Friday, June 28, 2013

John 1:33-34

I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”(John 1:33, 34 ESV)
Why did John say that he did not know Jesus?  Surely he did.  They were cousins.  Surely he had heard about Jesus' miraculous birth, about his own calling, about leaping in his own mother's womb for joy at the presence of Jesus.  Surely when Jesus came to get baptized (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22) and John felt unworthy to baptize him, but should have the roles reversed, surely he meant that because he knew who Jesus was... So why did John say he did not know him?

The answer is most likely that, even though John probably knew who Jesus was, the confirmation from God came through this sign that happened at Jesus' baptism. Seeing the Spirit descend on Jesus was what John had been waiting for so that he would know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

John 1:32

And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. (John 1:32, ESV)

Here is John's testimony, his witness.  This is the confirmation sent from God that Jesus was really the one that John had been looking forward to.  This is most likely referring to the baptism of Jesus as reported in the other gospel accounts. John knows that when he sees this that the one on whom this happens is the messiah.
John the Apostle is sharing this with us in order to make sure that any of John the Baptist's continued followers would know that the testimony (witness) was that Jesus was the Christ.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

John 1:31

I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:31, ESV)
This passage is a bit more interesting than one might think.  John Calvin goes into great detail on the thought of whether or not John knew that Jesus was the Christ or not.  It seems to make sense that he would know who he was.  Not only was there some relation between their mothers, but we also see (from the other gospels) that when Jesus goes to get baptized by John, John attempts to reject the thought outright because of his unworthiness.  Jesus has to reassure him that it had to be that way, and then after the baptism we see the Spirit of God descending on Jesus.  In John's account, John the Baptist identifies Christ through the sign of the Baptism.  How do these two things work together?

John Calvin tells us that John the Baptist knew who Jesus was, but the Baptism sign offered John a sign to point to for others.  I believe that they call it an a priori argument, or possibly an a posteriori argument.  Either way, John the Baptist most likely knew who Jesus was, but the sign solidified the claim so that John could say that Jesus was the Christ because God had revealed it to him through a sign.

Monday, June 24, 2013

John 1:30

This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ (John 1:30, ESV)

John the Baptist elaborates on this Lamb of God.  He is the one whom he had been saying would come. It was important to John that, even though he was the herald... the predecessor... John wanted all to know that the Christ was pre-existent.  Before John was... He was.

Friday, June 14, 2013

John 1:29

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"(John 1:29, ESV)
Charles Spurgeon is known to have once said this line while warming up his voice and testing the acoustics of the building, when a man who was standing outside of the room heard it, went immediately home and fell on his knees seeking forgiveness.

In a sense, this is what we are all to do, to point to the Lamb of God.  Our individual ministries, like John the Baptist's, is to simply point to Him.  Behold, means to look or to see.  It is written as a command.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

John 1:24-28

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 
(John 1:24-28, ESV)
That first phrase (verse 24) probably should have gone with the previous day's commentary.  The "they" is referring to the "Jews" who were questioning John the Baptist.

John the Baptist's teaching was so bold and had such a messianic flare, that they couldn't help but wonder who he thought he was.  To preach repentance would fall in line with there heritage of prophets that he was inheriting, but to preach the kingdom would be to preach a king.

John is making every attempt to take the attention and the focus off of himself and point it to the one who is coming after him.  In a very real way, we should do something similar, except instead of pointing forward to one who is coming, we point back to the One who came (even though we know He is coming again).

Monday, June 10, 2013

John 1:21-23

And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:21-23, ESV)
John the Baptist, already denying that he is the Christ in the last two verses, is now denying that he is Elijah or the Prophet. It had been prophesied by Malachi (Malachi 4:5) that Elijah would return.  There were also prophecies from Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) concerning The Prophet.  The way John the Baptist was preaching, it seemed like he might be one of these two individuals.

When Jesus was asked who John the Baptist was, his response was,
and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
(Matthew 11:14, ESV)
Is this a contradiction?  No.  When they were questioning John directly, they were asking him if he actually was Elijah.  They were wanting to know if Elijah had returned, in a literal sense. Jesus tells us that he is fulfilling the prophecy concerning Elijah, even though he is not literally Elijah in the flesh.

What might be more important is what John does consider himself to be.  It is something that we should all consider ourselves to be, in some measure.  We are simply voices, crying in the wilderness.  It isn't about us... it is all about Him.

Friday, June 07, 2013

John 1:19-20

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:19-20, ESV)
At the time of writing this Gospel account, there is the possibility that John the Baptist still had a following.  Part of what the Apostle John is doing is making sure that people understand that John the Baptist was not the Messiah, the Christ.

But neither are any of us.  We are not the saviors.  We are not the ultimate heroes of the story. We are not the ones that people need in their lives. We are not anyone's hope, nor should we be.  What people need is Jesus.  Like John we should constantly point to Him in all that we do.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:18, ESV)
In this verse, the one "who is at the Father's side" is referred to as "the only God."  Two persons in this passage are referred to as God.

Even though men like Moses saw glimpses of God in the Old Testament, nobody has seen the full revelation of God, until now.  When God became flesh, the ultimate revelation of God for us humans, He came as the person of Jesus.  The ultimate revelation of God from before time, is known to us as Jesus.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

John 1:17

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17, ESV)
Through Moses came the Law.  And through that Law came our understanding of our own sinfulness. As Paul tells us in Romans 3:19-20, "...through the law comes knowledge of sin."  The deeper problem mentioned in that same passage is that nobody is justified (declared righteous) by keeping the law.  The Law doesn't solve our problem, it only serves to make us more aware of our problem, we are deeply, inherently, sinful.

But through Jesus Christ, the full revelation of God, we are recipients of grace (unmerited favor) and truth (comprehension of reality).

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

John 1:16

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16, ESV)
I have been pondering this verse for the last hour, and I am still no closer to comprehending its full meaning.

"...from his fullness..." can easily be understood as, the full, complete reality of who Jesus Christ is.  He is God, He is man, He is messiah, He is light, He is life, etc.  His fullness... and it is from this fullness that we are the recipients of "...grace upon grace."  This is where I am stumped. Simply put, we are recipients of God's unmerited favor, but why grace upon grace?

That little word "upon" is normally, possibly 90% of the time, translated to mean in place of.  For example, and eye for an eye.  That is the same greek word, and nearly every time that greek word shows up in the New Testament, it has that replacement meaning.  That is interesting to me because I have always taken this to mean grace on top of grace, a little like saying heaps and loads of grace.  But if this means grace for grace or grace in place of grace, that seems like it means something different.

Is this a significant difference?  Is there some meaning in grace in place of grace?  I have considered the possibility of it meaning that God was gracious already, He was already known for his steadfast love and faithfulness, but now there is a new sort of grace, a completely revealed grace, that is found in Jesus Christ.

I will have to do some more digging into this one.  I pray that God will give me wisdom before it is time to preach this passage.

Monday, June 03, 2013

John 1:15

(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) (John 1:15, ESV)
At the time of the writing of this gospel, John the Baptist still had a following.  John the Apostle, the author of this book, is addressing this following in several places throughout his writing.  His concern was that John the Baptist's followers had missed what John himself had taught, that Jesus was truly the Messiah.  That Jesus was what John the Baptist was all about.

This verse also reminds us again that Jesus did not find a beginning when He was born into this world.  He is preexistent.  John the Baptist connects this preexistence to the "rank" of Jesus.  John was a forerunner to Jesus, yet the "after" one was actually the "before" one.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ESV)
Repeat those first five words with me again, "And the Word became flesh..."

You might need to say that a few more times to let it sink in.  You could even elaborate on different parts of that statement.  Read back over who "the Word" is. Consider now what all is being dealt with in those next two words, "became flesh..."  Those first five words can give hope, inspire awe, and promote true worship.

Those first five words were most likely even more astounding to John, especially considering the next four words, "...and dwelt among us..." He was there!  God in the flesh!  And John can say truly that He "dwelt among us"!  They walked this world together, conversed with each other, ate food together, and slept in the same houses or on the road.  And yet, in all of that humanity... that flesh ... John can still say, "...and we have seen his glory..."

The grace and truth of God was manifested in the flesh, and John got to see it with his own eyes.  Keep that in mind as we continue through this book.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

John 1:13

who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13, ESV)
These Children of God were born.

New birth is an amazing and intriguing concept.  We should reserve our main consideration of the New Birth until Chapter Three, but there is one aspect of this New Birth that must be discussed now, because of the teaching in this verse.

Notice first that "born" is a verb, but it is a passive verb.  It is something that happens, but it is passive, which means that it is something that happens to you.  Just like regular birth, nobody makes the decision to be born.  Nobody starts the process.  It isn't by a choice of the will. And so it is with this spiritual birth.  It isn't according to the will of the flesh or the will of man. The implication is then that it is by God's will that someone is born.

This reality with the New Birth stirs up several questions, but instead of dealing with those questions, first consider what it actually answers:  You see, as fallen humans we have this problem.  We are sinners. To our very core we are sinners.  And one of the biggest issues in our salvation isn't just the working of that salvation, through Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, it is also this troubling reality that there is not a one of us who would choose to believe in this Jesus.

Consider Paul's collection of Old Testament teachings on our "free" will:
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:10-18, ESV)
Not one righteous.  No one seeks for God. There is not a one of us that is really a "seeker" apart from what God does in us. Paul's description of us in Ephesians 2 is that we are literally dead in our sins.  Nobody takes God up on the offer of this free gift of salvation.

This is where John answers the dilemma.  It is not according to will that one is born again. It is according to God's will.

Like I said, this stirs up additional questions, but it answers one of our biggest dilemmas.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

John 1:12

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12, ESV)
There are a few words in this verse that need some explanation.

Let's think about the word, "receive" first.  It is a word that is quite often translated "take".  It means to grab ahold of or hold on to.   In other words, all sorts of people who grab ahold of Jesus...

What about "believe"?  It is the verb form of "faith".  Sort of like, "they faithed in his name."  Trust is a part of this word, but it also includes perspective.  This is how you see things.  How you view things.  Your core understanding of the universe.  To believe in the name of Jesus is not to simply believe that He existed and that He did the things that He did.  No.  It is to see Jesus for who He is... Lord and Savior of all.  God of very God.  Creator, Sustainer, our only Hope.

How about the word, "right"?  Nearly every other time that this word shows up, it is translated as "authority". So, it is a right, as in a legal right.  It is in their jurisdiction to become children of God.

That brings me to the word, "become".  This is translated in a variety of ways.  One of the most revealing is when it is translated "accomplish" or "be done".  One of the other times it is translated "become" is when Jesus is tempted to have stones "become" bread.  There is a transformation or an accomplishment of something happening.

So, all sorts of people who grab ahold of Jesus, in other words, who have Jesus as the core center of their whole belief system and world view, have been given the authority to consider themselves truly the children of God.

Monday, May 27, 2013

John 1:11

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:11, ESV)
God's ultimate revealing of Himself as the Living Word of God, in the flesh, has entered into His own creation.  And now we see that not only did His creation not know Him, but His own people, the Israelites, did not receive Him.

There is a sadness in this for sure.  And I can only imagine a sadness in God's own heart as well.  But it is a sadness that He endured as part of His humanity. A sadness, along with many others, to deem Him the "Man of Many Sorrows" that Isaiah prophesied about.  He truly entered into this creation, not as one aloof from the creation, but right into the middle.  Right into the grittiest, darkest parts of this sin-marred creation.

And yet... without sin.

Friday, May 24, 2013

John 1:10

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (John 1:10, ESV)
Nearly every statement from this first chapter of the Gospel according to John is absolutely astounding... He... the He that created the world, was in the world.

...and yet this world did not know him.

We should have.  We should have known Him.  We should have recognized Him.  But we did not.  And we do not (still).

By the grace of God alone, some recognize Him.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

John 1:9

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  
(John 1:9, ESV)
Most people love the idea of enlightenment or being enlightened.  But if the Bible is true, then true enlightenment doesn't just include things related to God, it focuses in and centralizes on the person of Jesus.  And it is this same Jesus, the true light, the enlightenment for everyone, was coming into the world!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

John 1:8

He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (John 1:8, ESV)
This is a great reminder for all of us.  We are not the light.  We are not what people need. We are not people's hope.  It truly isn't about us.  We are simply to testify about the light.

One of my favorite aspects of being a witness to the light, and not the actual light itself, is that I can go out into the world and vocalize the truth (be a witness) and leave the "eye-opening" to the light.  It is exciting.  You never know what results are going to happen.  The Spirit goes where it wants to go (John 3) and we don't always know.  We simply speak about the light and then watch the light shine in people's hearts.

What a blessing to be a witness.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

John 1:7

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. (John 1:7, ESV)
We have learned that in Jesus are life and light.  What is marvelous is that God also sends people to testify to that light. God could put huge signs in the sky, and sometimes He does send us signs, but so often He sends people to be witnesses.

Though I could not even begin to fathom the mind of God, I do believe that at least one reason why God sends people is because it increases the role of belief in the life of His followers. If there were huge signs in the sky, it would be more difficult to deny.

The word translated "witness" is the same word where we get "martyr." You see, these witnesses give of their lives (some literally) for the message, for the testimony.  Faith takes a dominant role as others believe the message of those who are sent.

Monday, May 20, 2013

John 1:6

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (John 1:6, ESV)
Such a simple sentence, a statement of a fact, but what a powerfully amazing fact!

God is not an uninvolved deity. He sent a man into the world.  That man's name was John. Praise God today for His involvement in our lives.  He doesn't leave us without messengers to know His will.

Friday, May 17, 2013

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
(John 1:5, ESV)
It doesn't always feel this way.

Much of the time, I feel as if the darkness is constantly overcoming the light. It seems to me that the darkness, quite often, swirls around the light, crushing in upon it. The darkness stamps out the light in most areas of the world, at least that is the way it looks to me.

But this verse sets me straight.

Darkness does not overcome light. When the light shines in the darkness, the darkness does not overcome it.  Darkness, really, is simply the absence of light. Well, at least that is true in the physical world. But it might also be true of the spiritual. The light shines into the darkness.

Some take this to mean that they need to force their way of thought, either politically or literally. But this is not the way of light.  For light to shine, it needs to truly be light.  The light that shines should shine as Jesus did: humility, service, patience, kindness, and most of all, love.

Go shine your light today because the darkness did not overcome the light.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

John 1:4

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4, ESV)
This same ever-existent living Word, who is truly God, who has created everything, is also full of life and light.

When we say someone is "full of life" what we normally mean is that they are exuberant or energetic.  Sometimes that full-of-lifeness is even a bit contagious. But this is only a glimmer of the full-of-lifeness that Jesus has.  In Him is really Life! It is more than a feeling of exuberance or an attitude change.  It illuminates.  It Liberates.  Truly free to live a life in God. The Life in Jesus will actually give you Spiritual Life and eventually an incorruptible body for your Eternal Life.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

John 1:3

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.(John 1:3, ESV)
In Genesis we can read, "...God created the heavens and the earth..." In other words, everything.  All the stuff up there and all the stuff down here. He made it all.

And in those creative acts that unfold in Genesis, you get these little Trinitarian glimpses.  For example, we see the Spirit of God "hovering over the waters." Or when it came to the creation of man, God says, "Let us make man in our image."

In John, we are given an even deeper glimpse into the creation, and we learn that it was Jesus who created it all. This thought can steer our understanding of the rest of Jesus' earthly, physical ministry. Knowing that He made it all can give us insight into His interactions with what He has made.

We can also understand from this verse that there is a sharp line between created things and the creator.  Jesus clearly falls on the side of Creator.

As you seek to know who Jesus is, remember that He is creator of all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

John 1:2

He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2, ESV)
William Barclay says of this first chapter of John:
The first chapter of the fourth gospel is one of the greatest adventures of religious thought ever achieved by the mind of man.
I partially agree with this statement, or at least the sentiment of the statement.  There are verses in this first chapter that leave my head reeling with thought.  The imagination can run away, and I can still not reach the fullness of what some of these verses are hinting at or alluding to.  Right next to John 1:1, which leaves me staggering in my pondering of its meaning is John 1:2, which, if the thought of it is left to bake for awhile in the oven of my mind, it will quite often leave me staring off into space.

There is this time, if we could call it that, before there was time, before there was anything, when it was just God.

In God's Triune Being there was community, fellowship, joy, love, goodness and holiness. We are getting a glimpse, a small glimpse, into eternity past.  You see, when there was a beginning (of all things) there was already The Living Word.

I was going to attempt to wax eloquent on this, but frankly, I can't find the words.  Allow yourself to chew on the concept of Eternity Past, and then marvel that God actually loves you.

Monday, May 13, 2013

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
(John 1:1, ESV)
As we will see in the next few verses of this first chapter, John is calling Jesus the Word.

In a very real way, that is who Jesus is.  He is the perfect revelation of God. (cf. Hebrews 1:1-3) If you want to know God, He must be known through the person of Jesus, because Jesus isn't simply similar to God, He is God (in flesh).

Consider this as you go through this week.  God came in flesh to be known by man... and man killed Him.

... but some, only because of the grace of God, believed in Him.