In a Christmas sermon I asked people to think about the images and thoughts each might bring to mind following these words:
- “Once upon a time “
- “Twas the Night before Christmas”
- “In the beginning”
Those are the first words in our Bible – Genesis Chapter 1. Now read the opening of John Ch1:1-5 and you will hear those words again. They are meant to evoke memories of the story of creation. We will be reading the creation story in next chapter of this Introduction to the Bible, but there is a ‘chicken and egg’ problem here – which one do we start with. Skip to verses 10-14 in John chapter 1. Jesus is the “he” and this connects Jesus (who, according to tradition, was born around the year 25th December CE1 0) to the beginning of creation. Verse 14 is the key verse – “the Word became flesh and lived among us”. Notice the capital letter W of Word2. This is the creative force that God uses in creating the world – God speaks creation into existence and this Word-creative-force has now become flesh itself. That is who Jesus is. Jesus was around from the first creative moment. Yet now, Jesus is like one of us – flesh and blood.
The Gospel of John does not have any baby Jesus story but rather gives us some various images of who this fleshy God is. John introduce us to the “Lamb of God” image (1:35)and gives us the idea of Jesus as a fleshy sacrificial lamb.
I AM Statements
Unique to John’s Gospel , Jesus make some bold but specific “I am” statements. To understand these you need to read the entire passage before and after Jesus’ statement.
- “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48-51) / Read about the mana and the feeding of the 5000.
- “I am the light of the world” (8:12, 9:5) / Start at 7:40 to 8:36, Law, judgement, a new way and truth.
- “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9) and closely followed by;
- “I am the good shepherd” (10:11,14) / Read the healing story starting at 9:13, continue through to the people’s response 10:39.
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25) / read all of chapter 11 – this is very close to the start of the passion story3 before his crucifixion.
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6) / Jesus is in the middle of his farewell speech at his last dinner with his disciples (Ch 14 – 17). The dinner started with foot washing, Jesus prediction of his betrayal, and the command to ‘love one another’.
- “I am the true vine” (15:1,5) / Read with the previous statement.
|“The message of this gospel is simple. It is about being chosen to become a friend of Jesus. It is about mutual presence and learning from each other. To live as Jesus lived and to love as he loved.”— Jean Vanier|
The Gospel of John names seven signs which Jesus performed to reveal his glory and to point to a deeper spiritual reality of who he claims to be. They show that Jesus had power to create, restore, and make new again what has been broken, lost, or destroyed. These signs point to a power and a kingdom that is greater than the sum of all earthly powers and empires past and present. There were many more signs and these ones were included so that you (the reader) may “come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” and thus “have life in his name” (20.31). Read these signs over seven days and reflect on how each one might bring you to believe in a deeper spiritual reality:
- Jesus changes water into wine at a wedding feast (2:1-12).
- Jesus heals the son of a royal official (4:43-54).
- Jesus heals the paralyzed man (5:1-15).
- Jesus feeds the 5000 (6:1-15).
- Jesus walked on water and calms the storm (6:16-24).
- Jesus heals a man born blind (9:1-12).
- Jesus raised Lazarus (11:1-44).
While tradition claims these seven signs, some would claim (me too) that there is an eighth sign. In the new world creation following his resurrection, Jesus performs one more sign – the miraculous catch of 153 big fish and again Jesus feeds his followers on the beach. What a breakfast that was/ will be.
A Different Gospel
The Gospel according to John is quite different from that of Mark, Matthew and Luke. John’s version follows a different order of events, points the way with signs, and has images that are unique to this Gospel account. Scholars think this Gospel was written around the year 90 CE because it has a much deeper and more developed account of the whole theological understanding of Jesus right back to the beginning of creation. There is no Christmas story here but rather John’s Jesus – the Word – was there at the beginning. Who was the author of this gospel? Tradition says John the apostle, but scholars would say it was a disciple of John who recorded his preaching.
Next Chapter: Genesis – Chapters: 1,2,3 / Creation in Two Stories
- The New Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible – The Gospel According to John – Introduction
- CE – Common Era previously known as AD (Anno Domini) which is Medieval Latin for the year of the Lord.
- ‘Word’ translates from the Greek ‘logos’ meaning the reason or source of order in the universe. At the same time Word is also what is spoken by God to create – a command.
- Passion story – The story of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross.
Written by Pastor Steve Johnston