(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
25th January 2007
This is the third and last column in the present series on John Chapter 1.
John the evangelist's confession
The first chapter of John's gospel can be divided into three sections. The first section (verses 1 to 18) is perhaps the most well-known, starting as it does with the words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Thus begins John's confession of Jesus Christ (The concise Oxford Dictionary defines "confession" in two ways - one is "a declaration of one's religious beliefs").
John is summarising his beliefs about Jesus Christ. And he starts by saying:
What a powerful way to start his gospel account!
And, in these first 18 verses, John goes on to make several other remarkable statements about Jesus Christ. These include:
Verse 3: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
That is, without Jesus, the universe would never have existed.
Verse 12: ...to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
That is, Jesus offers us, through faith, adoption into God's family.
Verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us...
That is, Jesus came as God incarnate - God in the flesh.
Verse 17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
That is, we can only receive God's favour through faith in Jesus, and we can only understand the universe and its creator through Him.
Verse 18: No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
That is, only Jesus Christ can reveal the nature of God the Father to us.
These are all massive statements, and each could form the basis of our meditations for many days. But this week's column is more of an overview of some of the most remarkable words in this amazing chapter.
John the Baptist's confession
The second section of John chapter 1 is verses 19 to 36. It includes these confessions by John the Baptist:
Verse 29: ...John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
To understand why John called Jesus "the Lamb of God", see Exodus chapter 12. The sacrifice of a lamb during the first Passover, and the shedding of its blood, caused God to pass over the Israelites when He visited death on the Egyptians. In the same way, God passes over us - forgiving our sins, and so not visiting eternal death on all who believe in the atoning blood of Jesus. Jesus is our perfect Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Verse 30: This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
John the Baptist is saying that Jesus (who was born after him) was before him. This is because Jesus is not only eternal in the sense that He will live for ever, but also in the sense that He has already lived for ever - He existed in the beginning (remember verse 1).
Verses 32-33: ...I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’
That is, Jesus was Himself baptised in the Holy Spirit - and the manner of this baptism was a sign of His divinity. And He will give the baptism in the Holy Spirit to as many of His followers as seek it.
Verse 34: I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.
Jesus is the Son of God.
Verse 36: When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
John the Baptist repeats his earlier confession - Jesus is our Passover lamb.
The confessions of the first disciples
In the third section, verses 37 to 51, we read about the calling of the first disciples. Andrew, Philip and Nathanael also make remarkable confessions about Jesus Christ.
Verse 41: The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
The words "Messiah" and "Christ" mean the same thing. "Messiah" is a Hebrew term and "Christ" is its Greek translation (although both have found their way into the English language). Both words mean "anointed one". Jesus is God's uniquely anointed servant. In our culture, we don't often come across the concept of anointing, but it was very important in Hebrew thought - The words "anoint" "anointed" and "anointing" occur a total of 141 times in the NIV. Some Old Testament examples are Isaiah 42:1-4 (quoted in Matthew 12:18-21) Isaiah 61:1-3 (quoted in Luke 4:18-19) and Daniel 9:25-26. The word "Messiah" occurs only twice in the New Testament (both in John chapter 1) but the word "Christ" occurs 530 times. Thus, the concept of anointing occurs explicitly at least 673 times in the Bible. It's an idea worth investigating. For now, let's make do with understanding that a person was anointed for priesthood or for rule (even today, religious leaders and monarchs are anointed in some cultures). So we see that all messianic prophesy, and all the New Testament were about Jesus Christ - the one anointed by God to be our King and our High Priest.
Verse 45: Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
The huge amount of Old Testament prophesy, both in the books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy) and in the books of the prophets - and elsewhere (there is a lot of messianic prophesy in the book of Psalms, for example) explains why Philip described Jesus the way he did. He was saying that the unique One that Israel had waited for, for hundreds of years, was here.
Verse 49: Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
I hope that thinking about these things helps to inspire you in thinking about Our Lord Jesus Christ. The claims He made for Himself are quite remarkable - but will have to wait for another column. But these are claims made about Him by other people. And three of those other people had only just met Him!
I intend to keep on saying this: Jesus Christ is quite unlike any other religious leader. He - and other people - are recorded in the Bible as describing Him in a totally unique way. We have a decision to make - either the Bible is absolute rubbish, a pack of lies in fact, or Jesus is uniquely God come in the flesh, to die for out sins, to bring us grace and truth. There's no half-way house available to us.
Interestingly, although Simon Peter was there with in those early days, we have to wait for some time to hear his confession:/p>
Maybe Peter made his confession a bit late - but he made it - and he went on to be a great apostle. Maybe you've been around God's people for a while but have never made your confession - you've just relied on other people's faith. It's not too late for you to confess Jesus as your Lord, and to make a difference in this world through His Holy Spirit.
Who do you say that He is?