The Bible begins at the beginning of everything. Genesis opens with words that are very commonly known. I’m fairly certain that they might be so well known that most anyone could tell you it starts, “In the beginning.” This phrase lets us know where the story of God begins. It is not in some period that exists after a previous period. It is the beginning. Nothing before it. Everything that has ever happened is after. In this opening chapter of the Gospel of John, we find the same phrase. Where Genesis shows that God created, the beginning of the Gospel of John shows us that Jesus was at the beginning, participating with God in the act of creation.
But my Bible says the “Word” was with God, not Jesus! The Greek word λόγος (or logos) is often translated as “word.” While this word can certainly be talking about speech or language, there is still an important philosophical idea we must understand. At the time, there was a popular Grecian philosophy of the logos. This philosophy understood the logos to be reason and often hypothesized that there must be some divine logos that mirrors our own and controls the universe. Jews often took this term to refer to God, since they understood Him to be the reason behind everything. So when John uses the word logos here, he is making a call to both of these philosophies. On the one hand, he wants his Greek readers to immediately understand that he is referring to the means and reason for the entire universe, while at the same time telling his Jewish readers he is talking about God. He then brings it to earth by stating, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NASB).
“A voice cries:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
— Isaiah 40:3, ESV
John the Baptist was an incredibly popular person at the time of Jesus. “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem;” (Mark 1:5, NASB). He had gained so much popularity that the religious leaders were sending people to ask him questions. The people were waiting for the Messiah and expected him to come soon and overthrow their oppressors. So with the popularity of John the Baptists, they were naturally inclined to go and speak with him. Yet, when they arrived they must have been somewhat saddened. They asked if he was Christ, and he denied it. They asked if he was Elijah (a major prophet in the time of the Kings) and he denied them. They asked if he was a prophet, to which he simply replied, “No” (John 1:21, NASB). Then they asked him once again and he responded with Isaiah 40:3. Clearly, these people believed the Messiah had arrived and he was John the Baptist. However the next day, he did what all good prophets do; he pointed them all to Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NASB).
“And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?”
— John 1:38, NASB
These previous sections where all set to introduce the man of Jesus. The story found in the Gospel of John now has a main character. It started with The cosmic powers before, then moved to a man pointing to Jesus, and now is centered on the focus of the Gospel. This chapter concludes with Jesus gathering disciples. In the other Gospels, we find Jesus going up to people and inviting them to follow him. However, John’s Gospel takes a different approach; people either pointed to him or brought to him. First, Andrew and one of John the Baptist’s disciples were pointed towards Jesus by John. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. They found Philip, who then brought Nathanael to Jesus.
“Let this be thy whole Endeavor, this thy prayer, they thy desire, that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.”
— Thomas á Kempis
So what does this mean for us? What does this opening chapter of John reveal to God’s people today? As I read it, I cannot help but look at the many witnesses and testimonies that John uses to open his Gospel. First, he tells us that since Jesus (the logos) was active in Creation, all of Creation speaks to who Jesus is. Second, we find a major figure in the religious landscape of the time pointing towards Jesus as the expected Messiah. Finally, we see Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael all come to know who Jesus is through the witnessing of others. I think that we get too comfortable to not share Jesus with people. We want to think that if only we got unbelievers to Church, or get them to read the Bible, or having them hear a podcast, read a blog, or watch a video, someone else will show them Christ. While this can certainly be true, what is wrong with you bringing them to him? John’s Gospel shows us that all we have to do is tell people what we have found; which is not a hip preacher, an awesome band, or the best writer in the world. What we have found is salvation from the punishment of our sins and reconciliation with God! If you have found that, do not push the job of sharing to someone else. You have the God-given power to do it yourself. No one person can reach everyone, but you can certainly reach everyone you know.
Reach out to someone that does not know Christ. Sit down and have a conversation with them. Tell them about what Christ has done for them and show them that there is a better life waiting for them with God. I know it is hard, but that is your human desires getting in your way. The final words of Christ to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew are to take the good news of Christ to all the world, making new disciples.
Next Thursday we will continue our study of the Gospel of John with chapter 2!