Skip to main content

Portraits of Christ: John's gospel


John’s Gospel opens with a fascinating prose prologue in chapter 1 that essentially summarizes the themes of the entire book. It introduces Jesus in a manner that emphasizes his deity, then John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, and finally, the spiritual essence of Jesus’ public ministry and outreach, and his ultimate rejection.

John begins with the language of creation, showing that Jesus was always with the Father, was involved in creation, and was thus eternal. John describes him as the Word (logos in Greek), which conveys multiple meanings. For Jewish people, it meant the Scriptures, meaning that Jesus himself is the ultimate revelation of God to us, because he himself is God, more so that the written word of God (the Old Testament, at this time). It also reminds Jewish readers of how God spoke the world into existence in Genesis 1, as well as divine wisdom personified in the wisdom literature such as Proverbs (the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 1-10). For Greeks, logos meant the rational order and principles of the universe, and the meaning of the universe and everything - “life, the universe, and everything” in the words of a popular sci-fi novel.

In John 1:10 states that, depending on your Bible translation, that the world did not recognize him, or did not overcome him. Actually, both are sensible, possible translations of the Greek, and I think that John is making a deliberate word play here to say that the world did not recognize him as their creator, and in their ignorance and hard-heartedness, they tried and failed to vanquish him. But they could not vanquish the holy one of God. Jesus is the victor in the resurrection over sin and death, and John’s book of Revelation will continue this theme of Christ as victor.

Presenting Jesus deliberately as eternal God, and as light in contrast to the world’s darkness, in this chapter, emphasizes Jesus not only as God, but as the mysterious God who is to be feared and revered. That is, fear in the Old Testament sense, not in the sense of human psychological fear. For lack of a better word, ‘fear’ is used to convey a profound sense of awe and wonder about God, because he is so beyond our human understanding. This theme is particularly developed in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. John applies this to Jesus, because John, after years with Jesus in person, is in awe and wonder of who Jesus is. This God is beyond our understanding and knowledge. We can only know him because he came and revealed himself to us, most importantly, when he came as the God-man of Jesus Christ.

John wants to convey to us this sense of profound awe and reverence as we think about God in general, and as we think about who Jesus is and what he has done. He is not to be taken lightly. He is not just an intellectual curiosity, or an important religious figure. He is the profound and mysterious God. We are not to take him for granted. We are not to take our relationship with him lightly. He is the holy God, and Jesus has done so much for him. We are to respond to him in love, in awe and reverence, and in profound heart-felt worship.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives.
Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates clo…

Book review: Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

Green eggs and ham, as a recolorized staple breakfast food, captures the reader's attention by turning this diurnal sustenance into an unexpected and apparently unappetizing foodstuff. It thus symbolizes the existential angst of modern life, wherein we are unfulfilled by modern life, and are repelled by something that might impart nourishment. The "protagonist" to be convinced of its desirability remains anonymous, while the other actor refers to himself with an emphatic identifier "Sam I am", formed with a pronominal subject and copular verb of existence. This character thus seeks to emphasize his existence and existential wholeness, and even establish a sense of self-existence, with an apparent Old Testament allusion to Elohim speaking to Moses as the "I Am". This emphatic personal identifier thus introduces a prominent theme of religious existentialism to the narrative, probably more in line with original Kierkegaardian religious existentialism, ra…

Portraits of Christ: John’s Gospel, part 2

In John’s Gospel we have an emphasis on Jesus that is unique compared to the other gospels. John not only emphasizes his deity, but his mysteriousness. The reader is left with an impression of Jesus as a mystical teacher, in the sense that his words and actions are not only those of a profound religious teacher, but of one who is other-worldly. So often in this gospel we read of Jesus making statements that the crowds, the religious teachers, and even his own disciples sometimes could not fathom.

For starters, there are the “I am” statements (e.g., I am the bread of life; I am the living water; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth, and the life), which were clearly claims to divinity, for these statements in the Jewish context referred to God’s title “I am,” given when Moses inquired of his name at the burning bush. Jesus makes much use of mystical metaphors like these and others, like all the ‘day’ and ‘night’ references in this book, which portrays him as mystical or mys…