Monday, June 30, Chapter 1
Who wrote The Gospel of John? It turns out to be a question without an answer; or a question with too many answers. Within the text, the author wrote: This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24) Even this hint becomes a puzzle. The disciple referred to is commonly called the Beloved Disciple because the Gospel mentions several times the disciple whom Jesus loved. It is reasonable to assume that he either wrote or directed the writing of the Gospel. But the next sentence uses the word We. We wrote the Gospel, not I wrote the Gospel.
But the biggest problem is that we do not know who the disciple whom Jesus loved was. It is generally assumed to be one of the Twelve because he was at the Last Supper and generally thought to be John because he was beside Jesus at the table, based on the other Gospels.
I still think the author was John the Apostle, the author of the letters of John and of the Revelation of John. But I could just as easily prove a case against that belief. Without question, the author both knew Jesus and knew details about his ministry. That he was a disciple is also not in doubt. As early as 150 AD, John the Apostle was named and none of the early writers ever named anyone else.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This sentence is like a seed, seemingly small, but capable of growing to great size. The Word existed before the universe. The Word was God. The Word was something other than God. In verse 2, John gives the other the identity of he. As we read on, the He becomes light and later Jesus.
The Word of God and the Word were common concepts in the teachings of Judaism in the First Century. The association of the Word with the Messiah was also known and most likely influenced John to choose this opening. In other words, Chapter 1 would have been easily understood and acceptable to Jews and Jewish Christians of the day, while appealing to gentiles as being like the Greek philosophies.
John 1:14-18 has a great deal in common with Exodus 33:18-34:7. God is present with us. He is present in the human called Jesus and by his life we can know Truth. Mark that word, truth, because John uses it 25 times in this Gospel. We will look more closely in a later chapter.
John the Baptizer proclaimed that God was walking among us; that he was both like God and was God. Only this Gospel has the Baptizer proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God. John called him the Lamb of God, a title used in verses 29 and 36 and nowhere else in Bible. Isaiah 53:7 and Jeremiah 11:19 are the most commonly cited references.
In the calling of the disciples, Nathanael plays an important role by being the first to express belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus says, if you believe that much, just wait.
Tuesday, July 1, Chapter 2
The first miracle recorded by John involves turning water into wine at a wedding. It seems a frivolous miracle and many have questioned it. Yet, as we read John and especially as we read the Revelations, we can see why the author believed this miracle was so important. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Jesus is acting as the groom in this miracle by supplying the wine for the wedding guests. Jesus uses the image of feasts, especially wedding feasts to represent Heaven. And there is the representation of the blood of Jesus in the wine. This miracle is looking forward to many important concepts of the Messiah.
John only records eight miracles and each of them gives us a special message.
Jesus next goes to Jerusalem where he clears the Court of Gentiles of the businesses set up there. The other Gospels place this event just before the crucifixion, so John is in the minority and is generally disregarded on this account and several others. There is no reason to throw out what John records. Jesus may have cleared the court more than once, or John may have placed the event earlier because he had an important theological reason to do so. History in ancient times was not about proper sequence of events. It was about the story. If the story works better to have the events of June 23 moved to July 1, then do it.
People began to believe in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in the people. In other words, he knew that without the power of the Holy Spirit, men could not be trusted with the Truth.
Wednesday, July 2, Chapter 3
Nicodemus appears only in John’s Gospel, but John includes him with Joseph at the burial of Jesus, so John gives him a level of importance. The issue here is of the idea of rebirth, really the idea that the Baptizer had been preaching for some time. Repent and turn away from your sins; become a new person; be reborn.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was learned in the Torah and the Prophets. Yet he had difficulty with the idea of being reborn. Jesus tells him it is like when you take the ritual bath to clean yourself of your sins. You must do that, but you must also be cleansed within by the Holy Spirit; a bath in water and a bath in the Spirit. One without the other does not work. If you do not become a new person, that is, a person of God, you do not have the Spirit.
John went on to give us the most quoted sentence from the New Testament, John 3:16. It is so common that is has begun to lose its meaning. Do not lose sight of the fact that it is included as a part of the discussion with Nicodemus about being born anew. For Jesus, the most important statement is yet to come; But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God (verse 21).
What has been done tells us that the Love of God is action. The Truth works, does things, creates good, moves and shakes. As Paul Tillich wrote: Truth is something new, something which is done by God in history, and, because of this, something which is done in the individual life. Truth is hidden, truth is mystery….But the mystery of truth in Christianity is an event which has taken place and which takes place again and again. It is life, personal life, revelation and decision….In Greek thought truth only can be found. In Christianity truth is found if it is done, and done if it is found. In Christianity truth is the new creation….Therefore, in Christianity the opposite of truth is lie, and not-as it was in Greece-opinion….You cannot have opinion about the Christ after you have faced Him. You can only do the truth by following Him, or do the lie by denying Him.
John alone says that Jesus baptized (22). Little is made of it, but it does support the notion that we should follow him in baptism.
The Baptizer then testifies again about Jesus. He all but says he is the promised Messiah. He again calls Jesus the Son of God and adds that salvation can only be achieved through belief in Him.
Thursday, July 3, Chapter 4
Now is verse 2, John seems to recant his earlier statement that Jesus baptized people by saying that it was really his disciples. Notice how often the word baptism appears in John and how much time he spends on it. The other Gospels combined do not say as much.
Jesus leads his disciples through Samaria to return to Galilee and they stop at Jacob’s well. While the others go into town to get some food, Jesus rests at the well. The sixth hour would have been midday (12 hours in the day, 12 hours at night, regardless of the time of year).
Only one woman was there at noon. Women walked to the well in the morning and again in the evening, never midday. This woman was shunned by the others, so she came when she knew no one else would be at the well.
She must have been concerned to find a man there, but she came on anyway. Jesus requested that she give him a drink of water.
She could see that he was a Jew and could hardly believe her ears. No self-respecting man, especially a Jewish man, would even speak to a woman in public, let alone risk touching anything she had touched.
She questions him and he remarks that she could have living water for the asking. She, not surprisingly, failed to understand his statement.
Now we are back to baptism. Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Again, she fails to understand, but catches the idea of eternal water and asks for it.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit that was always with him, Jesus knew the woman. She began to understand a bit more and switched the questions to that of worshiping God. That gives Jesus the perfect opening to say, God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
The woman speaks of the Messiah and Jesus says, I am the Messiah. The woman does what we all should do, she brings others to see and hear Jesus. Many believe.
Back at Cana, Jesus heals the son of an official of Herod; the son being in Capernaum at the time. For John, this healing serves as a sign, something that the prophets foretold about the Messiah. It also serves to show people that being a part of Herod’s family was not a barrier for Jesus. Nothing is said of faith except that the man took Jesus at his word.
Friday, July 4, Chapter 5
The last chapter ended with a healing. This chapter begins with one.
First, the description of the Sheep Gate and Bethesda tells us John knew the city. Also, the statement that people used to lie there suggest that John wrote sometime after the city was destroyed in 70 AD.
Of all the people waiting at the pool to be cured, Jesus approached a man who had not been able to walk for 38 years. Notice that the man wanted to be baptized, to slide into the pool to be cured. Jesus baptized him with the Holy Spirit.
Naturally, it was on the Sabbath which led to the usual conflict with the theological police.
His response was to argue that he had to do what God was doing and God worked on the Sabbath. The end of verse 30 is key: I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Jesus then uses the Baptizer as a partial reference by saying he told you I am the Messiah. But I have a greater reference, the Word of God, which you also choose not to believe. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?
Be righteous and do good.