The Introduction To John Part 2

Resumed from part 1

The keyword believes requires knowledge. There’s a component of belief that involves knowledge, knowing the truth. Look at John 8:32, “ and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The word that is used here refers to this idea of pisteuo, that truth. He also says kind of the same thing in John 10:38, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works that you may know and understand the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” Okay, if you don’t believe in Me believe then the works that I do because these reveal I am who I claim to be, otherwise where else is this power coming from? Beelzebub? No, that would make his house divided. There’s this intellectual component but also there is more than that. So, it must be from God.
One of the most important verses in the entire gospel is John 1:12. We will look at the prologue to John’s gospel next. I’m going to give you an assignment. I want you to read John 1:1-18 many times. I’d like you to slowly and prayerfully read that throughout. It’s not meant to be read quickly but it’s meant to be read in a contemplative way, a meditative way. The whole thing richly rewards slow meditation. To make it easy for you I’ve posted it at the bottom of this post.
By the way, understand that you can all meditate. We’re doing it all the time. Usually, we’re meditating about stuff we shouldn’t be thinking about like worries and fretting and anxiety. To meditate means to ruminate, to chew it over, and to mull over it. We’re always mulling something over. The best thing you can to do is not to stop thinking about something but rather replace that thought with the truth. In other words, you can choose what you think about. You’re not some kind of machine that can avoid that. You can make a choice, a volitional choice (the power of choosing or determining,) to set your mind on the things above and not on the things below. So when you find yourself tempted and so forth instead of mulling that one over, because that will only make it worse, the better thing to do is to replace it with truth. I can’t stress this enough. It’d be very wise of you to carry a handful of 3×5 cards that have verses that have spoken to you in the past. Put them in your car and have one of them to be the theme of your day.
For example, I took out one of those cards and I meditated particularly on Hebrews 1, the radiance of His glory, the Son of God, the exact representation of His nature, how He upholds all things by the word of His power. That’s enough right there to fill your mind; run that by again and again. It’s a powerful truth. I’m suggesting that you have something so that when your mind wanders you can go back to that, especially during dead time.
John doesn’t mince around, just like Genesis doesn’t mince words. (In the beginning God.) Right from the beginning he comes in and begins his incredibly powerful prologue. In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God (John 1:1). The Logos, this Word, became flesh (v.14). So the Word who was with God and is God took on human flesh. The prologue is rich in truth and you can meditate on it with great profit. That is what I will be teaching next.
As we consider this concept, the predominant theme in this gospel is kind of a dual response, a back and forth as you’ll see. John structures this gospel so we see two kinds of responses to this Jesus. One is the response of faith and the other of unbelief. We’ll see him often presenting the signs and then in a narrative material we’ll find the response that would be that of some believed and some rejected Him. Then he goes on to another sign and some believed and some rejected. What are you the reader invited to do when you are reading about this? You have to make a decision. What do I do about this? One thing you can’t do is to ignore Him. You see you can’t spend much time with Jesus and ignore Him. You’ll either finally embrace Him or reject Him, ignoring Him is not an option. It was never meant to be. John’s gospel really brings us to the point where we’re forced to make some kind of a response to His claims. You can respond by receiving or rejecting. To ignore Him is tantamount to rejecting Him. So we’re in this uncomfortable position where a response will, in fact, be made. You cannot ignore that. John is dealing with that whole theme. So will judgment day dealing with that same theme, those who accepted Jesus, or those who refused Him, there is no third option.
In any case, we see this theme of eternal life. He’s arguing again and again that those who reject Him are under the condemnation of God. John 3:36 does not mince these words. “He who believes in the Son of God has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Obedience to the Son of God is to receive His gift. Those who choose not to receive His gift then are actually under the wrath of God. Strong words these days. You probably wouldn’t preach well. But I’m not making this up. You have to understand this isn’t my idea. If you look at John 5:24-29 you see the same thing. “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me (there’s that word again, pisteuo), has (present tense) eternal life (zoe), and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life”. That is one of my favorite verses in the entire bible because, and we’ll look at this more, the conditions for having eternal life, not coming into judgment but coming out of the sphere of death into life are to believe His word and Him who sent Him, entrusting oneself. Again he goes on to say in John 5:25-26, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; (not derivative life, divine life, a life that has no beginning, a life that has no end); and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” Look at the kind of claims He is making. He is claiming that people, the dead, will eventually hear His voice and they will rise. He is the One who will judge. He goes on to say; “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” John defines the good and the evil. He describes this reality again in John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” We have this powerful portrait here of being in fact embraced in the grip of the Father and in the grip of the Son. There’s a portrait of security, a portrait as well of genuine hope in the age to come. That I really think summarizes the reactions of reception and rejection that are traced through the rest of this book.
The clearest one perhaps may be in John 1:11-12, “The One who made the world came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 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.” Here, by the way, he equates receiving and believing as one and the same, I also need to add, ‘not by works of the flesh’. Its not only intellectual there is also a reception. How do you receive a gift? You may believe that I have a gift and I may say I have a fabulous gift I brought back from my trips and I’d like you to have it and you may believe I’ve got it. I hold it out to you and you see that it’s a nice gift and you want to have it and so I offer it to you. You say, that sure is a nice gift but you don’t do anything about it. That sure is a nice gift. So, why don’t you take it? That is a wonderful looking gift. You go on playing that game and you’ll never take it. There comes a point where you have to take it or it’s not yours. So it is here. He’s offering and offering and offering and a lot of people acknowledge it. That’s like coming up to the altar in a wedding ceremony and the part where it is asked; will you have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Yeah, I think she’d be a great companion for me. No, that’s not the answer we’re looking for. Would you have this woman to be your wife? Well, I think she’d be a wonderful provider and person to live with, a companion. This can go round and round. But it will never work until he says yes. Now you can just keep talking about it but at some point, an action is required. It comes down to that issue. What does it mean really to believe in Him? Now then John’s summary is this, those who were His own didn’t receive Him but as many as received Him. What we have here in those two little verses is a kind of summary of the gospel. In a sense that in Chapters 2-19 we have the context of those who, the majority, did not receive Him. His own people rejected him over and over again. However, there were also people who did embrace Him. We see that portrait.
John is a subtle writer. His Greek is so simple. He uses the vocabulary of a child. That’s why if you ever take New Testament Greek, you’ll start with John. You won’t start with Luke or Paul. Their sentence structure is quite complex. Their vocabulary is more sophisticated. John’s Greek is very simple. It’s an easy one to translate. Luke is the most sophisticated of the Greek writers.
But the surface, under that apparent simplicity, lays profound technique. For example, there are rich parallelisms; children of light, children of darkness; a layering of meaning of life and of death. He uses very subtle images, multiple images that are used as he layers. So in some ways, you might say John is very simple but it is also the most profound and theological of all the gospels. It’s actually harder to study than the synoptic gospels for those reasons. What appears to be simple actually has greater profundity. What does that remind you of? It should remind you of the teaching style of Jesus Himself. He used very simple parables but there’s an awful lot of layering underneath those parables if you really think about that. John knew Jesus best. He’s the beloved disciple. He imitated the Master. So what we have are images like truth, light, darkness, the Word, knowledge, world, believe, abide, love, witness, and judgment. All these words are used in very special ways, in layered ways. It’s a spiritual supplement as I say to the other gospels.
I want to stress something else about John before we go any further. John also uses the number seven not only in terms of seven signs but there are also seven I AM statements. I am statements are very powerful. He says, “I am the Bread of Life (6:35, 6:48), I am the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5), I am the Door (10:7-9 – the Doorway to life itself), I am the Good Shepherd (10:11&14), I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6), and I am the True Vine (15:1-5). He uses these wonderful graphic images of who He is. All these I am statements are also used by John to reveal that He really is the Christ, Son of the Living God.
Indeed we see a good deal of ‘I am’ imagery in other passages, for example, John 8:24, “ Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” The word He in my translation is in italics because it’s not in the original. It’s being supplied, really He means unless you believe that Greek ‘ego eime’ means “I am”, “I exist”, or “to be.” What does that make you think of? What was the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush to tell him to use before Pharaoh? God said tell them that I AM sent you. The Jews understood that name. Actually, that could be translated, I shall be that which I shall be, the self-existent One. When we ask the question, by the way, where did God come from or what was around before God? It’s a category error, category because you’re trying to limit God to space and time. If He is the Author of space and time, He always is. He Himself created time as part of His created universe, and His purpose was for us as a specific period of time to complete His work on us. Now to say where did He come from is to suppose that He has a beginning. He’s not self-creating God can’t create Himself. He’d have to exist before Himself to create Himself. That’s not correct. He is the uncreated One, the self-existent One. He exists. I am who I am. Jesus is really making this kind of claim. Look at John 8:28, “So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak the things as the Father taught Me.” The most offensive verse to unbelieving Jews at the time was John 8:58, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born ‘ego eime’.” And they took up stones to throw at Him (v.59). They understood that if He was not who He claimed to be then He was blaspheming the name of God and He deserved to be stoned. They would’ve been correct. They were taking the right action. My point is that they understood what He was saying and He made such a radical and dramatic claim.
The point is that we see a number of images here of the affirmations of His deity. This is very powerful. One of the most beautiful affirmations of the deity of Jesus in the entire New Testament is to be found on the lips of one of the most skeptical men, Thomas. Remember he is the one who said unless I can see this One, unless I can plunge my hand into His side and see the nail marks, I will not believe. When Jesus approached Thomas, He came and visited them again, the doors having been shut, they were locked, but there He appeared in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger and see My hands: and reach here your hand and put it in My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”(John 20:27) At that point, Thomas does not have to do any more investigating. Thomas answered and said to Him, “ My Lord and My God!” (John 20: 28) A powerful portrait of the deity of our Lord is emphasized.
Understand the other side of the coin is equally true that the Word was God but the Word also became flesh. (John1:14) The humanity of Jesus can be found also. He was weary, thirsty, and dependent. He showed grief. His soul was troubled. His anguish and death all revealed that He was not some phantom as the Gnostics would teach but rather that He was the Incarnate God come in the flesh. It’s the same John who said that the spirit of the antichrist denies that Jesus has come in the flesh. To affirm the two is to say that He is both fully God and fully man, a wonderfully balanced portrait. Next we’ll launch into the prologue of John’s gospel.
Question: Why did Jesus’ own people not accept Him?
Answer: Frankly this was no surprise because it even said in the Old Testament that they would reject their own Messiah. Isaiah 53 is a perfect portrait. He came to us and we did not esteem Him. Scriptures predict that the Messiah would come. That’s why He said didn’t you understand that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to die? Then remember going from Moses and all the prophets, He spoke to them of all the things concerning His death on the Emmaus road (Luke 24). He made as if He was going to go on further when the disciples were stopping for the evening. This is an important point. They had to invite Him in the house. He would have table fellowship with you but only if you invite Him in. So they invite Him in to sup with them and when they sit down to eat, He takes the bread, blesses it and He had a token image that they knew and when they saw this they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. He literally disappeared from their sight and then they said, didn’t our hearts burn within us when we heard and spoke about the scriptures? Then they realized He was the One and they ran off to Jerusalem.
Question: Why did they not accept Jesus as Messiah?
Answer: They had two understandings of Messiah. They couldn’t unify the two. The son of Joseph was not going to be a great king but a suffering servant. There’s also the messianic reigning king who’ll come in power. Zechariah talks about that. How do you reconcile these two? Who would’ve dreamed it’d be the same person? If you were a Jew under Roman oppression which one would you opt for? It’s pretty obvious. You’d go for the one who would deliver you from Roman oppression and bondage and set you free. In other words, He didn’t offer them what they were looking for. They were looking for the physical. He was offering the spiritual. I use this analogy. A man was let down from a roof and Jesus said your sins are forgiven you. Imagine if at that point He said, “ Okay, take him up.” That’s not what they had in mind. They didn’t lower him just to have his sins forgiven him. They lowered him down so he would be healed physically. Am I correct? I tell you though if He just said your sins are forgiven you, he would have been far better off than if He had just said, rise, take up your pallet and walk. But then Jesus went on to say, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, they were questioning that, He then turned and said, rise, take up your pallet and walk. He is saying that’s a trivial pursuit compared to the bigger thing, the spiritual. Men look to the visible and treasure the visible over the invisible. That’s another reason He didn’t meet their expectations. There is, in fact, an enmity against the claims of God in the human heart. Paul discusses this in several passages. It’s evident through the scriptures that there is some unnatural bent because of our fallen condition that seeks somehow to pursue our autonomy and avoid the claims of the living God.
Question: Where does Paul talk about the enmity?
Answer: One of those passages is in Colossians where he describes the enmity we have. Ephesians 2 talks about how we were by nature children of wrath. Romans 5 talks about even when we were enemies. A number of texts talk about the natural disposition. Ephesians 2 also talks about how we are spiritually dead. That’s a bad condition. You’re dead, your bound and you’re blind. Actually, for a person to be regenerated, that is to say, born again, it’s a greater miracle than to be raised from the dead. That’s what the text tells us.
Question: Is John the writer of this Gospel?
Answer: My understanding is that he never speaks about himself but instead he refers to himself in that third person whereas other gospels mention John directly. So you plug it all in and you see that it fits. The disciple that Jesus loved wasn’t Peter because they’re clearly distinguished in John’s gospel. He never mentions himself in that way. He mentions himself in the third person. James, the other one of the inner three intimate ones, died too soon to have been the writer of this epistle. That disciple whom Jesus loved was also the one to whom Jesus said, Woman behold your son and son, behold your mother. No others do that.
Let’s close with a prayer, “Lord, we thank You for this time and we ask that You would indeed cause us to understand through the power of Your Spirit, lead us into all truth. We pray that we would embrace and understand what it means in a deeper and deeper way in our own experience to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus and to understand the One who spoke the worlds into being is also the One who invites Himself for us to sup with Him. We pray in His name. Amen.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made 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. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:1-18 (KJV)

Now on to John 1


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