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An Analysis of John – Chapter 1

May 17, 2013
Holy Bible

The Gospel of John is distinct in nature to the three synoptic gospels in that rather than just record the ministry of Jesus, he wrote “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” – 20:31. Whereas the synoptic gospels present Jesus’ ministry in historical context, John records His ministry in a more spiritual context, giving an interpretation of the facts of Jesus’ life rather than just a presentation of the facts in historical sequence. In fact, many of Jesus’ miracles are not mentioned in this gospel, and none of His parables are mentioned. There are, however, a few miracles recorded here that are not mentioned in the other three gospels. John also uses the miracles he records as teaching tools, rather than using them to reveal Jesus’ deity. Most often after a miracle, there follows a discourse discussing the implications of the incident. I’ll be writing a series of analysis articles, detailing each chapter.

John Chapter 1

Right off the bat, we’re returning to Genesis, mirroring verse with verse with the words “In the beginning…” – 1:1. John is reiterating an important truth. That even before creation, God “was”. This is comparable to His statement to Moses in Exodus 3:14: “I AM THAT I AM“. Jesus will make a similar statement later in the gospel in 8:58 where he states that “Before Abraham was, I am“, and in 18:5, 8 where he states simply: “I am“. This means that before creation, the Trinity (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit [Genesis 1:2]) “were“. John is also firing up for his declaration of Jesus as the Christ. He states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – 1:1. We know from Genesis 1:3 that the creation was by the Word of God (Gr. logos). “The Word was God” stresses the essential unity between God the Father and God the Son in eternity, and “the Word was with God” stresses the distinction of the Son and His divinity. This is probably the perfect description of the Trinity, its distinction and unity in one verse.

Baptism of Jesus

Baptism of Jesus

Verse 1:14 tells us that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us“, signifying Jesus’ humanity as well as his divinity. This is also the verse that we can cross reference with 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 to discover that the entire Trinity was involved in the Creation and therefore, Jesus’ statement in 8:58 is valid truth. Further referencing to this is found in verse 1:10: “The world was made by him…”. Before we go any further though, we should take a quick look at verse 4: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men“. In John’s Gospel, the words light and life are used frequently and are always symbolic in context. “Life” is similar to faith, in that John is speaking of salvation and deliverance from sin through Christ. “Light” is usually represented by Jesus’ revelation of God, or even Jesus Himself as He is the “Fulfillment of the Law” (Matthew 5:17), and “The Light of the World (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). This is further illustrated in verses 79. Evidence that Jesus is represented by the word “light” in verse 8: “He… was sent to bear witness of that Light“. Verse 9 indicates that Jesus and the Revelation of God are one and the same: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” This verse also stresses that God’s revelation is universally available to “every man“, symbolizing Jesus’ upcoming ministry and promise to the Gentiles. “The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” – 1:17. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17). Verses 1934 record the testimony of John the Baptist who was foretold of in Isaiah 40:3. In verse 21, the Sanhedrin ask, “Art thou that prophet“? This refers to the promise in Deuteronomy 18:15 of the Messiah’s coming. In the same verse they ask him, “Art thou Elijah“? Malachi 4:5 6 tells us that Elijah will be sent to us before the coming of the Messiah. John denies that he is Elijah, but a comparison to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:1114 tells us something a bit different. Verse 14 tells us that “this is Elijah“, meaning that John the Baptist is, indeed, the foretold coming of Elijah. Jesus also tells us of a future coming of Elijah in Matthew 17:11, indicating that he may be one of the two witnesses to come at the first half of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 11:6). He then goes on to say that “Elijah is come already“, speaking of John the Baptist. Verse 30 again reiterates that Christ came before, “for he was before me“. Verse 32 records the witness of Jesus’ deity to John when the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus and remains. This signifies two things: that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Ghost (verse 33), and symbolizes the future indwelling of the Holy Spirit (7:37 – 39; Exodus 35:31) within the Apostles and future Christians alike (Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20).

Finally, verses 3551 record the annointing of the first disciples, Andrew, Peter, Nathanael (Bartholomew), Philip, and probably James and John of Zebedee. It’s interesting to note that Andrew and John (the author of the gospel, son of Zebedee) were disciples of John the Baptist, and after seeing Jesus, immediately abandoned John to follow Him. Andrew also ran quickly to find his brother, Peter, and bring him immediately to Christ (1:4142). In fact, one of the themes of John’s gospel is the fall and redemption of Peter, particularly in contrast to the fall of Judas. We also see how close John and Peter are in this gospel, as they are together in six passages, this being one of them. Verse 51 is noteworthy as a reference to Jacob’s Ladder in Genesis 28:12. Jesus uses this as a picture of Himself as the ladder or ramp (hill). “… the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” indicates that the angels first ascend and then descend, perhaps indicating prayers sent heavenward then answered, Jesus being the conduit (14:13 – 14). He also indicates that we would “see heaven open“, of which we have no record of this fulfilled. I believe it to be an endtime prophecy of Jesus’ second coming, but there is apparently no evidence either way. Heaven opening could also symbolize the grace being bestowed upon the gentiles, as in heaven (the promise, eternal life) is now accessible by all (Romans 4:16). Note that “Son of Man” emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and Messianic Office.

Conclusion

In the first chapter of John, we have the declaration of Jesus’ incarnation, Messianic fulfillment, humanity, and deity. He is “the Word” (1:1), “the Light” (1:7 – 9), “made flesh” (1:14), “the Lamb of God” (1:29, 36), “the Son of God” (1:34, 49), “the Messiah” (1:41), “the King of Israel” (1:49), and “the Son of Man” (1:51). We have the incarnation of Christ (1:14), the baptism of Christ (1:31, 33), the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Christ (1:32, 33), and the founding of the first disciples(1:35 – 51). We also get a small glimpse into the future unbelief of the Sanhedrin and the world (1:10 – 12).

Geographically, these events took place in Bethabara (Bethany), which was a little ways north of the Salt Sea (Dead Sea), almost at the mouth of the River Jordan (1:28). John skips the temptation of Christ in the desert (Matthew 4:1 – 11), never mentions the imprisonment of John the Baptist (which didn’t occur until much later in Jesus’ ministry [Matthew 4:12]), and skips straight to Capernaum in Galilee (1:35). Evidently verses 19 – 34 are all record of John the Baptists testimony before the Sanhedrin, in other words, not taking place in “real time”, but rather a restatement of events that have already taken place. John’s gospel seems to actually begin at the onset of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and the founding of the first disciples. It is interesting to note that in verses 35 – 51, these disciples have already been called, but are called again to leave their businesses and belongings behind later on (Matthew 4:18 – 22). Christ will leave Galilee in 3:22, and return again in 4:3, traveling through Samaria. It is here, I believe we can synch John with Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s imprisonment in Matthew 4:12, and the subsequent second calling of the disciples in Matthew 4:18 – 22). I am getting ahead of myself though. Chapter 1 primarily takes place in Bethabara and Capernaum. Chapter 2 will see the first miracle and the first cleansing of the temple. We’ll see you next week!

Published by Jay McAnally
Copyright © 2013
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2 Comments
  1. Great in-depth study Jay of the Gospel of John. After Crusades that are held in the land, a small copy of the Gospel of John is handed out to a “new believer”; to get them off on the right foot and in God’s Word. They do so because of the “simplicity” of John’s words. When I read the account of Andrew running off to tell his brother…also reminded me of the training given by Campus Crusade for Christ “HERE’S LIFE” crusades in the 70’s–“Operation Andrew”. Anyhow, great study presentation.

    Mel Thompson

  2. Thanks for this mini study of the first chapter of John. What a powerful picture in the life of Jesus.

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