The gospel of John is such an incredible book of the Bible. It is unique and distinctive in some powerful ways. Some of them are purely interesting. For example, John is the latest gospel to be written. In style, the gospel of John is also very simple, yet profound.
Other things that you might notice about the gospel of John impact us as John gives us so much Jesus in every word that his pen puts to paper. Only reading through the first chapter of John, you might notice what John is doing in this gospel.
- John wants us to think. His words are simple. His sentences are short. But they are profound. John seems to be writing for a largely Christian audience who knows the basics about the life and history of Jesus. Yet, he wants them to know more. He wants them to think. So, he writes in such a way so that his readers are forced to read and reread these statements of John. They are almost proverbial in nature. There are sentences that make us pause to think – what exactly does John mean!?! We want to seek out the depths of John’s simple words.
- Throughout his gospel, John wants to make it very clear that Jesus is divine, that he is clearly and truly God. This is an essential truth not only to John’s gospel, but also to the Gospel of Jesus. We must see, know and believe that he is God or else we have no salvation. John was writing at a time when the deity of Jesus was in question. He wanted to make it repeatedly clear that Jesus, the Son of Man, truly was the Son of God. Throughout this gospel you will see the divinity of Jesus on full display.
- There are many other things to notice, but let me share this one more. John is not in a hurry to move from one incident or occasion to the next. He wants to slow down on a couple of unique moments in Jesus’ life, especially when Jesus is the one teaching the crowds, his disciples, and even his enemies about who he is. This is the most clear in the family “I am” statements of Jesus. In this extended discourses, Jesus makes clear and definitive statements about who he is.
This is John’s purpose. He wants us to know Jesus. And he helps us know Jesus by setting up some powerful themes in the opening chapter. These themes will show up throughout this Gospel of his.
- In chapter one, he introduces the themes of light and dark. Consider, for instance, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Read through the gospel of John and you’ll quickly notice how LIGHT shows up again and again. He is bringing light to this world. He will expose sin for what it is. He will expose and he will obliterate it. He will bring sight to the blind and light to those living in darkness so that we can see him as he really is.
- Closely connected to the theme of light is the theme of life and death. Where there is light there is also life. Put plants into a dark room, and they will shrivel up and die. Take light away from human beings and we lack some vital nutrients that we need for a happy and healthy life. Where there is light there is also life. You see, Jesus came to bring life, eternal life (cf. John 3:16), even life to the full (cf. John 10:10), to all people who believe in him.
- Jesus came to bring light where there was darkness and life where there was death. But that doesn’t mean that there was no opposition. Quite to the contrary, the darkness fought back against the light and death tried with all its might to overcome life. But Jesus would not be overcome by any of his adversaries. In fact, with clear teaching and light from God’s Word Jesus exposed them for who they were. He took them on even as he tried to pierce the darkness of their hearts with his light.
- Most of all, Jesus wants to make himself known to us and to the world. He is the revelation of God to the world. Yes, if you want to know who God is and what God is like, then you really need to get to know Jesus. Then you really need to get to know Jesus. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18).
He makes God known as the God of grace and truth. He longs to pour out grace and mercy on his children. He has given us an adoption into his family, purely out of grace and mercy. When Jesus came into this world, he came not to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
And at the very same time, he speaks the truth. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He speaks the truth about sin. He speaks the truth about God’s Word. He speaks the truth about sin. He calls it like it is. He is the God of grace and mercy, who loves his people and wants to win them for himself.
All of these things and more you find in John chapter 1. It is a rich chapter full of the greatness of our God who loves us more than the life of his Son, full of the greatness of our Savior who is fully God in the flesh. It is a rich chapter full of the grace of our Savior who came on a mission to take our sins on himself as though they were his very own.
But it is rich for us in this way also, that our God invites people, even sinners, like John and Andrew, Peter and Philip, even Nathanael, to join him on this mission. It is rich for us is in this, that our God has given us the right to be called children of God. It isn’t that we made this decision to follow him. It isn’t that we were born into this. It was that God gave us birth into his family. We’re his children. And as highly as John teaches us to view Jesus in this chapter, just so highly does our God view us! Jesus looked at Nathanael and, by faith, called him one without guile or deceit. Even so, Jesus looks at us and, by faith, calls us ones without guile or deceit. He exalts us to sonship and invites us to join him in his mission of saving people.
Yes, this gospel of John and even the first chapter alone is incredible. It is incredible because of the way that it is written. But it is more incredible because of the message that it proclaims and the light that it brings.