THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Chapter 1 – Part 2
Continuing with the Creation story, John gives Christ yet another name. He will do this a lot in his Gospel, he gives Him a lot of names. Here he calls Him Light. Specifically, John says Jesus is life and the Light of the world. John is establishing a chain of logic here as he moves through his opening (or prologue as some call it). Logically he is saying, if Jesus is the Creator and God, then He is also the source of all Life, by definition, since God is the Life-giver. Christ being the Creator, He is the life of men. But Christ gives men life, in two ways.
John 1:1-5 (NKJV)
The Eternal Word
1 In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There is the physical but He is also the source of spiritual, eternal life. That’s what John means when he says He is the Light of the world. The life of men. Once again, John is borrowing from the first day of Creation. Christ created light and darkness on that first day of creation. That design is very different from the one that God will use in creating the New Heavens and New Earth which we all will occupy one day in the future. In that new world we are told in Revelation chapter 22 verse 5 there will be only light…there will be no darkness in that future world which begs a big question. el of John
If the new, perfect world will have no darkness, why did God include darkness in His plan for the current world? John is giving us the answer here for why that change happened. He is alluding to the answer when he draws our attention between light and spiritual life. By making that connection. By explaining that light can be a metaphor for spiritual life, for eternal life. God uses light as a metaphor in scripture for a number of related ideas. Of truth, for righteousness, light is righteousness, light is eternal life which comes from righteousness, which we receive in Christ. While dark has exactly the opposite meaning in scripture. It is often used as a picture of sin. The darkness of a man’s heart. Or death, of the place of foreboding and of the abyss. So we gain now an understanding that in our present world, we are experiencing light and darkness in the design of Creation so God has at His ready, metaphors for the sin of this world and the righteousness that comes through Christ. Light (righteousness, eternal life) and darkness (sin, death). So He can draw on these metaphors as He seeks to teach men about the need to go from darkness to light. Of Christ’s impact on a sinful world when He arrived of being a light into the darkness. In other words, these metaphors of the Creation were embedded for our benefit and once we reach the New Heavens and The New Earth where there is no longer any sin or death, there will be no need for the metaphors that were used to explain it. So we will no longer have a need for darkness, we are told. And going beyond that, there will not be any sea, for sea is a metaphor for hell. And we will no longer have any sun, moon, and stars for God says in Creation that those were given to us as signs and omens for things we no longer have to be warned about. Gospel of John
Therefore, John is saying Jesus is the solution to the problem of darkness. He is the light into a dark world, therefore He is the eternal life in contrast to the sin of the world. The question then becomes and John picks this theme up at this point. What will become of the darkness once the light arrives? Will the darkness embrace the light of Christ? John answers in verse 5 that Jesus brought His light into the world, but He was not understood by the darkness. John neatly summarizes Jesus’ entire earthly ministry in that one verse. Jesus is revealing Himself to the world, but the world rejected Him. Note that the first half of the verse is written in the present tense, while the second half is in the past tense. The revelation of God in Christ is forever available, and therefore it shines without end. The revelation was not limited simply to a period of time when Jesus walked on the earth during His first coming. It is an everlasting revelation. From henceforth the world now understands who the Messiah is. In the light of who He is, remains visible both through the spirit living in the church but also of course through the word of God primarily.
The second half of that verse is past tense because it refers to the way the Nation of Israel rejected Jesus at His first coming. They rejected their own Messiah. So the unbelieving hearts of men, in that day did not comprehend the message of the Gospel in Christ. That is another major theme in John’s Gospel: explaining the rejection of Christ. And now in verses, 6-8 John now begins to explain the completeness of that rejection. Gospel of John
John 1:6-8 (NKJV)
John’s Witness: The True Light
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
It might be easy to dismiss the Jews rejection of Christ as a mere misunderstanding or perhaps a case of mistaken identity or whatever else that was happening but John wants to make clear that the rejection was spiritual and supernatural. He begins with this simple observation of the ministry of John the Baptist. John, as we know from scripture was sent by God, which means John was a prophet. In fact, we often say John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. In that sense, his ministry was to call the world to understand the Messiah’s impending arrival. He is a man who has come proclaiming that hearts need to be ready for what is about to happen in the world. That is Christ’s arrival. Notice that John (the Gospel writer) says John the Baptist was a witness, sent to testify concerning the Light. Gospel of John
John’s ministry was essentially there to prepare an audience so when Jesus entered public ministry there was a ready audience waiting for Him. John essentially prepped the audience for Jesus’ arrival. Not merely to expect Him “someday” or in the future but to expect Him imminently. To be literally looking up as if He was going to come across the road right at that moment. As Isaiah said, John the Baptist was preparing a way for Christ by stirring up interest within Israel. Those who believed in the promised Messiah would then followed John into the desert and submitted to the baptism of water as a sign of their repentance and readiness in anticipation. Then when Jesus finally appeared, John had already prepared those disciples as an audience to follow Jesus from that point forward in His public ministry.
As Jesus came to John for His own baptism (John’s Gospel does not cover), John was announcing and Jesus was affirming to John’s disciples that He was the Messiah just as foretold. At that moment, John directed his disciples to begin following the Lord in his place. Notice in verse 8 John clarifies that John the Baptist was not the Messiah, but rather he was the prophet who is called to announced the coming of the Messiah. John has more to say about John the Baptist, but for now, he returns to his theme of Jesus as God and Creator as he paints a contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist.
John 1:9-13 (NKJV)
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
As we seek to understand what John is teaching here, we need to keep in mind that
John wrote knowing that the other three Gospels were available to his readers. And in those Gospels, John the Baptist had been well chronicled. John knew his audience had some understanding of who John the Baptist was. That’s not the problem. In other words, the problem isn’t knowing who John the Baptist was. The concern at this point at the end of the first century was knowing who he was not. There was a lingering question of John’s role and more of his importance. In Jesus’ day, men were questioning John’s identity. Even in John’s day, late in the first century, there were still people who had an unhealthy interest in John the Baptist. In fact, even now today, there is still a sect, which is hostile to Christianity, living in present-day Iraq that claims to be the ancestral followers of John the Baptist. So John is taking a lot of effort at this point in the gospel to distinguish John’s importance from Christ’s importance. Why John the Baptist was not the Light, In fact, he says it right there. There is a true Light that enters the world. It wasn’t John. And that Light came to His own, that being the Jewish people of course. The very people John the Baptist had been attempting to prepare, the Jewish people, are the very same people who in the end rejected Christ when He finally arrived.
The Jewish rejection of Christ is all the more astounding when we consider John’s opening theme here. That of Creation. Jesus is the source of spiritual truth for all men. He is the One Who made the world. Then, in the mystery of the incarnation, He became a part of that very world He Himself made. Nevertheless, the Creator, Who condescended to come into His own creation is then rejected by that same creation. Consider the humility of a God Who would orchestrate circumstances by which He would suffer humiliation at the hands of the very people He spoke into existence and granted life.
The word world (kosmos in Greek) that John will use quite often in his gospel, it is commonly used in a negative sense. Not always, but in this case, it is, like at the end of verse 10, you see this emphasizes where he says the word world as a euphemism for the unbeliever, the unbelieving world, in other words. That world is living in the darkness of its sinful nature, in a fallen state. As a result, their dark hard hearts leave them incapable of understanding the truth, that is, of seeing light in the metaphor that John is using. Imagine a simple scene of a blind man standing outside and bright sunbeams are cascading down on his face. Despite the brightness of the light, that person will remain in darkness for as long as they are blind. Someone has to give them eyes to see before the light is detectable..In the spiritual sense, it is a very similar parallel. The heart has to be open to the truth of the Gospel, for no matter how brightly or loudly it is proclaimed they are not going to detect its truth. Paul taught something very similar in an earlier day.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NKJV)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
This is another theme John is going to use throughout his Gospel repeatedly. The fact that men are by their nature set against Christ because of spiritual blindness. And only those that the Lord draws to Christ will see the light and come to know the truth.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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