August 29, 2015.
Daily Reading: John 1-2.
Background: The gospel of John is quite different from the other three synoptic (meaning synopsis, or summery) gospels, containing different stories, miracles and theological emphasis. The differences in this gospel reflect a different purpose in writing, likely written after a good amount of theological reflection of the author, and it has been suggested that the gospel of John was written with the idea in mind that the audience would be familiar with at least one of the other synoptic gospels, and thus that information wasn’t repeated. Whereas the other gospels are written for the purpose of detailing Jesus’ life and ministry, the gospel of John presents the good news of Christ in a more literary and symbolic form, telling the story of Jesus through important signs and sayings. Contained in the gospel are seven miracles, seven “I AM” statements and seven discourses of Jesus (the number seven represents divine perfection/completeness). Throughout the book, Jesus is presented unambiguously as divine, the Son of God. Though the gospel never explicitly names John as the author (John 21:24 simply says that the author is the “disciple whom Jesus loved”), the apostle John (one of the three apostles in Jesus’ innermost circle) is traditionally taken to be the author of the book, and it is dated to have been written near the end of the first century. The purpose of this book is stated in John 20:30-31, that the reader might hear about the signs and teachings of Jesus, and believe that He is the Son of God.
Concepts and Connections.
1. In the beginning was the word: The gospel of John immediately starts out differently than the other gospels. There is no account of the birth of Christ, no mention of His genealogy, not even a word about His parents. Instead, John reaches back to the very beginning of creation and places Jesus there, with God, as God. Jesus is unambiguously and unapologetically presented as divine at the onset of this gospel, in beautiful language. John the baptizer is also mentioned at the onset, as the on who was to prepare the way of the Christ, though it is made very clear that he was not the One who was to come, but rather the one who was to bear witness of Him. Instead of a birth narrative, the author simply writes “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is a prologue to the ministry of Christ, as it describes how He would be rejected by His own people, the Jews who had been waiting for the Messiah to come since the fall (see Genesis 3), but would bring salvation to those who believed and received Him, giving them the right to become children of God, born of God. The opening of this gospel paints a beautiful picture of its subject: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2. The testimony of John the baptizer: After the introduction to Jesus, we get the testimony of John, who self identifies as the one who was to prepare the way for the Christ, as a voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3, Matthew 3:3). He tells the people questioning him that there is one among them that they do not know yet who he was not even worthy to strap His sandals. The next day, Jesus appears on the scene and John immediately problems “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of this world!” John’s testimony of Jesus was there from the beginning, and he told his disciples that Jesus was the one that the Lord had shown him that Jesus was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and Acts 1:5) and He who is the Son of God.
3. Come and see: As Jesus was walking by on the next day, John the baptizer looked at Him and said to two of his disciples “Behold the Lamb of God,” and immediately they went to follow Jesus. When they ask Him where He is staying, He replies “Come and you will see.” This is the same response that Philip gives his brother Nathaniel later in the chapter. Jesus here is calling His first disciples, calling them to a life that would change the world. The four mentioned by name who were called here are Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael. Notice the style of calling that is presented in this gospel. There is no flattery, no overreaching promises of glory. It can rather be summed up in the response “come and see.” This is the promise of things to come, but through power and witness, not through vain words. Nathanael was reluctant to believe that anything good could come from Nazareth, but when he dared to come and see, he met the Christ. Jesus’ account to him about seeing him under the fig tree was enough for Nathanael to believe that He was the Son of God, but Jesus told him that he would see greater things than this.
John begins his gospel with building suspense, not giving away everything right at the beginning, but giving enough to entice and speak interest in the Messiah. Then there is a humble bid, “come and see,” so as to invite us to hear more of the gospel and the ministry of Christ on this earth. That is his purpose for writing, that we might hear and believe in the one they call Jesus. That we might bid others to come and see the mighty works and sacrifice that he made for us. That we might call all who are willing come. Though Jesus begins his ministry with “come and see,” he ends with “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (see John 20:29).” He knew that he wasn’t going to be physically visible to see for generations to come, yet he still required belief in him. And we are blessed by this belief, walking by faith, and not by sight. But He still bids us come, as He bids all mankind come. We have come, we have heard, we have believed. Now we must turn around and bid the invitation to all. Let us invite the world to come and see.
1. Water to wine: The first sign that John relates to us is vary familiar to many Christians today, as it has been used to make various points, perhaps some that it wasn’t intended to make. Regardless, we find here the story where Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding that had run out of wine. This would have been a big embarrassment for those hosting the party, and it has been suggested that Mary could have been close to the people hosting, which is why she informed Jesus of the problem. It is apparent that when she tells Jesus of the problem, it is implied that she knows He can do something about it, which is why Jesus says that His hour had not come. The hour that He was speaking of, which He would mention several times throughout the gospel of John, was the time where He would be glorified in His death, burial and resurrection (see John 7:30, 8:20, 13:1). Yet even though the time had not come to reveal His ultimate glory, He did preform this miracle, changing water to wine, and was glorified thereby. To do so, He took advantage of the jars of purification that were nearby (see also Mark 7:3-4), telling the servants to fill them to the brim with water. Since there were six jars, each holding 20-30 gallons, that would have been upwards of 180 gallons of water that Jesus turns to wine. Not only did He turn it to wine, but the master of the feast calls it the “best wine,” which gives credence to the quality of Jesus’ power. The purpose of this miracle is stated in verse 11, that Jesus would be glorified and His disciples would believe in Him.
2. Cleansing the temple and Jesus’ ministry: The next story we get of Jesus here is Him cleansing the temple, which was supposed to be a house of prayer, but the people had made it into a place of business, getting gain off of what should be the Lord’s (see Isaiah 56:7 and Matthew 21:12-13). We see a side of Jesus that we often don’t consider here, with righteous indignation, driving out the animals and overturning the tables of the moneychangers. The disciples say this and remembered what was said in the psalms about the Messiah having zeal for house of the Lord (see Psalm 69:9). When they asked Him for His authority by giving them a sign, He said to destroy this temple and He would build it again in three days. It was not the physical temple that He was referring to, however, but rather the temple of His body, which was a prophecy of His death and resurrection. The disciples would remember that He had said this after the resurrection, and by this they would believe the scripture and the words that had been told to them. Many believed in Him by the signs that He was doing, and He knew what was in man.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 43-48.
Come and see.