Studies in the Gospel of Christ according to John, 1
THE LIGHT SHINES
IN THE DARKNESS
Abd al-Masih and Colleagues
(John 1:1 - 2:12)
All rights reserved
055 – Version 16.2.2004
English Title: The Light Shines in the Darkness, 1 - John 1:1 - 2:12
WATERS-OF-LIFE • P.O.
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
Christ called his disciples to be his witnesses. He
did not write the story of his life himself. And he did not send any letter to
the churches. But his personality made a big impression on the hearts of his
followers, whom the Holy Spirit led to glorify their Lord Jesus Christ. They
saw in his love, humility, death and resurrection a glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. While the evangelists Matthew,
Mark and Luke clarified the sayings and deeds of Jesus, and the
Who is the author of this Gospel?
The fathers of the church in the second century agreed
that John, the disciple of Jesus, was the writer of this unique book. Now the evangelist
John mentioned the names of many apostles, but he never came to mentioning
either his brother James’ name or his own, because he did not consider himself
worthy of being mentioned together with the name of his Lord and Savior.
However, the Bishop Irenaeus of
Some critics think that John, the writer of this
gospel, was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus, but one of the elders of
John was a young man when Jesus called him to follow
him. He was the youngest in the circle of the twelve apostles. He was a
fisherman. His father’s name was Zebedee and his
mother’s name was Salome. He lived with his family in
The relationship between John and the other three evangelists
When John wrote his gospel, the gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke had already been written and known in the church for quite some time. The three evangelists produced their books on the basis of an original Hebrew book in which the apostles gathered through the hands of Matthew the sayings of Jesus, so that they may not be lost, especially during the time when years had passed and the Lord had not returned yet. Most probably the deeds of Jesus and the events of his life were related in a separate collection. The evangelists took great care to pass on these writings with fidelity. Luke the physician depended on other sources since he met with Mary the mother of Jesus and different eye-witnesses.
John, however, in himself, is an important source in
addition to the other sources mentioned above. He did not want to repeat the
news and sayings that were known in the church, but he wanted to add to them.
While the three first gospels declare the deeds of Jesus in the region of
The fourth evangelist did not give importance to the miracles that Jesus performed, mentioning only six of them. What did John want to clarify with this? He declared the words of Jesus in the style of the One who says, “I AM” and this way he explained the personality of Jesus. The first three evangelists concentrated on mentioning the deeds and life of Jesus, but John concentrated more on sketching the person of Jesus in his glory before our eyes. But where did John get such words, which cannot be found with the others, and which Jesus said about himself? It was the Holy Spirit who reminded him of them after the first Pentecost. For John himself confessed at different times that the disciples did not understand the truth of some of the words that Jesus said until the time after his resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. In this way, he perceived later the meaning of Jesus’ words, which he said about himself and which contained the phrase “I AM”. They are a distinguishing characteristic of this unique gospel.
John also mentions the words of Jesus, which he spoke by contrasting opposites, like light and darkness, spirit and body, truth and falsehood, life and death, as well as being from above and below. We hardly ever find these contrasts in the other gospels. But the Holy Spirit reminded John after a number of years, while living in the Greek area of influence, of the words that the Lord said. He clarified to the evangelist that Jesus did not only speak in a Semitic Hebrew way, but also using Greek phrases for the nations.
What is the aim of the Gospel of John?
John did not want to set forth Jesus in a literary philosophical or imaginative spiritual way, but he concentrated more than the others on his incarnation, his weakness and his thirst, while hanging on the cross. He also made clear that Jesus is the Savior of mankind and not only of the Jews, because he is the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world. He declared to us how God loved all mankind.
These things which we mentioned are a method and evidences for reaching to the heart and core of this gospel, namely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His eternity appeared in his temporality, and his divinity in his humanity, and his authority in his weakness. Thus, in Jesus, God was present among mankind.
The aim of the clarifications of John are not to know Jesus in a philosophical or mystical way, but to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit on the basis of a devout faith. Thus he closed his gospel with the famous words, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The living faith in the divinity of Jesus is the aim of the gospel of John. This faith produces in us the divine, holy and eternal life.
To whom was the Gospel of John written?
This book, full of truthful declarations about Christ,
was not written to evangelize unbelievers, but it was written to build up the church
and to make it mature in the Spirit. Paul had already started various churches
Disciples of John the Baptist also lived in
It appears that most of the receivers of this gospel were Gentile believers because John spread out before them many details of Jewish life, which Jews did not need to have explained to them. Moreover, John did not depend in his gospel on words of Jesus written at that time in the Aramaic language, translating them into Greek like the rest of the evangelists. Rather, he used Greek phrases known in his church and filled them with the spirit of the Gospel and testified to the words of Jesus in a pure Greek language in all freedom and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, his gospel speaks in simplicity and depth and with greater eloquence than all artistic rhetorical efforts. Therefore, the Holy Spirit presented us in this gospel the treasure of truth in simplicity, so that every youth can understand its lasting meanings.
When was this unique Gospel written?
We thank the Lord Jesus that he led the orientalistic archaeologists in
What is the content of this Gospel?
It is not easy for man to systematize inspired Scripture. And it is especially difficult to divide the gospel of John into distinct parts. Nevertheless, we suggest the following outline:
The shining of the divine light (1:1 – 4:54)
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it (5:1 – 11:54)
The light shines in the circle of the apostles ()
The light overcomes darkness (18:1 – 21:25)
The evangelist John ordered his thoughts in inter-linked rings, as in a spiritual chain, in which every ring is centered around one or two main concepts or words. The rings are not completely separated from each other, but their meanings sometimes intersect.
The Semitic Hebrew thinking of John, with its deep spiritual vision, harmonizes with the liveliness of the Greek language in a unique, glorious unity. The Holy Spirit clarifies for us the phrases of this gospel until today. It became for us the source of knowledge and wisdom without end. Whoever studies this book intensively will bow down before the Son of God and dedicate his life to him in gratitude and praise and eternal deliverance.
1. Who is the author of the fourth gospel?
2. What is the relationship between the fourth gospel and the first three gospels?
3. What is the aim of the gospel of John?
4. To whom was this unique gospel written?
5. How is it possible to sub-divide it, arranging its subject matter?
THE SHINING OF THE DIVINE LIGHT
(JOHN 1:1 – 4:54)
A - THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD OF GOD IN JESUS (JOHN 1:1-18)
1. The essence and work of the word before incarnation (John 1:1-5)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Man expresses his thoughts and intentions through his words. You are what you say. And your words are a summary of your person and the manifestation of your spirit.
In a higher sense, the Word of God expresses the person of his divinity and all his powers are active in his sanctified Word. For in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth through his powerful Word. And when he said, “Be,” it was. Until today, the power of God is still active in his words. Did you realize that the gospel which is in your hands is full of the authority of God? This book is stronger than all hydrogen bombs because it eliminates the evil in you and builds you up in what is good.
The innermost secret in the expression “the word”, which occurs in the gospel of John, is that in the Greek language it has two meanings. The first is: the breath that carries the sound coming out of the mouth. The second is: a masculine, spiritual person. These two meanings appear in the Arabic language through the gender of the verb that follows the word, either feminine or masculine. In English they are distinguished by the two genders neuter and masculine, as shown in the pronouns used for the word. Thus if the evangelist John says, “In the beginning was the Word” and explains it in the second verse by saying “He was in the beginning”, then this shows you one of the secrets of the person of Christ. He proceeds from the Father as a normal word comes out of one’s mouth. Thus Christ is the sum of the will of God and of his thought. We also find this usage in other religions, namely that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit from him. No human being in the world possesses these heavenly characteristics, except he who was born from the virgin Mary.
The incarnation of Christ in
John showed us a fundamental relationship between Christ and his Father. He did not become separated from him, as the uttered word distances itself from the lips and is lost in the air. But Christ stayed with God and remained in him. The expression “with God” means in the Greek language that the word was moving toward God, entering into God. Thus Christ was always directed toward God. This direction is the principle in all those born of the Holy Spirit, because he is the source of love. This love does not at all want independence, but it remains directed toward its source, and enters it.
God did not create Christ from non-being through his word, like all creatures, but the Son is in himself the creating Word and carries the authority of his Father in himself. At the end of this first verse we find the strange decisive phrase that the Word was God in himself. In this way the evangelist John tells you in the first verse of his gospel that Christ is God from God, light from light, true God from true God, born and not created, of one essence with the Father, eternal, powerful, holy and merciful. Anyone who confesses that Christ is the Word of God will agree with this expression about his divinity.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we bow down before you because you were with the Father before all ages, always directed towards him. Help us that we may not be independent from you, but that we always give ourselves to God and remain in his love. We thank you, Lord Jesus, because you come to us in your gospel with understandable words, so that your authority may appear in us by faith through your Word.
QUESTION 6: What is the word that is repeated in the first verse of John 1 and what is its meaning?
2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Christ did not live for himself, but always for God. He did not become separated from his Father, but was always directed toward him, living with him, and remaining in him. This movement of Christ “toward his Father” was of such importance to the evangelist John that he repeated this meaning at the beginning of his gospel. This permanent unity between Christ and his Father is the secret of the Holy Trinity. We do not believe in three independent gods, separated from each other, but we believe in one God, full of love. Now the Eternal One does not live in seclusion and alone, but his Son was always with him, living with him in perfect harmony. If someone has not experienced the love of God through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit into his heart, he will not be able to perceive the truth of the essence of God. The divine love is what unifies the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one God.
When God created the world in the beginning, he did not do this alone and silently, rather he brought it into existence through his Word. Since Christ was the Word of God, the world came into being through him. This means that Christ is not only the Savior and the intercessor and the Redeemer, but also the Creator. Since nothing exists without Christ having made it, he is almighty. Since nothing happens without him doing it, he controls all. Oh for the heart that could be wide enough to understand and to perceive who Christ is! All the modern scientific discoveries and all the elementary particles and stellar bodies are nothing but humble interpretations of the glory of Christ and of his power. Your voice, your muscles, your bodily form and your heartbeat together with more than that are all gifts of Christ to you. So when do you thank him?
All things were created, except God, his Word and his Spirit. He is in himself alive, eternal and holy. Just as God has life in himself, in the same way Christ is the source of true life, the faithful quickener, who raises us from the death of guilt and sin, and establishes us in his eternal life. This divine life in Christ overcame death. He left the grave by the power of his divine life. Christ is not only Creator, but he in himself, is the source of life. Inasmuch as he is holy, he will never die. No sin at all can be found in God or in his Son, thus he is alive forever. We find thoughts about the life of Christ repeatedly in the chapters of the gospel of John. This life is one of foundations of his principles.
The light of the sun gives life on our planet Earth. But as far as Christ is concerned, the opposite is true: His life is the cause for illumination and the revival we experience through him gives us hope. Our religion is not the religion of the law of death and of judgment, but the message of life and light and hope. The resurrection of Christ from the dead banished all despair. The dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us made us participants in the life of God.
The world is dark because of sin, but Christ is love in light. There is no darkness, no badness, and no evil in him. For this reason, Christ appears full of glory. He shines more than light. However, John the evangelist does not begin by mentioning the shining glory of Christ, rather he points out his strength and life. For knowledge of the holiness of Christ exposes us, judges us, and destroys us. But perception of his life makes us alive. Meditating on Christ comforts and refreshes us truly.
Jesus is the light of mankind. He does not shine for himself, and he does not magnify his own name. Rather, he shines for our sake. We are not sources of light, but sources of darkness. All mankind are evil, but Christ enlightens us so that we can perceive him and realize our dark situation. Through his Gospel, we rise from the dead and enter eternal life. Christ attracts us and calls us through the light of his life to leave our desperate state. We approach him with determination and confidence.
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, we bow to you because you and the Father and the Holy Spirit are one. You created the world in harmony with the Father. You granted me life. Forgive me all the darkness in my life and enlighten me through your Holy Spirit that I may truly live and leave the night of my sins and approach the light of your eternal life.
QUESTION 7: What are the 6 characteristics of Christ that John exposes at the beginning of his gospel?
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Everything with God is full of light and pure. It is open and _urifyful. In his sphere of influence nothing is dark. Everything is clear, upright, truthful and holy. Impurity can find no place in his vicinity. The Holy Spirit is pure and the light of the Lord does not shine harshly but gently. It comforts and heals.
The rays of Christ’s light are not confined to the heavens. They pierce into the darkness and effect redemption. It is a wonderful grace that Christ today shines in the midst of all darknesses. He does not forsake the lost, but liberates and enlightens them.
We have to acknowledge the existence of the world of darkness as opposed to the world of light. We do not know in detail how darkness came about. The evangelist John did not reveal to us this secret. He wanted us to get to know light and not let us look deeply into darkness. All men and creatures fell into darkness and the whole world has been put under the sway of the wicked one.
Maybe you ask: If Christ created the universe in harmony with God and as something good, how then could darkness find its way into it? God created mankind in his image, so how is it that we fall short of his glory today?
John does not mention Satan by name, that Satan which disobeyed his Lord and tried to extinguish his light. He always was against Christ. Therefore, he lost the light that was bestowed on him. Satan became proud and sought for greatness without God. He wanted to rise above him in order to overcome him. It is then that he became the prince of darkness.
Dear brother, what is the aim of your life? Do you seek greatness, fame and self-gratification without God? If this is so, then you belong to those who are in darkness, like the Evil One. For he did not remain alone, but drew millions of people to his darkness. Look at the faces of the people that pass by you in the streets. Do you read light or darkness in their eyes? Do their hearts reflect the joy of God or the sadness of Satan?
The Evil One hates God because his holy light judges him. He does not want light to uncover his ferocity. He therefore hides and covers himself and tries to overcome Christ and those who follow his light. This treacherous one cannot bear the light of the Lord, but hates it. He purposely covers his face and thus is not able to perceive the light. What is frightening is that millions of people do not see Christ’s sun as it shines in the night of their sins. We know what the sun is. It does not need to be explained. It is itself present, shining, clear, radiating. Every small child knows that it is the source of life.
But multitudes of people do not perceive the glory of Christ and his power, because they do not want to comprehend it. Deceiving ideologies cover their eyes as with a thick blanket, so they reject the true message about the divinity of Christ. In reality, they do not want to discover their own sins. They do not want to approach the light and prefer to remain in darkness. They do not deny themselves and do not confess their own sins. They become arrogant and proud. They remain blind to the grace of Christ’s light. Darkness competes against light, but light overcomes it by love. So who are you? Light from the Lord or darkness from the Evil One?
PRAYER: O Lord, you are the light of the world. We follow you in faith and in your love. We do not walk in darkness, but have received the light of life. We thank you because you did not leave us alone, afraid of the darkness of God’s anger, but that you have called us to your clear light. Enlighten millions of people around us who did not see you in spite of the fact that you shine around them. Have mercy on us and give us light, o Enlightener!
QUESTION 8: What is the difference between light and darkness in the spiritual sense of the word?
2. The Baptist prepares the way of Christ (John 1:6-13)
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
God sent John the Baptist into the dark world in order to call people to come to the rays of the divine light. Everyone knows that many sins are committed in the dark. But whoever confesses his guilt before God, repentant and broken-hearted, has come to the light. What about you? Have you come to the light or are you still hiding yourself in the darkness?
The Baptist explained to people the condition of their
hearts. In relationship to the law of God, all of them are evil. They need
repentance and a fundamental change so that they will not perish on the Day of
the Lord. The call of the Baptist shook up the multitudes and people ran to the
one who called to repentance in the desert. They confessed their sins openly
and asked for baptism in the river
God chose John the Baptist. He enlightened him and
commissioned him to move all people so that they would come to their senses,
change their thinking and get prepared for the coming of Christ. The people of
the Old Testament knew much about the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
The prophet Isaiah said about him, “The people who walked in darkness have seen
a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a
light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). He also said in the name of the Lord, “Arise,
shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you”
(Isaiah 60:1). The Baptist taught that the coming of light into darkness is not
confined to the people of the Old Testament, but is open for everybody. Thus
the message of the Baptist encompassed the whole world, so that people from
Thousands followed him in spite of his testimony that he is not the light, but a herald sent before him. He did not point people to himself, but guided them to Christ. This is the clear sign of all true messengers of God, that they do not bind their followers to themselves, but to Christ alone.
The aim of the service of John was not repentance and baptism but faith in Christ. He knew that people hoped he would proclaim that he himself was the Christ. But he did not fall into temptation and prepared the way for the Lord. He knew that the coming Christ was the One who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. John also knew that a psychological repentance in a human being is not enough at all, even if he gets baptized for the remission of sins. Rather, he knew that we all need a complete renewal of our inner being. God did not give him this authority to change hearts, just as he did not give it to any of the prophets in the Old testament. This privilege was reserved for the original light that creates, the life-giving word, which is able to renew a person with his authority when they believe in his name and open up to his light. In this way, John led the multitudes to faith in Christ, knowing that faith alone will carry them over into the new age.
Apollos was a fiery and diligent philosopher, following the teaching of John the Baptist. He preached for the sake of Christ _urifytively without truly experiencing the light of the new covenant. But when he delivered himself to Christ, light entered his heart and he became light in the Lord and a beacon in darkness. He enlightened many (Acts -28).
PRAYER: O Lord Christ, we magnify you and thank you because you are the light of the world and the hope of the wretched. You enlightened the darkness of our hearts, revealed our sins and forgave them. We thank you because you made us children of light and freed us to eternal life. We ask you that the rays of your light will reach our friends and our relatives that they will experience true repentance and by faith enter your great light.
QUESTION 9: What are the main aims in the service of John the Baptist?
9 That was the true light which gives light to every man who comes into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him.
Christ is the true light in the world. The Holy Spirit had foretold his coming, hundreds of years before, through the prophets. The books of the Old Testament are full of references to the coming of Christ into our universe. Thus the prophet Isaiah said, “For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (Isaiah 60:2).
In our verse, the word “world” is repeated four times. For the evangelist John the meaning of this word is close to the meaning of darkness, for he writes, “The whole world has been put under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John ).
In the beginning the world was not evil, because God created it good. His beauty and goodness filled the universe. “And he beheld everything that he did, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis ). God created man in his image and his glory was bestowed on the parents of mankind, who reflected the light of the Creator like a mirror.
But because of pride, all became evil and rebellious. They left God’s fellowship in their hearts, because they opened themselves to the spirit of darkness. Distancing oneself from God always makes one evil, as David confessed in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.”
The evangelist John however, witnessed to the fact that Christ came into this evil world, just as the sun rises gradually, dispelling the darkness before it. The light of Christ did not enter our world like a blinding flash of lightning. But he entered it gently, enlightening all people. That is, the Lord did not come as a judge and executioner. But he came as a Savior and Redeemer. All people need to be enlightened by Christ. Without this enlightenment, they remain in the dark. Christ is the true Enlightener, and no one else. Whoever accepts his enlightenment through the Gospel will change his character and become good and enlighten others.
Did you understand the meaning of this saying, “The Creator came into his world”? The owner entered his possession, and the king drew near to his people. Who will wake up and prepare for his coming? Who will study the truth about his coming, his constitution and his aims? Who is it that leaves his worldly and vain goals behind and approaches and welcomes the God who comes? Who is it that perceives this revolutionary and unique hour of time, in which God will come?
Thus, the Lord suddenly was present among sinners. He came without being noticed, small and quiet. He did not want to enlighten the world with his greatness, his power and his glory. But he revealed his humility, love and truth. Since the beginning of creation, being proud was the reason for the fall of mankind. So the Almighty presented himself as the Humble One. Even Satan wanted to be strong, glorious and clever, like God. But Christ appeared as a weak baby, lying in a disgusting manger. Thus, with his humility, his gentleness, and his obedience he won. He went down to the lowest levels of mankind in order to lift everyone up and save them altogether.
Listen, all you people! After this good news, we read a frightening and shattering word, which is that the world does not know the light and does not perceive it. It did not realize that the Son of God has come near and was present among them. People remained blind and foolish, in spite of their philosophies, their sciences, and their worldly genius. They did not recognize that God himself stood before them. They did not know their Creator and did not accept their judging Savior.
From this painful truth, we can deduce an important
principle in the
PRAYER: We thank you, o Lord Christ, that you came into the world. You did not come for judgment and revenge, but for the enlightenment of all people, and for their salvation. But we are blind and foolish. Forgive us our iniquities and grant us an obedient heart. Open our eyes so we can see you, and open our souls to the rays of your gentle light, so that we can live in the power of your Holy Spirit.
QUESTION 10: What is the relationship between Christ the Light and the dark world?
11 He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The people of the Old Testament belonged to God because the Lord had bound himself to these sinners through a covenant after having purified them. He guided them for hundreds of years. He ploughed their hearts with the plough of the law and prepared them for the sowing of the Gospel. In this way, the history of the descendants of Abraham was directed towards the coming of Christ. His appearance was the goal and meaning of the Old Testament.
It is a strange fact that those who were chosen to welcome the Lord Jesus rejected him and did not receive his light. They preferred to live in the darkness of the law, hurrying towards judgment. So they missed grace completely and loved their own works more than the salvation in Christ. They did not repent, but hardened themselves against the spirit of truth.
Not only the people of the Old Testament were the property of God, but also all humanity because the Almighty created stones, plants, animals and even all mankind. For this reason, the peoples of the world carry the same responsibility as the people of the Old Testament. Our Creator and Owner wants to enter our hearts and homes, so who will welcome him? You belong to God. Did you put yourself at your Lord’s disposal? Unfortunately, today the majority of nations are not ready to open up to the light of Christ. They do not want the friendliness of his rays to overcome the hardness of their darkness. This way they refuse the Son of God once more in our age.
Whoever of the descendants of Abraham or of mankind in general opens his heart to Christ and commits himself into the hands of the mighty Savior, that person will experience a great miracle. For the heavenly Light will enlighten him with divine light and overcome the darkness that resides in his heart. Also, the power of God will enter his heart and renew his innermost being. Christ delivers you from the slavery to sin. He will transfer you into the freedom of the children of God. If you love Christ, then the holy Spirit will reside in you and begin his work of salvation in your life.
Now the evangelist John does not say that we will be or that we have become children of God, but that we become his children by spiritual growth. We find big differences in the midst of these words, for the one who believes in Christ will enter a new existence. At the same time he will be in a state of development and growth towards perfection in his spiritual life. The power of the Lord created us as a new creation and it will sanctify and also perfect us.
We did not become children of God only by adoption, but we became children by spiritual birth. The descent of the Spirit of Christ into our hearts means that we become full of the authority of the Lord. The outpouring of this divine authority into believers points to the fact that no power in this world and at the end of time is able to hinder their becoming full of divine moral attributes. Christ is the author of faith and its perfector.
The children of God and the children of the world cannot be compared with each other. We were born from two parents who begot us by their natural drives or by their deliberate plan. Maybe they prayed together, obeying the guidance of the Spirit. But all spiritual, psychological or physical inheritance from our parents has no relationship to our new birth from God. For spiritual renewal is holy from the beginning and comes from God, from whom every Christian is born directly. For he is our true spiritual Father.
No child is able to give birth to itself. It is born. In this way, our spiritual birth is pure grace. Christ lays the seeds of his Gospel in our hearts. Whoever loves these seeds, accepts them and keeps them. In him the eternal life of God will grow. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.
Birth into a Christian family and association with Christians does not make us children of God, but only faith in the name of Christ. This faith means coming close to him, immersing oneself into his qualities, understanding his gentleness and growing in dependence on his power. This growth happens until we commit ourselves into his hands, believing that he saves us and transforms us into his likeness. Faith in Christ is a heart-felt relationship between ourselves and him, and an eternal covenant. The spiritual birth will not be accomplished in us except through this faith, so that we can say that being born anew is not greater or more difficult than faith, just as faith is not less or easier than renewal. They are the same.
The evangelist John did not mention in his gospel the name Jesus Christ before coming to this passage. Instead he described his personality to believers from the nations, using words close to their way of thinking. Did you understand the six meanings from these qualities of Christ that the evangelist put forward to his church? Did you open your heart to the power of these attributes and bow down to them? Then you will truly become a child of God!
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus Christ, I bow down to you and love you and open up my heart to you. You come to me in spite of my sins, you cleanse me from all my iniquity, and you take up residence in me through your Holy Spirit. O Lord, I have opened wide the doors of my heart to you.
QUESTION 11: What happens to those who accept Christ?
3. The fullness of God appeared in the incarnation of (John -18)
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Who is Jesus Christ? He is true God and true man. The evangelist John shows us this great secret as the motto of his gospel. When he mentions the incarnation of the word of God, he shows us the foundation of his message. Verse 14 is the key to all the following news. If you perceived this spiritual pearl in all its meanings, you will obtain deep insight into the knowledge of the following chapters.
The incarnation of Christ is fundamentally different from our spiritual renewal. We all have bodies, and were born of a father and a mother. Afterwards, the word of the Gospel reached us and generated eternal life in us. Christ, however, was not born of a worldly father. Rather, the word of God came to Mary through the angel, who told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, that holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). When the virgin accepted this wonderful message by faith, she found the unique embryo in her womb, in which the Holy Spirit united with human blood. That is how God became man.
Our thinking stops before this reality. Biology cannot clarify this secret. Human experience is unable to understand it. Some theologians try to ease the impossibility of the birth of Christ for a scientific mind by saying that he only appeared in a body without truly having a material body that feels pain and sorrow. We, however, confess that Christ was completely human and completely divine at the same time.
The incarnation of Christ is the best interpretation for this wonderful birth. The eternal Son of God, who proceeded from the Father before all ages, took part in our physical nature without sin, for the Holy Spirit in him overcame all inclination towards sin. Thus Jesus remained the only human being that lived in innocence and purity, without blemish.
The Son of God mixed with rebellious, uncaring and evil humans, who all pass away. He however is eternal, unable to die due to his divinity. In spite of his exaltation he loved us and left his _urifynal glory and lived among us in humility. He became one with our kind, and understood our situation perfectly. In his pain he learned complete obedience. This way he became compassionate indeed. He did not refuse us, the evil ones. Christ became man to draw near to us, in order to bring us close to God.
The body of Christ resembles the tabernacle in the Old Testament, where God met people. God was in Christ and declared himself to people in the form of a man. All divinity was present in Christ, touchable. According to the Greek text, John actually said that he “tabernacled among us”. This means that he did not build a durable castle, to remain with us always on earth, but that he dwelt as Bedouins dwell in their tents for a short period of time. Thereafter he takes his tent down and moves it to another place. In the same way, Christ was among us for a short period before going back to his heaven.
The apostles testify together that they saw the glory of Christ. Their testimony is an acclamation and a rejoicing. They are eye-witnesses to the presence of the Son of God in the flesh. Their faith opened their eyes to understand the love, the patience, the humility, the loyalty and divinity of Jesus. In his purity they saw God himself. The expression, “his glory” in the Old Testament signifies the summary of all divine attributes. The apostle John courageously laid down in his testimony all these attributes of Jesus. He perceived his hidden majesty as well as his beauty and greatness.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John called God Father and Jesus Son. There is no escaping these terms. The Spirit’s inspiration tears down the veil that hides God’s name, assuring us that the eternal Holy One, the mighty Creator is Father and has a Son likewise holy, glorious and everlasting, full of love. God is not simply a vanquishing judge destroying and avenging with might. He is compassionate, tender and patient, and so is His Son. By understanding the Father and the Son we reach the core of the New Testament. He who sees the Son sees the Father. This revelation transformed the image of God found in other religions and opened our eyes for the age of love.
Do you want to know God? Then study the life of Christ! What did the disciples see in Jesus? What is the summary of their testimony? They saw God’s love interwoven with grace and truth. Think about these three meanings as you pray and you will feel the fullness of God’s glory present in Christ. He comes to us in healing grace undeserved by us. We are all guilty; none of us is good. His coming to us, corrupt as we are, spells grace. Not ashamed to call us his brethren, he has cleansed us, sanctified us and renewed us, and he has filled us with his spirit. Are not these saving acts “grace upon grace”? And even more than that: we have obtained a new right, for Christ planted us into his grace to have the right to become children of God. The message of grace is not deception or imagination but a new right. The incarnation is proof of the reality of God’s working, which perfects us in his salvation. Grace is the basis of our faith.
We bow to you Babe of the manger, as did shepherds and Magi in
QUESTION 12: What does the incarnation of Christ mean?
15 John bore witness to him and cried “This was he of whom I spoke, ‘He who comes after me was before me.’ 16. Of his fullness we have received grace upon grace”.
The Baptist announced in a loud voice that the Christ who arrived after him, existed before him, thus surpassing temporal genealogies. By proclaiming this, the Baptist asserted Christ’s eternity. He gave testimony to the truth that He is above space, time and perdition, an infinite and incorruptible god.
In the wilderness the Baptist grieved to see the gravity of men’s sins. He taught them about repentance for the remission of sins. But on seeing Jesus his heart leapt for joy, because Christ was born as eternal man, full of truth, so that death cannot find power over him. The joy of incarnation and of Christmas has its source in the appearance of God’s eternal life in a human body. With this began the victory of life over death, because in him sin was eliminated, which is the cause of death.
Realizing the depth of this grace, the Baptist exulted and magnified God’s fullness that was present in Christ. Paul had confessed, “In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in him.” John sums up these truths in his great statement, “From his fullness have we received grace upon grace”.
What is this fullness of Christ and what have we received from him? If you remember John’s explanation of Christ’s person in the past 14 verses, you will know the greatness of his personality and perceive how the ocean of his grace reaches us daily:
Christ is the Word of God proceeding from the Father, as words proceed from men’s mouths. He is the innermost heart of God and his will, essence and delight. As the word of the Gospel reaches us, entering our minds and changing our wills, Christ also comes into our hearts and changes us according to his excellence. Is this not superb grace?
Christ is God’s Life: Scientists can produce houses, bridges and huge bombs, but no one can create life. Parents are entrusted with transmitting to their offspring the life that God grants them. Is this not grace? And since earthly life passes away, Christ bestows on believers his own Spirit, who is life eternal. All Christians share God’s life and will never ever die. Is this not grace?
Christ is the Light of the world. He is the victor over darkness and creator of light in pitch-dark night. He gives hope to a world in gloom, sends power to a world groaning in weakness. The light of Christ is capable of flooding the murk of our world with its brightness. He gives truth and fidelity in politics and factories, in families and churches, if men believe in him. Is this not grace upon grace?
Jesus is the Creator of the universe. In him resides the fullness of the power of God. His miracles were signs pointing to his authority. His resurrection from the dead proved the power of his life over death. In his body he defeated the force of gravity and walked on water. He broke the little bread he had to feed five thousand men until they were satisfied. He also knows the number of hairs on your head. When will you bow to his caring grace?
Do you still want to know more about the fullness of Christ? He is the Owner of the worlds. All goods and wealth, every minute of your life and even you yourself belong to him. He made you and it is he who keeps you. Christ possesses all. He entrusted his benefits into your hands for you to administrate them for him. Your muscles, your thoughts and your parents are the gift of your Lord that he bestowed on you. When will you thank him for his grace?
The amazing thing about the incarnation and about Christmas is that the fullness of the Godhead was made flesh in an infant. This exact miracle was prophesied by Isaiah 700 years before it happened by inspiration from the Holy Spirit, saying, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government shall be on his shoulder. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Sadly, men’s minds are slow to grasp that God in Christ has restored to man His pure image that man had at the beginning of creation. Jesus is the glorious One who is wise, he is the illuminating counselor, the powerful eternal God. All the attributes and gifts of God were present in the babe of the manger. Have you realized the marvelous grace that God came to us in Jesus? Now we can say: God is with us!
Christ does not want to keep his virtues to himself, or else he would have stayed in heaven. He has come to our world, has put on our flesh and has taken our lowly likeness to open for us the way to heaven, to restore us to his Father and to fill us with his fullness. Similarly Paul witnesses that God’s purpose is the presence of His fullness in the Church. Read Ephesians ; and Colossians 2:10, then you will be swept into the current of God’s praises and lead to magnify the grace of your Lord. Do not stay miserable in your sins, but open your heart to Christ’s fullness. Come to the babe of the manger and manifold blessings will flow to you. He will make you a source of grace for those around you.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, you are God’s son. All love, power and truth is present in you. We bow before you and rejoice, because you do not remain far away from us but you have lived among us. You love us. You became man and redeemed us. We thank you for granting us grace upon grace.
QUESTION 13: What is meant by Christ’s fullness?
17 For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared Him.
The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament can be boiled down to the difference between righteousness by Law and righteousness by Grace. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the laws concerning blood sacrifices and the law for bringing order into life. He who kept these precepts merited life. But whoever transgressed against one of them deserved death. In this way the law was a judgment unto death, because no human is perfect. The best of pious folk were broken in repentance and remorse in the face of the impossible task of keeping all the rules of the Law. Superficial folk, however, regarded themselves as good, as though their life pleased God. This led them into egoism, and fanatical legalism. They forgot love and boasted in the righteousness of their selfish works. Surely, the Law as such is holy because it reflects the holiness of God. But in front of it every man looks evil. In this way the Law leads us to misery and death.
In this atmosphere that reeks
with death the evangelist John mentions Jesus Christ for the first time in his
Gospel as the rescuer from misery and the Savior from God’s wrath. The man
Christ did not come to us with a new legal system, rather he redeemed us from the curse of the Law. With his excelling love he fulfilled all legal demands in our stead. He bore our sins and the judgment against the world on his shoulders, thus reconciling us to God. God is no longer our enemy because of our sins, but we have obtained peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The man Jesus ascended to his heavenly Father and poured out his Holy Spirit on us. He impressed the Law on our hearts, filling our innermost feelings with pure, truthful and honorable thoughts. We no longer live under the Law, but He is in us. In this way God has given us the power to fulfill the demands of his love.
With Christ’s coming, the age of grace has begun and we live in it. God does not ask from us offerings, services or sacrifices to bolster our self-righteousness, but he sent his Son to bestow on us divine righteousness. He who believes in him is completely justified. Because of this we love and thank him and offer our living sacrifice unto him, for he sanctified us.
Christ does not leave us as orphans but remains with us, and pours out his gifts on us. We do not deserve the forgiveness of our sins, or the fellowship of the Spirit of God. Nor do we merit any other gift or blessing from him. Everything is grace from him. Indeed, we deserve nothing but wrath and perdition. But on account of our bonding with Christ by faith, we have become the sons of God on whom he bestows his grace. Have you realized the difference between the slaves of sin and the children of grace?
This grace is not a mere emotional feeling in the heart of the Holy One. Rather, it is a love based on judicial rights. God cannot forgive whomever he wills, because the sinner’s sin requires his immediate death. However, Christ’s substitutionary crucifixion in our place has fulfilled all righteousness. Thus grace has become a right for us and the mercy of God a reality that cannot be shaken. Grace in Christ is the legal basis for our life with God.
You ask: Who is this God, free to act, yet bound to his justice? We answer you: Many religions have seriously and arduously attempted to understand God. But they are like ladders set on earth that cannot reach heaven. But Christ is like a divine ladder descending from heaven, fixed on earth. Our meeting with God through him leaves no one in despair.
No man has seen the eternal Creator, because our sins separate us from the Holy One. All statements about God are no more than vague speculations. But Christ was his Son, with God from eternity, one of the constituents of the divine Trinity. Thus the Son knew who the Father is. All Previous revelation is inadequate. But Christ is God’s perfect Word, and the summary of all truth.
What is the pivot of Christ’s message?
He taught us to address God in prayer like this, “Our Father who art in heaven”. With this manner of addressing God he declared to us that the essence of God is his fatherhood. God is not a dictator, a conqueror or a destroyer. Nor is he apathetic and indifferent. He cares for us as a father thinks of his child. Should this child fall in the mud, he pulls him out, cleans him up and does not leave him to get lost in the world of guilt. Since we have come to know that God is our Father, our distress caused by our worries and our sins has been lifted. For in returning to our Father we obtained cleansing and a welcome. We live with God for ever. The religious revolution that broke into our world in the name of the Father is the new Christian thought that Christ brought. This paternal name holds the summary of Christ’s words and works.
Before his incarnation Christ was with his Father. This tender image clarifies the loving relation between Christ and God. After dying and rising the Son returned to the Father. He did not only sit on God’s right hand but also is in the bosom of the Father. This means that he, one with him, he is him. Thus all the sayings of Christ about God are true. In Christ we see who God is. As the Son is, so is the Father, and as the Father is, so is the Son.
PRAYER: Our Father who art in heaven we praise and thank you, because you sent us Christ your beloved Son. We bow down to you for you freed us from the nightmare of the Law and planted us in your divine righteousness. We thank you for every spiritual gift, and magnify you because of the privileges we possess in your fatherly Name.
QUESTION 14: What new thought did Christ bring into the world?
B – CHRIST LEADS HIS DISCIPLES FROM THE SPHERE OF REPENTANCE TO THE JOY OF THE WEDDING
(JOHN 1:19 – 2:12)
1. A delegation from the Sanhedrin questions the Baptist (John -28)
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites
A revival took place in the
The members of the Sanhedrin, the highest religious court of the Jews, were aware of this revival. They sent a delegation of priests and tough helpers, who were used to slaughter sacrificial offerings. They were to question the Baptist, so that if he appeared to be blaspheming they could eliminate him.
So this meeting between the Baptist and the delegates
from the Sanhedrin was formal and dangerous. The evangelist John calls these
men coming from Jerusalem Jews. With this name he discloses one of the themes
of his gospel. For at that time Jewish thought was rigidly literalist as
regards the Law, full of fanaticism and envy, so that
“Who are you?” was the first question they addressed to John, who was surrounded by a penitent crowd listening to him attentively. “Who authorized you to speak? Have you studied the Law and Theology? Do you consider yourself commissioned by God, or do you even see yourself as the Messiah?”
John the Baptist saw the deceit that was behind these queries and he did not lie. If he would say, “I am the Messiah”, they would condemn him and he would be stoned; and if he would say, “I’m not the Messiah”, people would leave him and no longer regard him as important. Abraham’s descendants at that time were suffering under the shame of being colonized by the Romans. They longed for a Savior, who would deliver them from the yoke of the Romans.
The Baptist confessed openly that he was not the Christ neither the son of God. He did not accept a title that went against the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He chose to remain meek and faithful to his calling, trusting in God that He would in time confirm his message.
After their first stab the delegation went on to ask him, “Are you Elijah?” This name refers to the promise in Malachi 4:5, where Scripture says that before the coming of the Messiah, a prophet would appear in the spirit and power of the famed prophet Elijah, who brought down fire from heaven on his foes, and raised a dead person with God’s permission. Everybody regarded this outstanding hero as a leader of their nation. But John humbled himself, even though in truth he was that promised prophet, as Christ later on witnessed concerning him (Matthew 11:14).
Then the priests asked him if he was that specific promised prophet, concerning whom Moses had foretold that he would, like himself, grant a new and great covenant (Deuteronomy 18:15). Behind this question was their desire to know who had sent him to speak like a prophet. So they persisted in asking who he was and what authority he had, and whether he spoke by revelation or for himself.
The Baptist declined to take on himself the role and rank of Moses. He did not want to set up a new covenant with God without being commissioned to do so. Nor did he want to lead his people to military victory. He remained faithful in the temptation and did not become conceited or proud. At the same time he was wise and did not answer his enemies with more than the necessary words. It is important that we apply these principles in our lives.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for sending John the Baptist to our world, a man who never became proud. Forgive us our pride of thinking that we are greater and more important than others. Teach us to understand that we are unworthy servants and that you alone are great.
QUESTION 15: What were the aims of the questions posed by the delegates from the highest Jewish court?
22 They said to him, “Who are you, that we may answer them who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’, as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees.
The delegates fired their questions like pointed arrows at the Baptist. These questions were related to heresies that they expected to emerge before the Messiah’s true coming. But after John denied being the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet foretold by Moses, he lost his significance and danger in their view. Yet they persisted in asking who he was, and who entrusted him his message. Their aim was not to return to the Sanhedrin without fully assessing his situation.
The questions had nothing to do with Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:3), but the Spirit led the Baptist to this text. He described himself as a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. If he would not have given them indications from the Holy Scriptures, they would have accused him of authorizing himself and making up his own revelation. Then they would have condemned him for blasphemy. So John humbled himself and took the lowest position in the Old Testament, claiming that he was nothing but a voice crying in the wilderness.
We all live in the wilderness of our world. Around us is tumult and chaos. But God does not leave our poor world and the corrupt people in it without a helper. He comes to mankind to save them. This move from heaven to earth is great grace. The Holy One does not destroy us as we deserve, but seeks us and searches for us lost ones. His love is greater than our minds can grasp. His ultimate salvation includes transforming the wildernesses into green gardens.
The Baptist understood through the Holy Spirit that God in Christ was coming to our world. So he began to call the people to come to their senses and to get prepared to welcome the Coming One. His zeal for preparing the path of Christ made him the voice in the wilderness of our world. He did not call himself a prophet or a messenger, but only a voice. But this voice was authorized by God, not leaving consciences asleep, comfortable with their sins.
What was this voice saying? The gist of his message was: Arise, realize that the Kingdom is upon you! Order your lives aright! God is holy and will judge you. For every lie, theft, vice and inequity God will call you to account and punish you with hellfire. God does not ignore your sins. An evil person will appear evil before Him in all his sins. And the seemingly good person will not be better than the evil one. For no one is blameless before Him.
The hardness of this demand by the Baptist leads to self-examination, knowledge of one’s corrupt self, the breaking down of pride and a change of mind. Brother, do you regard yourself as good and accepted? Be honest and confess your guilt! If you have defrauded anybody by even a little then return it to the rightful owner immediately. Die to your pride and live for God. Straighten what is crooked in your conduct. Bow down deeply because you have done evil.
Many of those official delegates were Pharisees. They were driven mad by the Baptist’s boldness, because they claimed to be righteous, pious and good, meticulously keeping the law with endless passion. But they were deceiving themselves. They only pretended to be pious, while in reality they were inwardly depraved, having filthy pictures passing by their inner eyes with their hearts full of vengeful thoughts, as a nest of vipers.
Their stern faces did not deter John from rebuking them, and reminding them that we all are in dire need of returning to God, to prepare the way of the Lord’s coming to us soon.
PRAYER: Lord, you know my heart, my past and my sins. I am ashamed before you of my transgressions, open or hid. I confess all my wickedness before you and plead your pardon. Drive me not from your presence. Help me to return what I have defrauded from others and to ask for pardon from every person I have hurt. Break down my pride, cleansing me from all my sin by your mercy, o Most Compassionate of those who are merciful!
QUESTION 16: How did the Baptist call people to prepare the Lord’s way?
25 They asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ,
nor Elijah, neither that prophet?” 26 John answered, “I baptize you with water,
but one stands among you, whom you do not know. 27 He who is coming after me
was before me, whose shoes’ latchet I am not worthy to loose.” 28 These things
were done in Bethabara beyond
From the Torah the Jews had learned about purification, ablutions and a sort of baptism. Ablutions were a cleansing from moral filth, whereas baptism proper was specifically for the _urifycation of non-Jews, because they regarded the nations as unclean. Anyway, accepting baptism was a sign of humility and of joining God’s people.
This explains why the delegates from
John’s baptism was a stumbling block to “pious” folk. It split the people into two groups. The first group were those purified by the baptism of repentance. They were to welcome Christ as a selected crowd ready to meet their Lord. The second group rejected the baptism of repentance, feeling they were fit to welcome the Christ. They assumed that his coming was to be for political or legalistic ends.
Probably the evangelist John, himself, was present at this official examination. The discussion deeply touched him, especially the questions of the delegates to the Baptist, for with them they elicited his confession that he was neither the Christ, nor Elijah nor the promised prophet. With this response they disgraced him, revealing that he was a nobody.
The Baptist, knowing what was to be done, belittled himself and said with a smile, “You are right, I am nobody important. I baptize only with water, without magic or power. All I do is symbolic, pointing to the Coming One.”
Then the Baptist in his attire of camel fur stood up and called out in a loud voice to the leaders of the delegation and to the crowds, “You are all blind. You fail to notice the historic event happening in your midst. You examine me, who is but a minor figure. But look, the Christ has come. He is here in the midst of this crowd of penitents. I, John the Baptist, have no power to do anything. I have but one service to fulfill. I am a voice, and the Holy Spirit informed me about the Lord who is coming right now. He is here. Today is the day of Salvation. Repent quickly, for the last moments are passing by.”
At this announcement the crowds were awe-struck. They had gathered with the aim in mind to welcome the Christ. But he had already arrived, and they had neither noticed his coming nor seen him. They were deeply perplexed, looking at each other in astonishment.
Then the Baptist uttered his famous description of Christ in a testimony which is more explicit than what the writer of the gospel had already indirectly mentioned in verse 15, “He who is coming after me was before me.” With this the Baptist revealed the eternity of Christ and at the same time his presence among men. He made it clear that outwardly the Christ was a normal human being in their midst, unrecognized, without halo, elaborate clothing or flaming eyes. He was just like everyone else, not standing out in any way. But in his true nature he was totally different from others: A being before all ages, heavenly and divine, standing in their midst in all simplicity.
The Baptist confessed his unworthiness to be Christ’s servant. The custom of the time was, that when guests were received in any home, a servant would wash their feet with water. Seeing that Jesus had come to the crowds, the Baptist regarded himself unfit even to loose the latchet of Jesus’ shoes in order to wash his feet.
These words stirred the crowds. They questioned one
another, “Who is this stranger nearby? How can the Lord be a commoner? And why
does the great Baptist say that he is unfit to loose the latchet of his shoes?”
The delegates from
These events took place on the east bank of the
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for coming to us, true man and eternal God. We worship you and magnify you for you have drawn near to us. You humbled yourself bodily so that nobody but the Baptist could recognize you. You are lowly and gentle in heart. Teach us to be meek like you and to follow you by the guidance of your Holy Spirit.
QUESTION 17: What is the peak of the Baptist’s witness to Jesus before the delegates from the Sanhedrin?
4. More stirring testimonies of the Baptist to Christ
29 The next day John saw Jesus approaching him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes One preferred before me, for he was before me’.”
When the delegates returned to
Christ the young thirty-year old came to the Baptist and calmly asked for baptism. This humility struck a Lord in the Baptist, who held back asking that Jesus should baptize him and forgive his sins. Jesus, however, insisted on baptism to fulfill righteousness.
Thereupon, John realized that the Holy One had come not to deI mankind, but to bear their sin. He accepted baptism as a representative of humanity. The Lord’s coming was not to be fulfilled in wrath, but by reconciling and pardon. As he stood at the edge of the Old Covenant, the Baptist perceived the depths of the New in God’s love. This radical change revolutionized his conceptions.
Next day when Jesus appeared, John pointed to Jesus saying, “See and realize, open your eyes, it is he!”. There was no thunderbolt or legions of angels, rather the Word was being poured out for all to experience. This young man is the long expected One, the Lord himself, the Hope of the world.
No longer did John want the crowds around him to hold on to the older concept of Messiah, based on political triumphs and military strategy.
This was the Lamb of God, not the expected Lion of Judah, mighty and victorious, but meek and tender.
Filled with the Spirit, John announced, “This Jesus bears the world’s sin. He has chosen to be the Lamb of God, symbolic of ancient sacrificial rites. He is worthy of being the Substitute for all men. His love is powerful and effective. He is the Holy One and remains so while bearing everyone’s sins.” He who was sinless became sin for us, to become God’s righteousness in Christ.
The Baptist’s testimony is a peak in the gospel, the nucleus of the Bible. He became aware that Christ’s glory was his suffering for us. Christ’s salvation is global and all-inclusive, for all races, red, yellow, black and white, dark and fair. It takes in the bright and the dull, rich and poor, aged and young, it avails for past, present and future. His death atones for all sin. His substitutionary atonement is perfect.
From the first day of his coming as Lamb he suffered the effects of evil, but he did not cast out the vile or despise the proud, but loved them. He knew the extant of their bondage and was ready to die for us.
To his hearers the Baptist proclaimed that God’s Lamb had lifted God’s wrath from them. He is the victim, the lamb to die in their stead. Perhaps those present wondered how one man could bear the penalty for all. John’s words opened their eyes, but the cross was not yet clear to them. A strange event was to fulfilling God’s plan in Christ.
Again the Baptist repeated that Jesus was to perfect this salvation, because he was the eternal Lord, “He is greater than me, he was before me”.
Christ’s glory was great, but his love on the cross revealed the core of this glory. The evangelist confesses, “We saw his glory; he hung on the cross in affliction and thus revealed the measure of love that frees us”.
PRAYER: O Holy Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. O eternal Son of God, incarnate, forgive our sins. O humble Nazarene who was not ashamed of our sins, we adore you, for you loved us and made us complete in you on the cross. We love and thank you, because you came not as judge, but as Lamb. We believe in you, for you took away the sins of all the people in our land. Grant us wisdom to tell others that you have redeemed them.
QUESTION 18: What does “Lamb of God” mean?
31 “I did not know him, but that he should be
God called the Baptist at the age of 30 to prepare Christ’s way and make him known to the people. This came about at his baptism, which made penitents into expectant welcoming Christ. God spoke to the Baptist promising he would see what no one before had seen – the witnesses of the Holy Spirit’s descent on Christ. Notably the Spirit rested on Jesus. The Old Testament prophets were inspired for a while, but Christ would be permanently filled with the Spirit. Like a perpetual spring, the Spirit would fill believers with divine power.
The two young men stood side by side on
This Spirit descended not on the Baptist, or the penitents, but directly on Jesus resting on him, proof positive for the Baptist that the young Nazarene was greater than all prophets and creatures. The Baptist knew that God stood before him, The Eternal expected One.
Doubtless the Baptist was filled with praise and joy, as when he leapt in his mother’s womb, on the occasion of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth who also exulted in joy and praise (Luke 1:36-45).
The Baptist recognized Christ as Giver of the Spirit, but he did not conceal the vision, but publicly announced in crying, “The Lord has come; he is present, not to judge but to show love and goodwill. He is no ordinary person, but God’s Son filled with the Spirit. Whoever asserts that Jesus is Spirit from God, confesses at the same time that he is the Son of God.” Thus John made clear the aim of Christ’s coming: To baptize the penitent with the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit, His Son is God’s Spirit made flesh. It is his good pleasure to fill his followers with this divine reality: God is love.
Dear brother, have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced Christ’s power in your life? This divine quality becomes yours only by pardon of sins through faith in Christ’s sacrifice. He who accepts that forgiveness from the Lamb of God is filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s Son is ready to grant his spiritual gifts to every believer.
PRAYER: O holy Son of God, we worship and praise you. You humbled yourself for our sakes, and bore our Sins. We thank you for the forgiveness of our sins through your shed blood on the cross. We thank you also for the power of your Holy Spirit bestowed on us and all who love you. Awake many from their sleep in trespasses and sins. Renew and fill them by your gentle truth.
QUESTION 19: Why does Jesus become the giver of the Holy Spirit?
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking on Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and said, “What do you seek?” They said to him, “Rabbi (which means Master), where do you dwell?” 39 He said, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he dwelled, and stayed with him that day; for it was about the tenth hour.
Christ is God’s Word incarnate, the very deity, life itself and source of light. This is how the evangelist has described him in essence. He has also described Jesus’ ministry and works. He is the Creator and preserver of all. He has given us knowledge that is new of God as compassionate Father. So he repeats, “Behold the Lamb of God”, to summarize all the attributes inferred in Jesus according to this motto. In verse 14 he described Christ’s essence and source, while in verse 29 and 33 he describes Christ’s purpose in service.
Christ became man to be slain a victim offered to God, who gave His Son to bear our sin and free us from judgment. God desired this sacrifice, and offered it as well as blessing and accepting it. In the words of Paul “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them; and has placed in us the ministry of reconciliation.”
It is not easy for our generation to grasp the expression “Lamb of God”, since we do not slay animals in atonement for our sin. An expert in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament discerns the divine principle, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. Strangely God does not punish our sins by shedding our own blood, but gave His Son for that purpose. The Holy One died for rebels like us. God’s Son was slain for the sins of the guilty, to make them righteous sons of the heavenly Father. Let us adore and magnify Him together with the Son and Holy Spirit who redeemed us.
The two disciples did not realize instantly the depth of meaning in the phrase, “Lamb of God”. But seeing the way the Baptist beheld the Lamb of God, they too wished to know Jesus, who was to be Lord, Judge of the world and at the same time the Sacrifice for humanity. Such thoughts occupied the minds of the two as they listened attentively. Jesus did not take away John’s disciples, rather the Baptist, himself, led them to Jesus. The disciples consented to this new allegiance.
Jesus felt their longings and knew their purpose. They saw in Jesus love and grace, and heard Jesus’ first words in this gospel, “What do you seek?” The Lord did not pour on them heavy doctrines, but gave them the chance to speak their minds. So what do you seek, brother? What is the aim of your life? Do you want Jesus? Will you follow the Lamb? Study the greatest truths – rather than for your school exams.
The two disciples asked Jesus to permit them to accompany him to his home. The questionings of their hearts were nobler than discussions on the road where the tumult of the crowds would distract. Then Jesus replied, “Come and see.” He did not say, “Come and study with me”, but, “Open your eyes and you will see my true Person, my deeds and power, and discern God’s new image.” He who draws near to Christ receives a renewed vision of the world, and sees God as He is. The vision of Jesus overturns our intellectual systems. He will become the focus of our thinking and the target of our hopes. So come and see, as did the two and confessed with the apostles in due course, “We have seen His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”.
These two disciples stayed with Jesus a whole day. How lovely are the hours of grace! The evangelist testified that one of the hours of that blessed day was decisive in his life. This was the third hour. Then John the evangelist perceived the truth of Jesus by the Spirit’s inspiration, for his Lord accepted his faith and granted him righteousness and certainty that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Has Christ’s light shined in the darkness of your soul? Do you follow him at all times?
PRAYER: We magnify and praise you, holy Lamb of God. You have taken away the sin of the world, reconciling us to God. Do not reject us, but let us follow you. Forgive our trespasses; reveal your majesty, so that we may serve you devotedly.
QUESTION 20: Why did the two disciples follow Jesus?
40 Andrew, one of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah,” which means, the Christ. 42 He brought him to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You will be called Cephas”, which means, a stone.
Andrew, Peter’s brother, was a fisherman from Beit Saida on the shores of
When Peter entered the house, He called him by name. Jesus probed into his thoughts, having given him a new surname – “the Rock”. Jesus knew all about Peter’s past, present and future, who was prone to recklessness. Jesus knows hearts that are open to him. Peter understood and yielded instantly at Jesus’ glance. Jesus began patiently to transform the impetuous fisherman to solid rock. He became in Christ a foundation for the Church. So in a sense Andrew became the pioneer disciple.
Another disciple too was instrumental in leading his blood brother. John led James, his brother, to Jesus, though he conceals both names in his gospel, a sign of modesty. In fact Andrew and John were the first two disciples in time sequence.
The beauty of these introductory verses is in the analogy with sunrise – the dawn of a new epoch. These believers were not selfish, but led their brothers to Christ. At this stage they were not going into the highways and byways to evangelize, but focused on their relatives and led them to Christ. They did not pursue skeptics or politicians, but sought out these who were hungry for God, broken-hearted and penitent.
Thus we learn how to pass on the good news of grace, not with excess of zeal, but with joy that springs from contact with Jesus. These early disciples did not found theological schools, nor did they write their own biographies, but witnessed by word of mouth of their experience. He had seen Jesus and heard him, touched his hand and trusted him. This intimate fellowship was the source of their authority. Have you met Jesus in his gospel? Have you led your friends patiently and persuasively?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for joy in our hearts. Move us by the sweetness of your fellowship, to lead others to you. Grant us the impulse to evangelize with love. Forgive our cowardice and shyness, so that we might witness in your name boldly.
QUESTION 21: How did the first disciples broadcast the name of Jesus?
43 The following day, Jesus wished to depart into
In the previous verses we read of events occurring on
four consecutive days. On the first a delegation came from
It was Jesus who sought Philip. Doubtless Philip had earlier heard from the Baptist that Jesus was amongst them. He was surprised when the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Philip did not dare to approach Jesus. He wished to know the Lord, but regarded himself unfit for fellowship with the Divine. So Jesus went to him, removed his qualms and bade him to rise and follow.
Jesus had the right to choose men for himself, for he had created, loved and redeemed them. It is not ourselves who choose to accept him, but he sees us first; he had sought us, found us and calls us to his service.
There is no following without a call, no useful service without a command from Christ. Whoever serves without being selected for the task in God’s Kingdom, harms himself and others. But whoever hears Christ and obeys readily, will enjoy Christ’s tender care. Jesus will be responsible for him at all times.
Philip soon went out to evangelize; finding his friend Nathanael he gave him the good news; expressing it in the Church’s message, “We have found the Messiah!”, not, “I have found”, but he included himself humbly in the Church’s confession.
It appears that Jesus informed these disciples about
the course of his mission. Joseph was his father by adoption who brought him
up. Jesus says nothing about his birth in
Nathanael was skilled in the Scriptures. So he searched the
books of Moses and the Prophets, and learned about the promises that pointed to
Christ, knowing that the Coming One would be born in Bethlehem of David’s line,
and would be King over his people. Nathanael found it
hard to accept the fact that the Messiah would be born in a small town not even
listed in the Old Testament, and no prophecy is linked to it. Nathanael remembered that it was the scene of a Zealot
rebellion of patriots and religious enthusiasts against
These facts were of no concern to Philip. His joy had been great on discovering Christ. His enthusiasm overcame the doubts of Nathanael. He said, cutting short any argument, “Come and see.” This motto for evangelism is the basis in experience for the truth, and leads to it, “Come and see.” Do not argue about Jesus, but experience his power and fellowship. Our testimony is not based on imaginary thoughts, but on a Person, who is truly Lord.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your joy that fills our hearts, moves us in the beauty of your fellowship to lead others unto you. Give us the desire to preach in patient love, and forgive us every fear, delay and embarrassment we have, proclaiming your name boldly.
QUESTION 22: How did the first disciples proclaim Jesus’ name to others?
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and
said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip
called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, 50 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!
You are the King of
Nathanael was somewhat taken aback when he understood that
Jesus had seen through his inner self. Nathanael was
a believer by Old Testament standards, for he had confessed his sins to the
Baptist, and desired the
Jesus heard this prayer, and saw the suppliant at a distance as he knelt under the shade of a tree. This power to prove the hidden facts in man is a divine perception.
Jesus did not reject him but justified him in describing him as a model believer, grounded in the Old Testament, looking towards Christ’s coming.
Christ’s commendation dissolved Nathanael’s doubts. He yielded to Jesus and honored him by using Biblical titles that belong to the Messiah: Son of God and King of Israel. Such expressions when uttered would have exposed Nathanael to death, for the Scribes and members of the Jewish Council denied that God would have a Son. Such utterances would have been counted blasphemous. While the claim of a man to be King of Israel would have made him liable to persecution by Herod, as well as arrest by the Roman authorities. Thus this sincere believer demonstrated his grasp of the import of the promises revealed to the prophets. He feared God more than man, and honored Him by assigning the title of Father, whatever that might cost.
None of the earlier disciples had given Christ such names as ascribed by Nathanael. Surprisingly, Christ did not reject any of theses titles, but raised his awareness by showing him the heavens opened. All along Christ was surrounded by unseen angels, ascending to heaven, presenting his miracles to the Father, and returning to the Son, hands overflowing with blessings. Thus Jacob’s vision was fulfilled, for in Jesus the fullness of blessing is found. As Paul wrote, “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.” From Christ’s nativity and his baptism heaven has remained opened. Prior to that heaven was shut on account of God’s wrath, with angels standing guard before its gates with drawn swords. The gate that leads to God has now opened in Christ.
Here for the first time John uses the phrase typical of Christ, “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” The reality of this age of grace was so lofty as to be beyond human grasp, and yet man needs it, as the divine basis of our new faith. For whenever Jesus repeats this phrase, we ought to pause and ponder on his intention, since what follows the phrase is a spiritual revelation surpassing our minds.
After this proclamation, Christ corrected Nathanael’s testimony, as a precaution against persecution directed towards him and the newborn church. Jesus did not say, I am the promised King, Son of God, but called himself ‘Son of Man’. This title was the one Jesus used generally for himself. His incarnation was his unique destruction; he became like us – this is a great miracle, the Son of God becoming man, to die as God’s Lamb for us.
At the same time this title ‘Son of Man’ points to a mystery mentioned in the Book of Daniel. God entrusted ‘Son of Man’ with judgment. Nathanael realized that Jesus was not just a King and Son, but the Judge of the worlds also – the Divine in human shape. Thus Jesus led the gloomy believer to the highest stages of faith. Such faith was not facile, since Jesus was a young countryman. But by faith the disciples saw the hidden glory in him – with the heavens opening above.
PRAYER: We worship you, Son of God and universal Judge. We deserve nothing but wrath, but we plead for pardon by your grace, and mercy for our friends. Pour out your blessings on all who seek God, that they may see you, know and love you, to trust you and grow in knowledge and hope.
QUESTION 23: What link is there between the titles – ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’?
4. Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in
1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus led his disciples from the vale of repentance
round the Baptist in the
Jesus was not an ascetic as the Baptist was. For that reason the departure of Christ with his disciples to the happiness of a common celebration was a miracle in itself. He did not ban wine, since he taught that it was not what entered a man that defiled, but filthy thoughts that came out from the heart of man was what defiled him. Jesus did not reject asceticism or austerity, but taught that these lifestyles were of little use. Our corrupt hearts need a new nature and a new birth. What the Bible forbids is drunkenness and alcoholism.
The disciples accompanied Jesus to the feast, while Nathanael was himself from
So his mother turned to him for help in meeting the
need of their relatives. Since his return from the
Mary relied on her Son, for she knew his care and love. Her love led to the first miracle at Jesus’ hands. Faith in Christ’s love moves God’s arm. The mother bade the servants to do whatever Jesus said. She was sure he would help in one way or other. Her words to the servants, serve as a motto to all Churches, “Whatever He tells you, do it!” In effect submit to Christ alone; obedience to Jesus’ word brings about many miracles.
Purification jars, empty and spacious, with a capacity of 600 liters were filled. This shows that the guests had made use of large quantities of water for cleansing. A different purifying is needed when Jesus is present. No man can participate in the wedding of the Lamb until he has been thoroughly cleansed.
However, purification was not Christ’s immediate concern. The celebration of the wedding must go on. Jesus calmly changed the water of purification into fine sweet wine. How this was performed we do not know. But we know from this event that his shed blood is sufficient for all partakers in the Lamb’s wedding. This has no bearing on drunkenness. The Holy Spirit does not permit any drunken conduct. But the plentiful supply of sweet wine symbolizes the infinite measure of Christ’s forgiveness of the sins of mankind. May all partake of heaven’s joys. All receive with thanksgiving the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, a symbol of Christ’s presence – bestowing pardon as we rest in his joy.
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at
The disciples were amazed at Christ’s creative ability, and they felt his authority over natural phenomena. They saw his glory and believed that God had sent him. This led to trust in him. Faith needs time to grow, and obedience for understanding. If you study the works of Jesus, and delve deeply into his sayings, you will realize the greatness of his person.
Jesus broke away from his family, and was free from
mundane duties to serve God. But his link with his mother and brothers
continued. For a while they journeyed along with his disciples. His brothers
went with him to
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you, for you have called us to a wedding, to abide in the joy of your fellowship. Forgive us our sins, fill us with your Holy Spirit. We shall follow you, and abide in righteousness and purity, just as you did and gave yourself for many.
QUESTION 24: Why did Jesus take his disciples to the wedding?
QUIZ – 1
Dear reader, send us correct answers to 20 of these 24 questions. We shall then send you the sequel of this series of studies.
1. Who wrote the fourth gospel?
2. What is the relationship between the fourth gospel and the first three?
3. What is the aim of John’s gospel?
4. To whom was this unique gospel written?
5. How is it possible to sub-divide it, arranging its subject matter
6. What is the word that is repeated in the first verse of John 1 and what is its meaning?
7. What are the 6 characteristics of Christ that John exposes at the beginning of his gospel?
8. What is the difference between light and darkness in the spiritual sense of the word?
9. What are the main aims in the service of John the Baptist?
10. What is the relationship between Christ the Light and the dark world?
11. What happens to those who accept Christ?
12. What does the incarnation of Christ mean?
13. What is meant by Christ’s fullness?
14. What new thought did Christ bring into the world?
15. What were the aims of the questions posed by the delegates from the highest Jewish court?
16. How did the Baptist call people to prepare the Lord’s way?
17. What is the peak of the Baptist’s witness about Jesus before the delegates from the Sanhedrin?
18. What does “Lamb of God” mean?
19. Why does Jesus become the giver of the Holy Spirit?
20. Why did the two disciples follow Jesus?
21. How did the first disciples broadcast the name of Jesus?
22. How did the first disciples proclaim Jesus’ name to others?
23. What link is there between the titles – “Son of God” and “Son of Man”?
24. Why did Jesus take his disciples to the wedding?
Send us your name and address clearly written along with your reply and write to the following address:
WATERS-OF-LIFE • P.O.
CONTENTS – 1
Who is the author of this Gospel?....................................... 3
relationship between John and the other three
evangelists ................................................................. 4
What is the aim of the Gospel of John?............................... 6
To whom was the Gospel of John written?............................ 6
When was this unique Gospel written? ............................... 7
What is the content of this Gospel? .................................... 8
PART I – THE SHINING OF THE DIVINE LIGHT
..... (JOHN 1:1 – 4:54) ................................................ 9
A - THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD OF GOD IN JESUS
(JOHN 1:1-18) ................................................................. 9
1. The essence and work of the word before incarnation
(John 1:1-5)................................................................ 9
2. The Baptist prepares the way of Christ (John 1:6-13)..... 15
3. The fullness of God appeared in the incarnation of
(John 1:14-18) ........................................................... 22
OF REPENTANCE TO THE JOY OF THE WEDDING
(JOHN ) ......................................................... 30
1. A delegation from the Sanhedrin questions the Baptist
(John 1:19-28) ........................................................... 30
2. More stirring testimonies of the Baptist to Christ
(John 1:29-34) ........................................................... 37
Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in
(John 2:1–12) ............................................................ 48
QUIZ ........................................................................... 50