Who is Jesus of Nazareth? People began debating that question even while they were listening to Him preach and watching Him perform miracles (Mt 16:13-16), and that debate has continued ever since. Was He a rabbi, a prophet, the promised Messiah or Gods divine Son? Did people misinterpret what He said about Himself, was He a religious imposter deliberately deceiving the masses, a delusional fanatic who believed His own lies or the incarnation of God? Did He actually claim to be God or did His followers, full of misguided zeal, turn Him into one later on?
These questions were being vigorously debated during the decades after the church was founded. So many voices were offering so many false answers that John would describe his generation as one that was full of antichrists (1Jn 2:18), and it was to put an end to this confusion that he wrote his gospel. Its almost certain the other three gospels had already been written and that he knew all that Matthew, Mark and Luke had said. But still there remained much confusion about the nature and mission of Jesus Himself, yet its upon that truth that our entire salvation rests. To be wrong here is to perish, so John took up his pen to explain carefully what he knew. And no one in all of human history has a greater right to speak to this issue. This in a man who was with Jesus from the very beginning. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a follower of Jesus (Jn 1:35-36). He was actually standing beside John the Baptist when the prophet looked up and said, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). It was him and Andrew whom Jesus first invited to follow Him as His disciples, and for the entire three and a half years of the Lords ministry he watched everything He did. There were times Jesus selected only three disciples to accompany Him during some of the most intense spiritual moments, such as His transfiguration (Mt 17:1-2) and His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-37), and John was always there. He sat beside the Lord when He served the Last Supper in the upper room (Jn 13:23). He was personally admitted into the high priests courtroom and allowed to listen to the horrible trial Jesus endured before the crucifixion (Jn 18:15). While other disciples watched from a distance, safely mixed into the crowd, John came right up to the cross and stood there with four brave women (Jn 19:25-26). Jesus trusted him so completely He asked him to care for His mother after He died (Jn 19:26-27). John stood so close to the cross that when a soldier ran a spear into Jesus side he could see blood and water pour out of the wound (Jn 19:34-35). He personally entered the empty tomb and saw the linen wrappings and the face cloth (Jn 20:5-8). His own eyes observed the resurrected Jesus enter a locked room and stand in front of them so real, so solid, so genuinely alive they could touch His scars and serve Him food (Jn 20:19-20, Lk 24:40-43). He ate a breakfast the risen Lord cooked for Him on a beach beside the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:9-13) and walked so closely behind Jesus and Peter that he could hear their wonderful conversation (Jn 21:20). He watched Jesus physically ascend and disappear through a cloud (Ac 1:9). He heard the Lord promise to baptize them in the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:5) and was in the upper room when the Holy Spirit fell upon all the disciples, and he too spoke in tongues and declared the mighty deeds of God (Ac 2:1-4). And then, as the years passed, John continued as an eyewitness to many of the wonders the Lord performed through the early church.
Why John wrote
I think John wrote this gospel because he was alarmed by the false things being said about Jesus. He was a great rabbi, but He was more than a rabbi. He was a prophet, but He was more than a prophet. He was the Messiah, the anointed King from the line of David (2Sa 7:12-17), but He was even more than that. He was truly a man, a human being who grew hungry, thirsty and tired, but He was even more than that: He was divine. He existed before He was conceived in Marys womb. He came to earth from heaven. And though it is a mystery beyond our understanding, John says He was present at the beginning of creation. In fact, He was the One who spoke it into existence.
As we study through this gospel well discover that Johns purpose in writing it is quite clear. Hes showing us the truth, the whole amazing truth about Jesus of Nazareth, and he does so without trying to explain all the mysteries. He humbly presents the facts, as Jesus revealed them, and allows us to choose whether or not to believe.
John seems to have listened to Jesus at a deeper level than most of the other disciples. In that way he was similar to Mary of Bethany who would listen carefully to what Jesus taught (Lk 10:38-42) and actually heard the spiritual meaning of what He was saying (Jn 12:1-8). John remembered things Jesus said that the others didnt record. He presents miracles and encounters the others omitted. We will be forever grateful that he remembered the profound teachings given in the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed (Jn 13-17).
And now the challenge he places before us is this: Will we, like John (and Mary of Bethany), listen deeply to what Jesus said? Will we recognize the signs He performed and understand the truths He was revealing about Himself? Too many people in Johns day had missed the point. They tried to fit Jesus into a category that made sense to them, rather than listen to what He said or see the meaning behind what He did.
The One who spoke (Jn 1:1-18)
It was probably while he was a pastor in Ephesus that John wrote this gospel. Undoubtedly he saw many who were in danger of abandoning the truth, and so there would be no confusion about the Jesus he was presenting to them, he began with his conclusion. Heres a brief paraphrase of these important verses:
God the Father was not alone when creation began. A divine Person was there with Him, and it was through that Person that He spoke all things into being.
No human has ever seen God the Father, but He sent to us the One who spoke creation into existence to show us His true nature, and what we see when we look at Him is someone who is full of grace and truth. What He showed us is greater than what Moses showed us in the Law. This divine Person became a man, but John the Baptist was not that man. Johns mission was to prepare people, so they would believe in the One who came from heaven when they saw Him.
Those who recognize who He is, and believe in Him, are given by God the Father the right to become His children, and they will undergo a spiritual and physical transformation, so they can be with Him forever.
Jesus is that One who, at the Fathers command, spoke creation into existence. He is Gods divine Son by nature. He was begotten, not created, and sent to earth to show us the God weve never seen.
As his gospel progresses John will show us step-by-step how Jesus revealed these truths, but he starts with his conclusion: This is who He is and why He came. An d John doesnt hide his motive. Hes very open about why hes telling us these things. He says,
but these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God (the One who was with Him at the beginning of creation); and that believing you may have life in His name (Jn 20:31).
Listen to this promise Jesus gave us: For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:40).
To behold Jesus is to understand who He really is: our human Savior and our divine Lord. To believe in Him is to properly respond to that Person. If I believe He is the One who spoke creation into existence, then there is no other reasonable response possible but to fall on my knees and surrender my entire life to Him. If I believe He became a man and died on the cross for me, then there is no other reasonable response possible than to trust Him as my Savior. To behold Him is to understand, but to believe is to reach out and take hold of the eternal life He offers. John has done his best to show us the truth about Jesus, but once we understand, you and I must choose for ourselves whether we will, or will not, believe.
1) If someone asked you to tell them who Jesus is, what would you say?
2) Did you learn something new about Jesus as you read the paraphrase of John 1:1-18? What did you discover?
3) Of all the things John saw or heard as he walked with Jesus, pick one in which you wish you could have been there too. Why is that moment so important to you?