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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Who are You?

John 1-3

In studying John’s gospel, we find that John begins with statements about John the Baptizer and who the Christ is. In this gospel, John uses several metaphors to describe Jesus, such as He is the Light of the world and He is the Bread and the Life. John spends time showing us the people who encounter Jesus.
At the start of the gospel, John spends the first three chapters stating who Jesus is. In chapter 1, he states that the Word (Jesus the Son of God) was in existence before the beginning of the world. He also states that the Word was with God and the Word was God. John makes all this known in 1:1. He continues in subsequent verses by saying all things came into being because of Him and that He is the Light that shines in the darkness. These are very important for John’s gospel. We will find in chapter 2 that John makes the point that Jesus knows what is in the mind and heart of all men. This is because He made them and because God searches the heart of man. Jeremiah 17:10 states it this way, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” (NASB) As to the second, that He is the Light, we all know that light dispels darkness. In the image John intends, he means that not only did Jesus create light out of darkness when He created the world, but He is Light, which dispels the darkness (evil) from our lives. He shines brightly so that the darkness of Satan and his evil is evident so we can follow the better way, God’s way. John uses only five verses to explain the grandeur, majesty, and power of God the Father and His Son, Jesus the Christ.
John spends the entirety of his gospel writing to tell who Jesus is and who man is. He shows in the first three chapters of his gospel several different kinds of people, followers of Jesus and unbelievers. First, John shows John the Baptist, a man who proclaims the coming of the Christ , that Jesus is He, and that He has a higher status than John the Baptist. In 1:7-8, John says that John the Baptist proclaims that he is not the Light but he is a witness who testifies of the Light. He states this to the Jews who came to him in verses 19-24. The Jews come from the Jewish leaders asking questions related to the prophecies about the coming Messiah. John the Baptist denies he is the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet who was to come. He said that he is the voice crying in the wilderness. In verses 29-34, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking by and declares that He is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the one of whose sandals he is not fit to tie. John the Baptist becomes the type of follower of Jesus we should be, one who knows in his head, believes in his heart, and proclaims with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah for whom the Jews awaited. John the Baptist’s devotion to the Messiah encompassed his life though it ended early because of his standing strong on his belief. John the Baptist was a resolved believer.
John the apostle continues to give examples of followers of Christ. The latter half of chapter 1 shows us people who follow Jesus. The first followers are two of John’s disciples. They heard John say that Jesus is the Lamb of God and they followed Jesus (vv. 35-37). One of these two disciples of John was Andrew the fisherman. Andrew told his brother Peter about Jesus and he followed. Jesus renamed him Cephas/Peter, meaning rock which shows He knows the inner strength of conviction and dedication every person has. The next day Philip and Nathanael began following Jesus. Jesus once again shows He knows the heart of people when He states that Nathanael was a man of no deceit (vs.47). Nathanael is amazed at the depths which Jesus knows. Nathanael declares him the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” (vs. 49). These are followers of strong dedication to Jesus. These are resolved and growing believers.
Chapter 2 begins John’s discourse on other types of believers. This chapter begins with the wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine. Mary, Jesus’ brothers, Jesus, and His disciples were all invited to the wedding. When the wine was finished, Mary showed her faith that her son was blessed by God. She told the wedding captain to do as Jesus said. After Jesus turned the water to wine, the captain of the wedding said the bridegroom saved the good wine until later in the wedding (2:10). The bridegroom we are later told is Christ and His wine was poured out for the people who would be His church. Because His love never ends, His best wine is always available for us. We do not need another because Christ is the best and only offering needed. This was Jesus’ first miracle. His disciples believed in Him (2:11). Mary and Jesus’ brothers continued to follow Him. These are resolved believers.
Later in chapter 2 when Jesus went into Jerusalem to the temple, He used a whip to send the sellers out of the temple because they had made it into a market place. The disciples remembered from their religious training that it was said of the Messiah that He would have zeal for the Father’s house (Psalm 69:9, John 2:17). The Jews confronted Jesus about His authority to send the sellers out of the temple. Jesus spoke to them in a manner they should have understood since they had studied the Talmud, Laws, Judges, and prophets writings. Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19, NASB). He was speaking of His body, which they would kill. They chose to understand Him on the literal level as speaking of the actual building of the temple, which took forty-six years. They heard Jesus speak to them, but chose not to understand and believe. These are the resistant non-believers. For the disciples, they remembered this when Jesus rose from the dead and believed the Scripture and the word Jesus spoke to them (vs. 22). These are the growing believers. To these, other followers were added who believed because of the signs Jesus performed (vs. 23). Jesus did not trust them with Himself because He knows the heart of man (vv.24-25). Many of these followers would fall away when Jesus began to teach hard things or when Jesus was being persecuted. These are the revolving believers, the ones who turn away from Jesus when persecution arises or things become difficult.
As we read chapter 3, we find a Jewish leader/chief comes to Jesus. His name is Nicodemus. Nicodemus addresses Him just as the people in Jerusalem do, as Rabbi (Teacher). Nicodemus confesses he knows Jesus had come from God as a teacher because no one could do the signs Jesus does unless He is sent from God (3:2). Jesus immediately confronts Nicodemus with the truth of His arrival on earth. He confronts him at the weakness Nicodemus has as a Jew, His eternal salvation. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (3:3, NASB). Nicodemus, like the other Jewish leaders in the temple rebutts with a physical understanding of what Jesus says. How can one be born again? Jesus uses “born” in the Jewish sense meaning to bring someone over to your way of life or converting him or her. Jesus is not speaking of a physical birth, but Nicodemus misunderstands Him. Jesus is talking about being born into a new way of life. Further, He talks about this way of life as being born of the Spirit as well as water (3:5). Ezekiel also speaks of this birth in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Jesus tells Nicodemus unless one is born of both water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I am sure Nicodemus was surprised at this since he learned all his life that the way to heaven was to follow the Laws. Here Jesus tells him he must convert to His way of Life, to accept Jesus is the Life. Nicodemus is caught between his tradition, beliefs, and what Jesus is telling him is the way to Life in the kingdom of God. Nicodemus is confounded and questions Jesus as to how these things can be. Jesus replies and says, “We, the triune Godhead, speak of what We know and what We have seen.” (3:11, NASB). Jesus asks Nicodemus, since he cannot believe when He tells him earthly things, how will he believe when He tells him heavenly things? Jesus confronts Nicodemus with the fact that knowing the Laws, Talmud, history, and prophecies is not enough. A person must be born again by the Spirit. Jesus tells him how this occurs in verses 14-18. By the time of Jesus’ death, Nicodemus is born again. Nicodemus sees the Light who has come into the world and is drawn to Him. Nicodemus is a seeker; he was an evolving believer from Judaism.
John tells of each of these kinds of people in his gospel: the resolved, growing, evolving, and revolving believers and the resistant non-believers. He brings them to the forefront each time he tells of Jesus so we can see, as if with a magnifying glass, who we are and make a decision to accept the Life, the Light of the World, the Truth and the Way, the Bread of Life, the Son of God. John shows us Jesus over and over so we are faced with His deity repeatedly and faced with a salvation choice continually until we make the decision to follow Jesus, too. He shows us who are the revolving believers and the resistant non-believers to show us who we could be if we do not accept Jesus as the Son of God. He shows us the growing, resolved, and evolving followers to show us who we can be, what that means, and how that is lived. Not all of us, when confronted by Jesus, will immediately believe in our hearts and heads that He is the Son of God, but we will eventually come to a point of decision. However, Jesus accepts all of us, wants us to come to know and accept Him with our hearts and minds. All He  requires is that we believe in Him and follow His commandments (His teaching and precepts). By doing this, we show we are His disciples. Let us open the door to hear and see Jesus the Messiah and then follow Him and grow more like Him each day. Let us not harden our hearts and resist the Light but be those who turn to the Light. John stated it this way,
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:18-21, NASB)
John’s purpose for writing this gospel is so the whole world will know the Light has come into the world (1:1-5). John ends his gospel with Jesus’ resounding words, “Follow Me.” (21:19). It is a mind and spirit choice. What is your choice?