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(028) The Gospel of John I: The Overture

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The Gospel of John I: The Overture

John 1:1-18

April 27, 2008


·         Sermon: Phil 8, Phil 9, leftovers,

·         Bible: passage in Greek, creation account, Exodus 33-34

·         Commentaries: Logos, DPL (light, life, darkness, glory, witness, believe), each gospel’s distinctive.


·         Day of Prayer (Thurs: 12:00 courthouse, 7:00 pm Bethany Cov.)

Beginning of new series, today provides background. Not a lot of application, because John is likewise setting the stage for his story, but it is a very rich passage.

Why John? beyond sunday school HERMENEUTICS

It is important to return to our focus to Christ himself frequently. I tend to avoid the Gospels because they are much more difficult to interpret.

·         Jesus’ acts amaze me, but his words confuse me.

·         “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees...”?

His words have to be examined in the context of his goals and mission; a simple reading will not always suffice.

As we go through John, we will get to know Jesus better than we have ever known him. Together we will discover who Jesus was, what he said, and how it should change us.

·         This is the process of hermeneutics, bridging the gap between these two horizons.

It’s not clean simple work, and will frequently jar us out of our “Sunday School Hermeneutic.”

That you might believe

But our purpose in studying John is the exact same John’s for writing the book:

But these are written 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 20:31 NIV

You may think, “I can save you the work, I’m already a Christian.” But believing is far more than a “sinner’s prayer.”

Belief, in a Biblical sense, is to believe and act on, not merely believe. That is why Paul can say “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

·         It is to radically reorganize and continually revaluate our lives according to the reality of who Jesus was and is.

And as the life of Christ infects us and affects us to greater and greater measures, we will find that we will have more and more abundant life in him.

BTW: Here is an example of “Sunday School Hermeneutics”: I have always thought “have life” means “go to heaven,” but John’s idea of eternal life extends far beyond that: It is greater life today and forever.

·         Like my marriage, heaven begins when God begins to call us, and increases as we increasingly believe in Jesus as Lord.

\   Our goal in studying the Gospel of John is more fully believe that Jesus is our Lord and God, and hence more completely obey him, and hence glorify God and have life more abundantly.

Background to John

John is the most unique of the four gospels. Whereas the other three share much of their content, telling the same stories, 90% of John not found in Synoptics.

·         John is the most theological and philosophical of the gospels.

Not that is not historically accurate, but not only does he report historical realities, but explains the theological repercussions of these acts.

He emphasizes Jesus divinity more than the others. He presents Jesus as “Liar, lunatic, or Lord

Ä  In addition to the theological nature, it is important to understand the historical background.

In 70 AD, an event occurred the shook the foundations of Judaism: The destruction of Jerusalem and temple.

·         Interestingly, many Christian were saved from slaughter because they fled Jerusalem because of Jesus’ predictions.

The destruction of the temple meant Judaism had to either entirely reinvent itself or die.

John goes to lengths to describe Jesus as the replacement of Jewish traditions, and hence, in Christ, Judaism could continue without a temple, because he was the temple.

Ä  One final question before the passage: Who wrote John?

Who wrote John?

Unlike most NT books, the author never names himself, other than identifying himself as “the disciple Jesus loves.” The evidence leads us to believe that this was the Apostle John, who also wrote the Epistles of John and Revelation.

·         Ireneus said that it was John, and he heard that from Polycarp, who was John’s disciple.

The overture

Ä  Turning today’s passage, it is one of the richest and most poetic passages in the Bible.

This passage is very much like an overture. Overtures were designed to prepare the hearer for what is next, containing themes from the rest of the work:

·         Life

·         Light

·         Darkness

·         World

·         Witness

·         Truth

·         Glory


Ä  Teaching through John will be a lot different than Philippians. We typically won’t go through verse by verse, rather looking for the themes.

·         I have never taught through a Gospel, so this will be a learning event for all of us.

And this passage requires a much different approach than the rest of John. Because this is an overture, we are being assaulted with a lot of important ideas and themes, all of which John will develop later.

·         I will be using a little bit more of a midrashic approach, reading though the passage and comment on it.

I trust that this is the only passage I will have to handle this way – I prefer to develop a theme and its application.

·         Today’s objective is to be immersed in John but also to behold the glory of Jesus.


Ä  But first we have to look at what “The Word” means.

As many of you know, the Greek work is “logos.” It means thought, a teaching, or reason. But it has a rich background.

Greek philosophers: The rational order behind the universe.

Philo: The divine wisdom behind the creation of the universe.

Hebraic: The word of God in action (as in creation).  

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

John was working from more of a Hebraic mindset, but he also knew that his audience was varied and this word had deep meaning. And he knew that that this passage would be scandalous to both his Greek and Jewish audiences:

·         Scandal to Jews: Logos was God.

·         Scandal to Greeks: Logos became flesh. 

the passage

Ä  With that background, let’s know dive into the text. Bring your Bibles so you can make notes in the margins.

1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was with God in the beginning. 

·         (1) Direct reference to the first words of the Bible.

·         “With,” pros unusual choice, indicates “in the presence.”

·         Greek word order emphasizes his divinity.

·         (2) There was never a time he wasn’t there.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

·         Again, reference to Genesis: Jesus was the creative power and word that accomplished the creation.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. Colossians 1:16   

This is frequent theme in the NT, demonstrating very early belief in Jesus divinity. From the beginning, those who knew Jesus best knew that he was more than a good teacher.  

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 

·         True life, as meant to be before death entered the world.

·         The light dispels the darkness of sin and unbelief.

·         But darkness does not like light: katalambano can mean understand or overcome, and I think overcome is better.

Darkness seems so powerful, but it flees from even the smallest light.

6 ¶ There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 

And with this verse, the spiritual realm and physical realm begin to collide. Up to now, this passage has been very metaphysical, but now it enters the world of grass and dirt.

9 ¶ The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 

A double betrayal: Neither his creation nor his special people of the Jews recognized or received him.

12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--  13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. 

This is a preview of chapter 3. But “believing” is a major theme in John, more than any other gospel.

It is quite clear that not everyone is a “child of God” in the specific sense. But those who believe and receive (welcome) are.

14 ¶ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

This is one of most powerful and startling passages in Scripture: God became one of us.

·         His dwelling is reference to the tabernacle of the OT.

John is alluding to a passage in the OT where Moses asked to see God’s glory, but is told that he would die. In Christ, humans can, for the first time, behold God.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" 

Typically the prior is greater, so John says that “it looks like I am first, but he is.”

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

As Paul wrote well before John, the law was a temporary teacher, designed to prepare us for the full truth and grace that came from Jesus.

18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. John 1:1-18 NIV

God is unknowable. He is so far above us, invisible and incomprehensible. That he is, is evident in the world around us, but what he is like we cannot know, until he has chosen to reveal himself, through Christ.

Ä  In the coming months, John will develop these themes, and we will be able to delve into them and see how they meet us where we are at.


We will close with something else John said in his one of this letters:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NIV

That God would do all this, reveal himself, become one of us, and dwell with us, is amazing. But even more amazing is the “why.”  Because he loved us, as insignificant as we are.

He bridged heaven and earth to reach us. How much more will he reach out to us in our day in and day out life and live with us?


·         Next Week: John 1:19-34

May the Lord help each of us so fully believe in his Son that we re-orientate our lives to be like him.

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