The Gospel of John is a gospel unlike the other three. This gospel is not a narrative, even though there are narrative stories contained within it. The other three gospels were already in existence and had already been circulated at the time of the writing of this gospel. There is no need for John to rehearse the ground that the other three gospels had already tread. John’s Gospel is highly symbolic and highly spiritual. As one reads the Gospel of John it becomes quickly apparent that this is not a simple gospel. John’s purpose for this gospel is stated toward the end of his writing.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30–31 ESV)
This purpose statement is extremely important to our study. As we progress through John’s writing we must recognize that he is not recording everything that Jesus did. He did many other signs in the presence of his disciples. Therefore, as we come to the various signs and stories in this gospel, we are compelled to ask this important question: “Why did John include that sign?” We need to consider what John is trying to teach his audience through the sign he records. It is worthy of our noting that John chooses seven signs to impart faith to his readers. Now just because John is writing so that we believe should not cause us to draw the conclusion that we do not need to study this gospel because we already believe. I submit to you that this gospel will deepen and strengthen your faith in incalculable ways when we grasp what John is trying to get us to see about Jesus. John is not looking for mere mental assent about Jesus. The belief that John is looking for is a life-changing faith. The gospel is intended to cause us to fall on our faces and cry out, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus Is God (1:1)
The first few words of John’s gospel are simply staggering: “In the beginning was the Word.” This is an astounding statement that is made about Jesus. We know that “The Word” is a reference to Jesus because of verse 14 of chapter 1, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Revelation 19:13 we read about the victorious Jesus who has subjugated his enemies, and in beautiful symbolism rides on a white horse. John writes there, “And the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” The holy scriptures begin with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John begins his gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word.” An important word in this sentence is “was.” The scripture does not say that the Word became God or came to God. The Word was in the beginning with God. Therefore, just as at the beginning of the creation of the world God existed, so also the Son, the Christ, existed. John does not wait to get to the heart of the matter. Notice that there is no genealogy, like in the gospel accounts. The reason is clear. John was to start with a very controversial point: Jesus is God. Jesus is not just a man. Jesus is not a mere prophet. Jesus is not a created being. Jesus, the Son of God, the Word, existed in the beginning, before the world began. There is no genealogy recorded because he is the eternal God. He has no beginning. He has no end. In the beginning the Word already existed.
Further, to say that the Word was with God is not a statement of merely coexistence. This is a description of intimate fellowship with the Father. This phrase can be rendered, “The Word was face to face with God.” It describes a picture of equality as deity in that there is nothing lesser and nothing lacking in the Word in terms of his Godhood. The Word has the very same nature as God the Father. The Word is face to face with God. The Word was in intimate fellowship with God the Father throughout all eternity. Verse 2 concludes the thought that the Word was in the beginning with God. Where God exists, the Word exists. There is not a time or place when the Word did not exist or when the Word was not God. There are three proofs that John offers in these first five verses to prove that Jesus, the Word, the Son of God, is in fact the fully divine God.
All Things Created Through Him (1:3)
In fact, the Word is equal in nature to God in every way such that John declares all things were made through the Word. When we read that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth John wants us to know that the Word was just as involved in the creation process as the Father. The apostle Paul taught this very point to the Colossians. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17 ESV) We are so assured of this truth that John says, “And without him was not any thing made that was made.” In the beginning was nothing. Genesis records that it was simply void and darkness. Nothing was made without him. Jesus is God because he created all things. Consider that this means that he created you. This is a point that will be more fully expressed in verse 11. We are his creation. Therefore, since he is God and he made us, then we bear an enormous responsibility to him.
Jesus Is Life (1:4)
The apostle John makes the next stunning statement in verse 4. In the Word was life. We noted at the beginning of the lesson that this gospel is a highly spiritual and symbolic gospel. When the scripture says that Jesus is the life, he is not referring to our physical, earthly breath of life. Rather, in Jesus there is spiritual life. In Jesus there is eternal life. It is a beautiful play on words because we just read that everything was made through him. He gave life to the world because he created the world. But he did much more than that. Notice that John did not say that he gave life, but that life was in him. Jesus is God because only God can give life. No one else can give life. The second reason that John uses to affirm that Jesus is God is because only God can give life and life is in the Word, Jesus. Jesus is not simply the bringer of life. Jesus is the life.
For Jesus to be the life means that we must rely upon him for everything. Nothing else is life. Life cannot be found anywhere else. To pursue anything else but Jesus is to pursue our death. Jesus as the life describes our necessity to rely upon him or else we are dead. We need to be screaming to the world that they are pursuing their death, not life, when they follow the ways of the world. The world is looking for this life. But they are looking for life in every place but in Jesus. Jesus has been discounted as not being the source of life. The world declares that life is found in giving back to the world, being charitable, leaving the world better than when we found it, making a mark, living your own way, or any other mantras for life. In seeking these things we are pursuing death because life is not there. To use the image of the scriptures, Jesus is the fountain of living waters giving life to all. We are as foolish as the person who sees the fountain of water in the miles of desert, passes on the water and continues to walk in the desert looking for something else. By passing the fountain in the midst of the desert, you are sealing your death. When we pass by Jesus as the giver of life, we are sealing our death. In Jesus alone is life. We must rely upon him completely for our life or else we are dead in our sins.
Jesus Is Light (1:5)
The third reason that Jesus is God is because he is light. Only God can create light. When we read the Genesis account we read of a realm of darkness. But God spoke light into existence. The Word was in the beginning with God and brought light into the world. However, just as John was not speaking about physical life, he is not speaking about physical light. John plays again on the creation imagery to show us that Jesus is the spiritual light. Spiritual awakening and understanding are in Jesus. Jesus as the light brings to this dark world true knowledge and moral purity. Light represents holiness and purity. As light Jesus give guidance and direction for our lives. Jesus illuminates the heart for spiritual perception and knowledge. God is pictured as light throughout the scriptures (Psalm 27:1; 36:9; 1 John 1:5). John wrote in his letter that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. Similarly, the world is described throughout the scriptures as living in darkness. Listen again to the apostle Paul:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13 ESV)
Jesus will say later in this gospel, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12 ESV)
Without Jesus, we are lost in the darkness of this world. We are lost in our own wisdom, our own futility of life, and our own foolish thinking. We are so lost in our minds and hearts that we think we have life right now. We are so deluded by Satan that we think we have all that we need while we are sitting in this darkness. Listen to how Paul described this condition.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:18 ESV)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4–6 ESV)
Satan, through the ways and schemes of this world, has blinded us from seeing the light of Jesus. We are sitting in the darkness, thinking that we have all the answers, not recognizing that we are in the dark! Have you ever sat in a room reading or watching television or something like that in the late afternoon. You did not need the lights on because the light from outside was strong enough. As the afternoon wanes the darkness grows, but you do not notice it. Your eyes simply continue to adjust to the darkness, not recognizing how the darkness is encompassing you. Suddenly someone turns on the light and you recognize how dark it truly was in the room. But up to that point you did not see the darkness you were in. You had no motivation to seek the light because you thought you could see, even though you were encompassed by the darkness. This is what it is like to live in this world. We think we have light. We think that we have the wisdom and knowledge we need because the darkness is slowing closing in around us. Jesus is the light. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness so that we can see. Only in Jesus can we have direction and can our hearts be enlightened. Only in Jesus can our hearts have spiritual perception and understanding. Otherwise, we are sitting in the dark room not realizing that we cannot see.
Light is crucial. We are dead and cannot see the way. Jesus came to shine in the darkness. He exposes the works of darkness. Where there is no light, there is no vision, no view of reality, no direction, and no guidance. Jesus is the light. The world of darkness does not understand Jesus and does not overcome him. Light always overpowers darkness. There is never a time when you turn on the light and the darkness is not vanquished. Light always overpowers the darkness. Christ overcomes the powers of darkness through his life and death on the cross. The darkness would not be victorious over Christ. The light and the darkness came into bitter and decisive conflict and the darkness could not prevail. Jesus always overcomes. Jesus is always victorious.
- Jesus is God because he created all things, he is life, and he is light. Therefore we are responsible to our creator.
- We are in the darkness of this world. We are lost in our futile thinking, foolish living, and false belief that we have all we need.
- Jesus is the light and the life. When we do not seek Jesus and rely completely on him is to remain in the darkness and refuse to receive life. We are saying that we would rather experience death and remain in the futility of darkness than come to the light and receive true life.
When we follow Jesus, the true Light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin. He lights the path ahead of us so that we can see how to live. He removes the darkness of sin from our lives. Let Christ guide your life, and you will never need to stumble in darkness.