.

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus was the first being created by Jehovah. John refutes this idea by insisting that He existed before all created things, John 1:3 / John 8:58. The beginning is the earliest possibly conceived moment.

However, one sees the start of it all, if indeed such a start occurred, that is what this term refers to. the word, ‘was’ emphasises that the Word was in existence before the earliest conceivable moment. He was the origin, and source of all things, Revelation 3:14.

the word, ‘Word’ expresses the idea that God and the Word are not separate beings, but of the same essence, together with the Spirit. The Logos was not a new concept to the Jews or Greeks, To the Jew, the ‘Word of the Lord’ is God creating and revealing, Genesis 1 / Psalm 33.

The Gentiles however understood this Logos to be the Divine Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes,  ‘Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be Grasped’, Philippians 2:6.

Christ did not have to grab at being God as He was (and IS) God. Colossians 2:9 reiterates this by saying, ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.’ Jesus is God, as John 1:2 shows us. ‘He was in the beginning with God.’ The Gospel of John presents Jesus as being divine.

In John 10:30 Jesus said, ‘My Father and I are one.’ They are one in purpose, one in nature, and one in person. Both are God. Both have the goal and mindset of saving mankind.

Christ humbled Himself and died a death on the cross. Jesus did not consider it robbery to give up His equality with God, Philippians 2:5-7. He gave that up, came to Earth, and lived as a man. Yes, He was still God. But He also took a human form upon Himself and became the incarnate Son of God. This proved that He is God.

When Thomas saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hand and the hole in His side, he said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ John 20:28. Christians are looking for the glorious hope and appearance of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11-14.

Of course, one of the most powerful passages is Hebrews 1:7-11 where God said to the Son, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever.’ God the Father called the Son ‘God,’ thus proving that Jesus is divine. We must understand that belief in Christ is the only way that people can have eternal life, John 1:12.

We must believe in Jesus, but there is an important point here. Believing in Jesus does not automatically make a person a child of God. It gives the right to become a child of God. Believing puts us in the arena of those who can become children of God by doing what He says.

Belief alone will not save us but gives us the right to become what we are not. We are not children of God at the point of belief alone. The only time that the phrase ‘faith only,’ ‘faith alone’ occurs in the Bible is when God said that we are not justified by faith alone, James 2:24.

In Jesus’ day people called Him ‘Lord,’ but they were not doing what He said, Matthew 7:21. This is why He asked, ‘Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I have said?’ Luke 6:46.

Jesus is the author of salvation ‘to all those who obey Him,’ Hebrews 5:8-9. We must commit to Jesus, and do all He says we must do to become children of God.

Belief gives us the ability to become that which we are not yet. We are not children of God at the point of God, but we can become such if we submit to Christ’s will and continue to obey Him.

Jesus is presented as being ‘the Lamb of God.’ John the baptiser sees Jesus approaching, and then says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,’ John 1:29.

In Revelation 5 there is a bittersweet scene. John has a scroll that will unleash the wrath of God on the ungodly heathens who are persecuting Christians. But there is a problem.

No one can open the scroll, which causes John to weep bitterly. Then the Lamb whose throat was cut appears, Revelation 5:6. He had been prepared ‘before the foundation of the world,’ Revelation 13:8.

Jesus came forth to unleash God’s power, anger, and wrath against people. Because of the great sacrifice that Jesus made, God’s plan was unfolded.

Without the blood that comes from a sacrifice, there can be no forgiveness, 1 Peter 1:17-20. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins. Hebrews 10:3-4 adds to that by saying that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins.

Where is the Saviour, then?

Hebrews 10:12 answers that when it says, ‘This Man, Jesus, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God.’ Jesus, therefore, is seen as the beautiful sacrifice Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

John says that ‘He was with God in the beginning’, which further explains the previous one. It ensures no misunderstanding and provides a link between creation and ‘He’, that is the redemptive one.

The Word and God were completely unified before time. The eternity of the Logos, ‘In the beginning was the Logos.’ The deity of the Logos, ‘the Logos was God.’

The word, ‘God’, ‘Theos’ generally refer to the Father, but John insists that ‘Theos’ applies to Jesus. He stresses the characteristics of deity evidence in Jesus, He said deity is an eternity of existence, John 8:58 / John 17:5.

Deity is Omniscience, John 6:61-64 / John 11:14. Deity is Omnipotence, powerful over nature, disease, death, John 2:1-11 / John 5:1-9 / John 11:38.

John also says, ‘through Him ‘the Logos’ all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made.’ See also Colossians 1:13-17. Look again at what it says, ‘without him was not anything made’.

Gnostics spoke of many being lesser than God ‘mediating the creative activity the supreme God.’ Some today claim that Jesus before He came into the world, was a created being. John refutes both heresies.

The words, ‘all things’ ‘pavta’, which literally translated would refer to the infinite detail of creation. the words, ‘were made’ in this case refers to the whole of creation, with emphasis on ‘whole’. It’s interesting to compare this verse with Genesis 1:1, which states, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’

John states that Jesus is the creator, while Moses believes God was. This seems to be a contradiction and leaves the following possibilities.

Moses in Genesis is wrong, John in his account is wrong or Jesus and God are one and the same. It would seem apparent, after studying the two passages given earlier, Philippians 2:6 and Colossians 2:9, that the third option is the only viable one.

Jesus is the ‘prototype’ of mankind and all creation. Everything was created in His perfect image, not a physical but an emotional image, the character, the real you the soul of man, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Hebrews 1:2 gives a demonstration of creation through Jesus and or Jesus, ‘but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.’

See also 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Matthew 28:18-20. Luke 10:19 presents Christ as capable of creating all things, Matthew 26:53 implies that Christ had the power available to Him if he has 12 legions of angels that’s 75 thousand. ‘through him’, the Logos was not a created being. Genesis 1:1 / Colossians 1:15-17 / Hebrews 1:1-8.

‘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.’ John 1:4-5

The word ‘life’ occurs 36 times in the Gospel, 11 times prefaced by ‘eternal’. But most often ‘life’ in this book refers to eternal life, John 6:51 / John 10:18. Note the past tense, ‘in him was life’. His life brought all created beings and things into existence.

This is distinguished from mere earthly existence, John 4:14 / John 6:27. It involves two parts, quantitative, eternal life, John 5:28-29 / John 11:25-26, and then qualitative, life in the present, John 3:36 / John 5:24-25 / John 6:47 John 6:54 / John 10:10 / John 11:25-26.

Jesus is the source of life, John 1:4 / John 3:16 / John 11:25 / John 14:6 / John 20:31. Several words are used in Greek for this English word ‘life’.

1. Pauche, referring to the animal or physical life of our bodies, the type we share with all living creatures.

2. Bios, referring to the physical existence but on a higher level than ‘Pauche’. The word biology is derived from this word. The meaning can refer to the physical processes such as digestion etc.

3. Zoe, Zoology is derived from this word. It originally referred to the lower form among man and the animals being primarily concerned with inward processes.

Later at the time, this was penned, it referred to the meaning of life, the emotional and spiritual inward characteristics of life. This is the word used here in its highest possible elevation the relationship between God and man. Luke used the word in his gospel in relevance to Lazarus, Luke 16:25.

John uses ‘Zoe’ instead of ‘Bios’ to emphasise the intricate, deep meaning of life. He uses this term thirty-five times in his writings to give life a special uplifting shade, when in reference to life as a child of God. As agents of creation all life came through Christ, is sustained by Him, and is responsible to him.

The word, ‘light’ is very interesting. The following is necessary to perceive light, an origin of light, something the light can emanate from, an organ to detect that light.

The ‘light’ is a synonym for ‘truth’, John 3:19. Just as Jesus is the source of spiritual life, so He is the source of all spiritual guidance, John 1:9 / John 8:12. The inextinguishable light, John 1:5.

John paints a picture of Christ being the emanator of the light, and the spiritual desire the organ of perception. The light of Jesus is past present and future. The Logos is the provider of our life and light.

John says, ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it’. Jesus has already been identified as the light. A new character namely darkness has now been introduced. This has been used symbolically to depict the following,

1. Moral sin.

2. Affliction, disease, problems, famine, etc.

3. The thought of punishment.

4. Physical and Spiritual death.

5. Groping in darkness.

The darkness has thus been identified as the life taker, the power behind badness, Satan. Light in darkness can always be seen. Perhaps it may not be recognised, but it can be seen. His influence is in the sinful world but that darkness has not ever, overcome or understood it, the light is always there regardless of people’s attitudes towards it.

Likewise, Jesus and all the goodness He represents in a world of badness is visible and doing all it can, that is shining, in an attempt to make itself understood.

The word, ‘understood’ ‘katalambano’ refers to comprehension. This may have been the better word to have used, in fact, many translators have used it. It means to comprehend, grasp, seize or take possession of, John 1:10, the world knew him not, John 1:11 received him not.

In the battle between light and dark, good and evil, the light will win, as all the darkness in the universe is not enough to put out one iota of light.

The word ‘overcome’ literally means, ‘to lay hold of’, it can mean either ‘comprehend’ or ‘overpower’. Both ideas are true. A sin-darkened world did not grasp the light the truth Jesus brought.

Also, the world could not overpower the light of truth in Jesus. John depicts an ongoing conflict between light and darkness, John 12:35 / John 3:19 / John 8:12.

The verse somehow is terribly sad. Although a victory for light is inevitable, the losses on that road are frightening. That light tries so hard but the darkness just cannot grasp it.

In John 1:1-5 we see the relationship of the ‘Word’. John had five things in mind when he used the word ‘Word’.

1. God expressed.

2. The real personal God, that is one in essence and Spirit, and yet a distinct personality.

3. That which reveals the hidden God.

4. The visible image of God, as in Hebrews 1:1-3.

5. The word is the concept of reality.

John The Baptiser

‘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. 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. 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 1:6-14

Another character is now introduced, John the baptiser. As the verse suggests, he was no ordinary man, but one sent from God as a witness to the light that was now available to all men. One of the great themes of this book is the word, ‘witness’, testimony.

The Apostle calls witnesses to testify to the deity of Jesus. Later he will call the Father to witness, John 5:37 / John 8:18. Jesus himself John 8:14 / John 8:18. Jesus’ works, John 5:36 / John 10:25. The Old Testament Scriptures, John 5:39.

John the Baptist is the first ‘witness’. The purpose of his testimony was ‘that we might believe through him’. The function of the messenger was not to draw attention to himself but to the one who sent him, Matthew 3:3 / Isaiah 40:3.

John was conceived to a childless couple, Elizabeth and Zachariah a priest. They had no other children and due to advanced age, they were considered barren. However, Elizabeth continued to pray for divine intervention and the gift of a son.

Elizabeth and Mary, Christ’s mother were related. Mary conceived six months after Elizabeth, and on hearing Mary, the child within Elizabeth leapt for joy, Luke 1:41. The baby was born and the whole community shared in the couple’s joy.

The baby was given the name John against tradition but in accordance with the angel who had given Zachariah the news of the coming baby’s directions. Very little is told of his childhood, except ‘and the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel,’ Luke 1:80.

John was the one to ‘prepare the way for the Lord’, Luke 3:4, and he had been prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3-5. He was the spiritual form of Elijah that had been promised before the coming Messiah, Malachi 4:5-6.

This Gospel doesn’t deal with the birth of John, as Luke had already done so in his account. The more important facets of the spiritual man are dealt with.

‘He came as a witness to testify concerning the Light, so that through him men might believe’. The word, ‘Witness’, ‘martus’ is the same as the word for martyr, and is used by John some fifty times.

The writer uses seven witnesses in this book, and they are as follows:

1. The witness of the fore-runner. John 1:7.

2. The witness of the Father. John 5:31.

3. The witness of the works. John 5:17.

4. The witness of the Scripture. John 5:39.

5. The witness of the Christ. John 8:14.

6. The witness of the disciples. John 15:27.

7. The witness of the Spirit. John 15:26.

This idea of many witnesses ties in and contrasts with the law which demanded two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15. John says you want three, I will give you seven.

The reason for John’s appearance is made quite clear in the second part of the verse. Note also the use of the term ‘all’, which emphasises salvation for all mankind, not just a select few.

It is important that people realised that John was not the Christ. As a result, that fact was emphasised to promote a good understanding of the nature of John. The Logos made flesh, rejected and received, John 1:9-14.

This is the message in a shortened format, that John had come to deliver. Jesus the true light was coming. The use of the term ‘true,’ ‘genuine,’ ‘alethenos,’ light, may infer that others before Him had set themselves up as the Christ. Indeed, it is commonly accepted that many had in the past.

The words, ‘was coming’, seems to give the idea of pre-existence. A progressive occurrence was already happening, although the Christ had not yet revealed himself, Luke 1:78.

Dayspring from on high and his visitation among men. Since Jesus has been coming into the world, we detect that a progressive revelation to mankind was in progress.

As time goes by, God reveals more about his plan of redemption. Consider the increase in the knowledge man has of God as man went through one age to the next.

As we are in the final age, ‘the last days’, before the judgement, we are privileged to see the maximum about God before He finally reveals Himself.

The purpose of the light is to ‘enlighten every man’. It’s an abuse of this term to apply it, as Quakers do, to the inner light of conscience. This ‘light’ is Jesus who brought ‘the light’ to the world, but which many rejected. John 3:19 / John 9:39. Jesus came when the time was right, Galatians 4:4.

‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him’ John 1:10

The world rejected Him, the word ‘received’ means ‘welcomed’, John 14:3 / Isaiah 53:1. God was not surprised at man’s refusal to know the Lord. The word ‘world,’ ‘kosmos’ tells of the entire creation, down to the last-minute detail. This is almost a repeat of John 1:5, and reflects the same terrible sadness.

John 1:11 is a reference to the Jewish people. Not only was he of the most precious and respected bloodline in the land, but He was also the figure of many prophecies.

The people of the time had a set picture of what the Messiah was to be, that is a powerful military and political figure. However, when a humble figure arrived even though he did fulfil all prophecy, he was either not recognised or considered two different to follow.

As a result, the Lord’s people rejected the given Saviour and to this day watch and wait for a Messiah that has already come, completed His earthly task and is now left, Romans 9:1-5.

Believers are given ‘power’, ‘exousia’, right or privilege to become children of God. Becoming a child of God is not dependent on human merit nor due to any human impulse or act, not originated by man, but by God.

John 1:12 could be considered a contradiction of the previous one. First, we heard how he was not received now he has been. It is thus clear that those who did receive were not ‘His people’.

Now God has exposed Himself to all mankind, and all can receive Him. The word, ‘receive’, ‘lambano’ means to take or receive. So how does one receive this Jesus?

The Bible gives many examples of conversion taking place. See, for example, Acts 2:37-39 / Acts 6:38 / Acts 9:1-18 / Acts 18:8, and other passages mainly in the Book of Acts.

There are conditions for salvation and when all comply with the sinner is still saved by grace. This conversion is the process whereby one receives Christ.

The idea of being ‘born’ indicates a development process that has started, conception to birth and must continue, birth to death. Birth and baptism followed teaching and soul-searching.

Now, that this baptism has occurred, life will, as a newborn baby, be dependent on others, until self-reliance occurs and eventual other babies will in turn become reliant on the former.

A period of growth and development with a slow change of priorities occurs. No human other than the one involved can play a higher-level role in this birth.

Yes, others may teach but any pressure will or at least could result in one trying to enter but not having a relationship with God. The decision to be re-born must be the unpressured decision of the applicant. The two thoughts are developed later by John the new birth, John 3, true children of Abraham John 8.

John 1:14 deals with the humanity of Jesus. The nature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. By this, we mean His inner characteristics. Jesus as a man. The term, ‘anthropos’ refers to man in general and does not specify sex, thus mankind.

The term ‘anthropos’ is also used in John 8:40 / 1 Corinthians 15:21 and Romans 5:15. Now, remember that Jesus, as we know Him didn’t exist as Jesus in the past, it’s only when the Word became flesh that He became Jesus.

The word, ‘aner’ does specify the sex of the person. This word can also refer to husband, and this makes it obvious that Christ is a man, John 1:30 / Acts 2:22.’

Notice that nobody calls him this except Christ Himself just before his death. Only Stephen uses this name after His resurrection, Acts 7:56. When Jesus calls himself the Son of man. The Greek term ‘anthropos’ is always used. This is used even though Christ was the son of a woman with no masculine interference.

Jesus in the flesh was human

The words, ‘became flesh’ literally means putting on flesh for a short time. John 1:14 and Philippians 2:5-11 are best used together, 1 John 4:2.

When He ascended, He didn’t lose His humanity, Philippians 2:5-7 tells us that Christ didn’t have human characteristics before He came to earth.

In Acts 17:30-31, the word for man is ‘aner’ indicating our judge is a man. It is interesting to see that in 1 Timothy 2:5 our mediator is man, using the Greek word, ‘anthropos’, Jesus Christ. Jesus was subject to all human needs, processes and temptations while on the earth. He was thirsty, hungry, tired, etc.

Reasons why Jesus had to become a man

1. That we might know God, 1 Timothy 3:16 / John 14:9, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’.

2. To take away sin, 1 John 3:5 / Luke 19:10, ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.’

3. To destroy the works of the devil, Hebrews 2:14 ‘he might destroy Him who holds the power of death – that is the devil.’

4. To prepare us to be His people, Titus 2:11-14, ‘to purify for himself a people that are His very own.’

Jesus is two natures in one person. Firstly, He is not two persons in one body, secondly, He does not have two personalities or two wills, such as a spiritual and fleshly will.

The human spirit is the offspring of God, Genesis 1:26, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness.’ This gives or suggests an intellect, an emotional ability and the ability to account for ourselves. Acts 17:29 and Hebrews 12:9 are also useful in this regard.

Philippians 2:7 tells us, ‘Jesus, made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’ Like us, Jesus depended on the power of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:28 / Acts 1:2 / Mark 1:2. Jesus was led by the Spirit. The divine and the human work together. It was not an either or situation. It was God feeling compassion, etc.

There was a unified personality. Romans 8:32 tells us He was delivered to be crucified. Hebrews 5:8 tells us the son learned obedience by suffering. Romans 1:4 tells us, the son was raised from the dead.

If we were to deceive ourselves into speaking of a duel personality, then we are forced to attribute the different characteristics of Jesus to one or the other personality.

There is a necessity for both the divine and the human. To help in understanding this we can look at the nature of man, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Man’s body dies but man’s soul lives on, and the Spirit survives death. So, Jesus died physically on the cross but that aspect of Him which is God cannot die.

To provide a mediator, 1 Timothy 2:5. A Mediator is equally related and understanding of both sides of a dispute. To give value to His death and to shed His blood, if He was all human, He could not atone for sin, if He was all divine then there would be no relationship to sin.

We couldn’t have a merciful and faithful high priest, Hebrews 2:15 / Hebrews 4:15 / Hebrews 7:25. To be merciful, he needs an understanding of man’s sin.

Now notice the word ‘dwelt’ in John 1:14, this means to pitch a tent, a verb found only here and in Revelation 7:15 / Revelation 12:12 / Revelation 13:6 / Revelation 21:3.

This is probably an allusion to the Tabernacle and Temple, God’s presence manifested there, Exodus 40:34-35 / 1 Kings 8:10 / Colossians 2:9.

The word ‘beheld’ or ‘seen’ means to view attentively, to contemplate. John and others had watched Jesus attentively when He was among friends and enemies, those who loved and those who hated him, those who had observed Him living, dying and living again. As a result, they had been forced to conclude that he was ‘the only Son from the Father’.

The word ‘glory’, ‘doxa’ means His own not borrowed or reflected. In Old Testament times this indicated beauty, the majesty or splendour of God, or the saints. or the kingdom.

The words, ‘only begotten’, ‘monogenes’ is used 5 times by John to describe Jesus of Isaac in relation to Abraham, Hebrews 11:17. Jesus is God’s unique Son. This came to mean and means one of a father, one of a kind or the only one like it.

The word, ‘monogenes is used in relation to Jesus as the only son. There is none like him. God gave us the only son he had, John 1:12-14, Children of God as opposed to Son of God.

He is the Son eternally, back and forward. We are sons by faith. He is a son by nature but we are sons by our choice, God’s grace and adoption, Galatians 3:26 / Romans 8:15ff.

The relationship of Jesus to God. Jesus is the one and only representative of God, John 3:16. Jesus and God are eternally united, John 1:18.

Jesus is a great and most valuable gift to God to man, John 3:16. Jesus is the object of our faith. He is the son of God, John 3:18. Jesus is the object of God’s love. Sent His Son to us, indicative of His love for us, 1 John 4:9.

The word, ‘Grace’, ‘charis’ and ‘truth’, ‘alethenos’ are corresponding Hebrew terms that mean, unfailing love and faithfulness, John 1:17.

‘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.’ John 1:15-18

An acknowledgement of Christ’s superiority over John the Baptist is made here, for normally the oldest was superior. The idea of one coming after but being before is foreign to some if the eternal element of Christ is not understood. John displays great humility here.

Blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace, without which all our righteousness is but filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. The word, ‘fullness,’ ‘pleroma’ is of God and emphasises the total, absolute or complete grace of God. The fullness of God is Christ, the fullness of Christ is the church and the fullness of the church is the Christian.

1. Colossians 1:19 / Colossians 2:9 ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.’

2. Ephesians 1:23 ‘The church, which is his body, the fullness of him.’

3. Ephesians 4:13 ‘attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’.

The word, ‘grace’, ‘charis’ is very common in the New Testament, being used about 170 times. It is also common in period secular Greek.

Most translations use ‘grace for grace’ instead of ‘one blessing after another’. The word appears many times in this chapter. It is used in a variety of different senses and it appears as if the writer is playing on the word.

On the occasion, however, it is well translated as ‘receive one blessing after another’, and could have read ‘benefit on benefit’. The idea is to get or receive some blessing or benefit that was not deserved.

In John 1:17, a contrast is developed, the Law foreshadowed salvation by grace, Jesus, Himself the ‘Lamb of God,’ John 1:29, provided it. The law, given by Moses resulted in bondage. One breath of it resulted in condemnation. Grace is given to us who do not deserve it, as a result of love.

Jesus Christ is both the fullness of the Law and that love that results in grace which is unmerited favour. This is not an indication that the Law was not successful, on the contrary, it performed its function by looking after God’s people until the awaited Christ came.

If we had no law, how would we be able to recognise sin? Romans 7:7. The law was good but once it was broken it was irreparable like a beautiful cut glass bowl.

John goes on to tell us that the invisible God has now been made known. This is His essential nature, the Father is invisible, John 4:24 / Colossians 1:15.

Jesus, God’s unique Son, is ‘in the bosom of the Father’, which describes intimacy, the closeness of fellowship and nearness, Deuteronomy 13:6 / Luke 16:22. The words, ‘made him known’ are from the verb meaning to draw something out to where can be seen. In Jesus, the invisible God is made fully visible.

‘No one has ever seen God but God the only son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known’. No one has seen God, which is not a contradiction to Exodus 24:10 or Job 42:5, they saw but not in the same sense.

Like a blind man explaining about a visit to Europe may say he saw some great cities, God is an invisible Spirit therefore as yet no man has seen Him but in Christ, we have a manifestation of God, therefore, we can say that we have seen God in manifested form.

The first 18 verses in John 1, show Jesus as light, life, grace and truth. It indicates that He is available to all purely at the individual’s discretion and choice.

John Denies Being the Messiah

‘Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.’ John 1:19-28

At beginning of the New Testament era, there was a widespread belief that the Messiah was soon to come and so there is a tremendous response to John’s preaching, Matthew 3:5-6 / Mark l:5. These verses indicate the start of a series of days, this being day one.

Remember that all priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests and so John is questioned by the priests and Levites. The question has a specific ring to it as if a definite and final answer is now required. He has now an opportunity to declare the Christ and he uses this change well.

The Jews consisted of a group of prominent Jewish laymen or elders. John often refers to them. Jewish officialdom was called the Sanhedrin, John 9:22. The priests were of the Levite tribe, the men who had the task of the spiritual upliftment of the people. They would act as officials at the Temple.

The Levites were not all born to the Levite tribe and could be involved in priestly duties, as there were too many of them. The men called ‘Levites’ as opposed to ‘priests’ were working as servants in the temple at the time.

The Pharisees were a nationalistic sect who believed in the whole Old Testament, angels and the resurrection of the dead. The emphasis of their teaching was ethical rather than theological.

The Sadducees were a legalistic sect that had close links with the priestly class. They accepted only the Torah as canonical scripture and did not believe in angels or the resurrection of the dead, Acts 23:8.

It’s clear from John’s emphatic answer in John 1:20, that he had no ambition to be known as the Messiah. Just the fact that these ‘prominent’ people ask this question indicates how well known John had become, and how these people expected something of him.

And so, they ask the following questions, ‘are you, Elijah?’ This was asked because Malachi 4:5 stated that Elijah was to return before the Christ did. John was the spiritual essence of Elijah, not the physical representation.

They ask, ‘are you the prophet?’ This in turn was asked as a prophet according to Deuteronomy 18:15 was expected with or as the Messiah.

These three questions, reflect the thinking of the time. The people were expecting one of the three, Christ, Elijah or a new prophet. The ring of this conversation is true of one held in heated circumstances.

‘The Christ’, most Jews expected the Messiah to be a conquering king and Jesus’ disciples would later express this idea, Acts 1:6 / Mark 10:35.

‘Elijah’, due to misunderstanding Malachi 4:5, many expected Elijah to return to earth to announce the imminence of the Messiah’s coming. Jesus later corrected this error, Matthew 16:14 / Matthew 17:9-13. ‘Are you the prophet?’ Deuteronomy 18:15.

Some Rabbis taught that this was a prediction of another ‘fore-runner’ like the ‘Elijah’ of Malachi 4. John doesn’t get into any discussion with them, although the Pharisees and Levites seem keen to do so. Instead, he points them to Jesus. Here is a lesson for us.

Their interest is not personal but political and there’s a sense of almost exasperation is clear from John 1:22. The questioners need an answer of sorts to take back, so they let John speak unopposed. In John 1:23 we read of John’s declaration regarding himself.

‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ is John’s description and an idea of the function he had. This is taken from Isaiah 40:3. It could also refer to those sent ahead of a great man to herald his way, prepare the populace for the imminent arrival of a man of note.

A king would send a trusted official to ensure the monarch’s safe travel and proper reception. John concentrated on helping people to come to the Messiah.

It is interesting to note that after the Priests and Levites have their say, the Pharisees now persist with the questioning, as occurred so often later. It is amazing how united people can get against truth.

The practice of baptism was always done by one of some authority. These men were asking about the source of this authority. John does not attempt to explain his role as the essence of Elijah. The Jews were accustomed to baptising.

A convert to Judaism called a proselyte Jew would be baptised on entering the faith. According to Jewish tradition, they would have a general purification or cleansing before the Messiah came.

This idea originated from a misinterpretation of the text in Zechariah 13:1 and the text in Ezekiel 36:25, both of which speak of water and a cleansing.

The major, fundamental premise of the Jews is wrong, that is, that Elijah is coming and that the Christ would establish an earthly kingdom thus ensuring that the conclusions they made in this regard were wrong as well.

The person spoken of here in John 1:27, is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John displays extreme humility in this verse, strongly indicating the Messiah’s true position of superiority.

There is a Rabbinic saying, which says, ‘Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his teacher, except the loosing of his sandal-thong.’

The reason, this particular service was performed by a slave. John is basically saying, ‘I am infinitely inferior to him, not even worthy to perform the service of a slave for him’.

Careful distinction is made between this Bethany and the Bethany of Mary and Martha as mentioned in John 11:1. It ought also to be noted that there was much water to be found at this place.

John Testifies About Jesus

‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” John 1:29-34

We’re now into day 2 and it’s fair to conclude that the people questioning John had been either satisfied with his answer, or so perplexed that they had no further comment.

John notes the coming Lamb and says, ‘Behold the lamb of God’. This is the first recorded viewing of John and Jesus. The phrase is used only here and in John 1:36.

John here identifies Jesus as the object of his preaching. The lamb referred to could be a reflection of the Passover lamb of Exodus 12:3ff / Isaiah 53:6-7, or the sacrificial lamb of later days.

In either case, the lamb was killed in place of man who ought to have died. Firstly, by the hand of God against the Egyptian people, then as a result of man’s own sin.

This, of course, has much in common with the Christ who in time was to come became the sacrificial lamb dying in the stead of man who should have died for the sin he committed.

The lamb has always been considered an animal representing absolute innocence. Every day at the Temple, a lamb would be sacrificed before anything else was done. This was an acknowledgement to God of the sinfulness of the people.

Even today that thought holds true. So, this man was to be the sacrificial lamb of God to man, all who want Him. The sins of the world emphasise the power behind the Christ. No longer does man need a lamb to sacrifice, as the ultimate sacrifice has occurred and it is a universal, all cleansing sacrifice.

Notice that John 1:29 says, ‘sin’ not ‘sins,’ this is important because John is telling us that Jesus came to deal with sin in its totality, He didn’t just deal with the sin, but He dealt with the full consequences of sin, which includes death.

In John 1:30 we see that John is still discussing Jesus who is approaching. The idea of ‘a man who comes after me has surpassed me, because he was before me,’ is proof of the infinity of the Christ.

He was both conceived and born after John, so John is referring to the preconception of Christ, the ‘Logos’. This again emphasises the superiority of Christ over John.

Before he baptised him, the Baptist did not ‘know’ Jesus, John 1:31 / John 1:33. Note the following.

1. Mothers were related, and close friends, Luke 1:36 / Luke 1:56.

2. Acknowledged the superiority of Jesus, his character, to himself, Matthew 3:1-13.

3. Obviously, John knew Jesus well. But, prior to the baptism, he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah.

This leads to a discussion on the purpose of John’s baptism. John was baptising for the following reasons, ‘That He might be revealed to Israel,’ John 1:31. ‘Repentance for the forgiveness of sins’, Mark 1:4. ‘Repentance for the forgiveness of sins,’ Luke 3:3. ‘A baptism of repentance,’ Acts 19:4.

John’s baptism did not instil the Holy Spirit. For we are told the Spirit was given in Jerusalem in Acts 2. It became available to all at their baptism after the establishment of the church in Acts 2:38.

This baptism of John certainly lacked something, possibly more than the omission of the Holy Spirit, as in Acts 19:1-5, the people who had received John’s baptism were re-baptised.

Into the name of Jesus

This story in John 1:32 related by John refers to the incident as recorded in Matthew 3:11 and following. Christ receives at this time the Holy Spirit and affirmation from the Father that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and the people who were present must have heard the declaration.

The difference between the peace and tranquillity in this manifestation of the Holy Spirit is in stark contrast with the violence and power of His manifestation in Acts 2:1-4.

Here in John 1:33, John tells us that this sight was confirmation that Jesus of Nazareth, the one on whom the Spirit descended was indeed the Messiah.

This Messiah would also have the power to baptise with Holy Spirit, a gift we now enjoy. And so, John again confirms the Christ which is the whole purpose of his Gospel, John 20:31.

John’s Disciples Follow Jesus

‘The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter’. John 1:35-42

We now move on to day 3 and note that only the apostle John tells of Jesus’ first meeting with Andrew, Peter and others, Matthew 4:10-22 / John 1:19-51.

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF THE CALLING

The apostle John records who were the first five people called to follow Jesus. John and Andrew were the initial two people called to be disciples by Christ, John 1:35-39. Then came Peter, also called Simon or Simon Peter, John 1:40-42, followed by Philip, John 1:43-44, and then Nathanael, Bartholomew, John 1:45.

The book of Matthew then records that James, a son of Zebedee and brother of John, was called, Matthew 4:21-22, followed by Matthew’s own calling, Matthew 9:9.

THE RABBI DISCIPLE SYSTEM

Every young Jewish boy grew up wanting to be a rabbi and every young Jewish boy and girl would at least go to an elementary school called Bet Sefer, that is, ‘House of the Book’.

Their job was to memorise the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, what we would call the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

And the best of the best would be able to graduate and go on to the next school of learning, a type of secondary school called Bet Talmud, or ‘House of Learning’, and their job was to memorise the rest of the Hebrew Bible.

From there, the best of the best of that group would be allowed to apply to Bet Midrash, or ‘House of Seeking’, which was a type of school for would-be rabbis. A student would find a rabbi that he respected, someone that he wanted to be like, and he would say to that rabbi, ‘Rabbi, I want to follow you’.

Now the rabbi’s job was to question the would-be disciple to seek to determine, not whether or not he knew the Scriptures, but whether or not he could imitate his teachings, become like him, and pass on his way of life. And if the student could answer the rabbi’s questions to his liking, then he would say to his student, ‘Come follow me’.

And these are the words that every student longed to hear. And he would leave behind, his family, his job, his vocation, and he would go and become a disciple of that rabbi.

Now if the student didn’t quite make the cut, the rabbi would say, ‘Ah my son, you know the Torah, you know the teaching well but I’m afraid that you cannot be my disciple, go home, make babies, and pray that they become rabbis’.

The very fact that these men were fishermen shows that they were not the best of the best and they did not make the cut and so when Jesus, a respected teacher of the law, a teacher of God’s Word, comes along and says, ‘Come follow me’, they could hardly believe it and so they leave everything behind. Jesus was inviting them to become like Him.

ANDREW

The name Andrew is a Greek name which means ‘manly’ or ‘of valour.’ Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and son of Jonah.  He was born in Bethsaida in the province of Galilee and was a fisherman like his brother Peter.

Before he met Jesus, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. However, when John pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, he realized that Jesus was greater and immediately left John, found his brother Peter and became a disciple of Jesus, John 1:25-42.

After this Andrew and Peter continued to be fishermen and lived at home until being called permanently by Jesus to be ‘fishers of men,’ Mark 1:16-20 / Luke 5:2-11 / John 1:40-42.

Later when Jesus is teaching the multitudes on the mountainside, he asks Philip where they could find food to feed the crowd and Philip says, ‘eight months’ wages could not buy enough bread’ to feed them. It was Andrew who brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus which Jesus miraculously multiplies into enough food to feed everyone. John 6:8-9.

And it was Andrew who during the Passover Feast brought a group of Greek Gentiles, to meet Jesus which prompts Jesus to remark ‘when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself,’ John 12:20-32. Andrew knew that Jesus came not only to save Israel but everyone on the earth.

The last time Andrew is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts 1, where he is listed as one of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into Heaven, Acts 1:13.

SIMON PETER

Peter was a Galilean fisherman who lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with his wife, his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law.

People at the time worked as a family unit, so the men and women of Peter’s family worked together to catch and preserve dry fish for export to the surrounding towns. This particular family was probably in partnership with Zebedee and his sons, James and John, Matthew 4:21.

Like his father and brother Andrew, Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade, working on the Lake of Galilee. His family seems to have been caught up in the revival movement led by John the Baptist.

Peter met Jesus at Bethany through his brother Andrew and was immediately impressed. Jesus called him ‘Peter’, the rock, an odd choice of name since Peter seems to have been passionate and impulsive rather than rock-like. Jesus actually called Peter ‘Cephas’, which is the Aramaic equivalent of ‘Petros’, a rock, John 1:40-42.

Because they were fishermen, who were used to fishing for fish, Jesus tells them He will make them fishers of men, Mark 1:16-20 / Luke 5:2-11 / John 1:40-42. They will preach the Good News and share it with others, in order that those they teach will become followers of Christ, Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15-16.

Andrew and Peter, two of John’s disciples, after hearing him describe Jesus as ‘the lamb of God’, follow Jesus and have an interview with him. The apostle John tells us absolutely nothing about the conversation with Jesus.

John again sees the Lord and again declares Him to be the Lord. This could have been repeated as different people could have been with him. In doing this, John by now a well-known man on his own account, threw the spotlight on the one he came to ‘make straight the way’ for, John 1:23.

Two of the disciples of John heard the declaration regarding the Christ and left the discipleship of John in favour of the Christ. Absolutely no negative recriminations from John. In fact, he probably welcomed the movement of disciples to Jesus. These men had received teaching from John and had no trouble accepting the Christ.

The question Jesus asks the followers seems almost rude. However, this was the norm of the day and can be seen again in John 2:4 and other places in John. It was an acceptable manner in these times.

The reference to ‘Rabbi’ normally indicates a trained teacher or a scholar, literally meaning ‘a great one’. It was probably used here as a term giving respect to the teacher.

The introduction of time as a factor is unusual at this time. The Jewish method of telling and setting time was different to that now used by the western world.

6 A.M. would have been the first hour, making the tenth hour about 4 P.M. However, if this refers to the Roman time it would have been 10 A.M. It is generally accepted that it was the former, 4 P.M. at this time.

We now move on to day 4 in John 1:40-42, and the first disciple is now named. He is Andrew, which means manliness. He immediately goes to his brother, Simon Peter who was better known as just Peter, and they are introduced for the first time.

Andrew immediately recognises Jesus as the Messiah and wastes no time in telling his brother that he had found the Messiah and bringing him along for an introduction. Note that whenever we meet this man in John’s narrative, he is bringing someone to Jesus, John 6:8-9 / John 12:20-22.

On meeting Simon, the first thing Jesus did was change his name. This was most odd and we are given no clue as to why he should do this.

Simon is from then on known as Simon Peter or just plainly Peter. Cephas is referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:12 / 1 Corinthians 3:22 / 1 Corinthians 9:5 / 1 Corinthians 15:5 and Galatians 2:9.

His name means, a detached piece of rock or a stone or a pebble but in each of these cases, the name Petros is in the masculine gender. Cephas is the Anglicised form of the Aramaic ‘Kapha’. Matthew 16:18, ‘You are Peter, ‘Petros’, ‘masculine’, on this rock, ‘Petra,’ ‘feminine’, I will build my Church’.

Petra is the feminine form for Petros and means boulder. Although the Roman Catholics elevate Peter to a position above the other disciples, giving him a high position in the church, those disciples did not give him any special position, nor did they seem to think he had the right to any above normal position.

Concerning this he had no right to any above normal position, with reference to this point, Matthew 18:1 / Mark 9:33 / Matthew 20:20-28 / Mark 10:42 / 1 Peter 5:1 / 1 Corinthians 9:5 / John 13:23 and John 21:20.

If we see Peter as the Greek Petros which means a movable stone as opposed to Petra which means immovable rock or bedrock. In the Gospels, Peter was anything but a rock he was impulsive, unreliable, and unstable.

In Acts, he was a pillar of the church. Jesus named him not for what he was, but for what by God’s grace, he would become dependable, and steady.

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

‘The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51

We now move on to day 5 and we see Philip is called by Jesus. It is interesting to note that in this case, Jesus takes the initiative and found Philip. He is quite happy to follow and even left for another town with him.

Yet Philip seems to have been the most ‘ordinary’ of disciples, John 6:7 / John 12:20-22. Was he lacking in initiative? John 14:8. Jesus sees limitless potential in ‘ordinary people’, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 / 1 Peter 4:10.

All the disciples we have now named have come from Bethsaida. Before leaving with Jesus, Philip goes and finds Nathanael who was to become a disciple and is called in the Gospels Bartholomew. Philip tells Nathanael that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, John 1:45-46.

He expresses surprise to hear of the Christ coming from Nazareth. Nathanael is not convinced about the Christ coming from Nazareth, but he agrees to accompany Philip anyhow, to test the supposed Christ rather than accept his brother at face value.

Nazareth

Little is known of Nazareth’s early history. It’s not mentioned in the Old Testament at all. However, as it does have a good strong water source, it was most likely around when much of Old Testament history was going on in the nearby vicinity. Some claim that Jonah was from this area, 2 Kings 14:25.

The town seemed to have an almost despised ring or element to it. Similar to that accompanying a modern town of ill-repute. The town’s great claim to fame is, of course, it’s settled in Nazareth.

Jesus grew up in this town, schooled there and learnt his trade, and carpentry under his father in the town. Jesus started much of his early work here but was soon reflected by the locals who saw him as the son of Joseph, rather than the son of God.

As a result, Jesus left the town and settled instead in Capernaum. The people of the town thus showed their Spiritual short-sightedness, which may have been known, explaining the comment from Nathanael, ‘Nazareth, can any good come from there?’

Nazareth has fallen in and out of favour since Christ, depending on the belief of the current conqueror. It was obscure under the Romans, brought to some significance under later Christian influence, desecrated by the Muslims, glorified by the Crusaders, deteriorated under new Muslim control, was returned to its best under British control, suffered under early Israeli control, refinanced under commercial interest.

The ancient town is now almost a ruin but attracts much tourist interest. The town that has sprung up in the vicinity is called En-Nasirah, a small town of mainly Christian inhabitants.

The declaration from Philip ‘the one Moses wrote about in the Law’ was a commonly held view, which is still held today that the Christ was prophesied about by prophets in days long passed. I don’t think this man was under any doubts about who Jesus was.

As Nathanael approached, Jesus makes His statement about him. He calls Nathanael an Israelite, not a Jew. The different terms came to mean different things. The Jews were always trying to persecute the Christ.

These could be referred to as untrue Israelites, in who some falsehood may have dwelled. Nathanael seems surprised to hear this and indeed proves Jesus’ omnipresence when he tells of seeing Nathanael sitting under a fig tree.

The shade of the fig tree was the traditional place for prayer and study. In Old Testament, the fig tree was also a symbol of a man’s own home, Isaiah 36:16 / Micah 4:4. Nathanael had a remarkable spiritual experience known only to him, so he thought, but Jesus knew, John 2:23.

Nathanael’s confession was spontaneous and all-embracing. His early declaration of Kingship and Sonship proves his insight and knowledge of the essence of the coming Messiah.

He declares that Jesus is Son of God, King of Israel, John 1:49. The true Israelite acknowledges the true King. Nathanael’s confession of faith, John 1:49. This is remarkable because most Jews had no conception of the Messiah being also ‘the Son of God’, Matthew 16:13-17.

In Jewish thinking, the son is the same as, an extension of, the father. This term is used here in acknowledgement at the beginning of His ministry, but later in mockery, Matthew 27:40.

The greater thing to be seen mentioned in John 1:50, was better explained in John 1:51. This probably refers to the story of Jacob, Genesis 28:12.

Perhaps this is what Nathanael was reading under the fig tree. Both involve the idea of communication between heaven and earth. Here, Jesus takes the place of the ladder.

Nathanael sees that HE is the link between heaven and earth, the One through whom God’s will is fully revealed to man, the One alone through whom we have access to God, John 14:6 / 1 Timothy 2:5 / Romans 5:2.

However, this would have been a method of drawing attention to the role of Christ as a mediator between God and man, the idea of heaven being open to all men and communication allowed between God and man via the Son, not an earthly entity. Jesus, Himself is the ladder, giving access to God.

For a Jew, such as Nathanael to declare anyone King in this manner was the greatest statement of faith he could ever make, 1 Timothy 6:15 / Revelation 17:14 / Revelation 19:16.

The idea is portrayed as one of total and immediate spiritual dependence on the one accepted as King, that is Christ.

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