The Bible in a Year, Weak 4: John

This is the fourth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of John. It should only take about 10 minutes a day, or about 3 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read John.

Background: From what we know, it seems as though John was the one disciple of Jesus who died of natural causes. He also seems to have lived the longest as he entered the glories of heaven around 100 A.D. Historical information also indicates that John was likely the bishop, or leader, of the church in Ephesus. We don’t know for sure about the timing, but the general consensus is that John wrote his gospel later on in life, perhaps between 85 and 90 A.D.

John is very clear with his message in this gospel. He shows the two true natures of Christ–his true humanity and his true divinity. From the very first verse John especially points to Jesus as true God, something that may have been under question already in this first century. A theme or purpose for the gospel could be taken from 20:31: John wrote these words so that we might believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin!

John 1: As John makes clear through his gospel that Jesus Christ is truly God, the first verse takes center stage and sets the tone for what he is about to write. In verse one he gives Jesus the name “the Word.”  What an appropriate name for Jesus!

God reveals himself in his Word.  The Bible tells us who God is.  It tells us what God is like.  It tells us what God has done.  And so does Christ!  If you want to know who God is, what God is like, and what God has done—look at Jesus.  Jesus reveals the divinity of his Father, the power of his Father, the love and mercy of his Father.  Jesus is the Word that reveals our God to us.

As Jesus is given this special name, John also explains that Jesus was always with God.  He was with God in the beginning.  He made all things.  If that is not clear enough, he makes it plain and clear in verse 1:  “the Word was God.”

There are some, Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular, who deny that Jesus is God, and even try to use verse 1 as a proof passage for that false teaching.  They change verse 1 in their New World Translation to say that “the Word was a god.” They mean that Jesus is god-like, but not truly God. They even try to use the original Greek language to prove it, saying that there was no definite article (the) in the Greek. While that may be true, it is not at all uncommon for God’s name to be used without the definite article, or for the “the” of “the Word” to carry over to “God” after the linking verb “was.” Further, and more importantly, the whole rest of the Bible makes so very clear that Jesus is truly God. Even this same gospel of John testifies over and over again that Jesus is fully divine and not just “god-like.” What a terribly abominable false teaching to say otherwise!

As true man and true God, Jesus had one specific purpose for coming to this world–to be our Savior. John the Baptist fulfilled his specific purpose by preparing the way for Jesus and pointing to him. As he says in chapter one, Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Thanks be to God that we have this record through John the Apostle of our God-Man and Savior, Jesus Christ!

John 2-4: After Jesus called his first disciples, he burst onto the scene with all kinds of miracles. The point and purpose of the miracles was to prove and show his divinity. It began with his first miracle, recorded only here in John, when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

John 3 is an important chapter because it records the famous conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus teaches Nicodemus here about being born again–not actual physical birth, but being “born of water and the Spirit” (v. 5). Some might say this means a person needs to be born in this world (of water) and then born again with faith (of Spirit). That is a possible interpretation. More likely though is that Jesus was speaking of the water of baptism, through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith.

Later in this conversation Jesus speaks to Nicodemus the famous words of John 3:16. All praise and glory belong to our God who sent his Son to save the world, that all who believe in him might have eternal life!

Jesus proves that he did in fact come for the whole world as he traveled through Samaria. There he met a Samaritan woman at a well. He taught her an object lesson with that well water that he is the true Savior who offers the water of life. She, a sinner like all in the world, desperately needed Jesus and his living water. Jesus shows great love and compassion for her and these hated foreign enemies of the Jews as he took the time to share with them the good news of salvation.

John 5-8: In these chapters we see many, many miracles performed by the Savior. Over and over again he displays his divinity to prove that he is who he claimed to be–the Son of God and the Savior. The Pharisees became very upset with Jesus because of this. He was a threat to their power and control in Israel. He was a threat to their manmade laws that they concocted. So they accosted Jesus when he healed on the Sabbath. They just didn’t get it! Jesus was preaching and teaching about salvation. He was pointing people to himself and to heaven. Those silly manmade laws were not what God had in mind when he created the Sabbath Day! Rather, Jesus knew exactly what the Sabbath Day was for–getting spiritual rest by focusing on the Word of God and salvation through the Messiah.

Jesus reveals in chapter six that the sinful hearts of the people were rejecting his message. They didn’t care too much about Jesus as their Savior. They wanted Jesus as their earthly king. They wanted him to give them worldly wealth and happiness. They wanted him to put food on their table, just like he did when he fed more than 5,000 people at once.

Thus, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them with an object lesson. He speaks the first of seven I AM statements in this gospel of John. Here Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus teaches that those who want eternal life are to take him in through faith. In these verses Jesus talks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He is not talking about the Lord’s Supper though. This is a different context and different teaching. Jesus is talking about believing in him and consuming him through faith. Indeed, this Bread of Life will never leave us spiritually hungry!

This was confusing to many, and thus many deserted Jesus with calloused hearts of sin. That confusion continued as recorded in chapter seven. Many weren’t sure what to make of Jesus. Was he the promised Messiah (Christ)? Was he just a prophet? Was he some sort of magic man? Was he going to deliver Israel from Roman oppression? God grant us the continued faith and understanding that Jesus is in fact our Savior from sin and the promised Messiah!

There is a note in many Bibles that John 7:53-8:11 is not in many ancient manuscripts. At the same time, there are other manuscripts that do contain this section. It really doesn’t matter all that much as A) we can be confident that God’s Word is still inspired and holy, and B) there is no doctrinal content in this section.

In 8:12 we hear the second I AM statement in John. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Indeed, in a world of sinful darkness, Jesus shines with the brightness of perfection and holiness. The glory of his victory over sin and death also shines brightly with the accomplishment of our salvation. May he continue to shine in us and through us with his light of love and mercy!

One of the key moments of the confusion and questions encircling Jesus is at the end of chapter 8. The Jews were grilling Jesus about his claims. Jesus countered with some fiery preaching, calling many of the Jews children of the devil. Jesus true disciples “hold to my teaching” (8:31). Clearly the Jews were not doing that. So then Jesus made one more bold claim: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This enraged the Jews so much that they were ready to kill Jesus right then and there. They knew exactly what Jesus meant. Jesus was claiming to be God, the God who was around long before Abraham and the God who told Moses that his name was I AM. Bold claims by Jesus–but claims that are absolute truth!

John 9-12: In chapter 9, Jesus healed a man born blind. This miracle turned out to be a big event and “to do” for the Pharisees. They interrogated the man about what had happened. But once more, Jesus took advantage of an opportunity to teach about who he really is. He taught the man who was healed that he is the Son of Man–the one who is both God and man and is the Savior of the world.

Jesus continued in chapter 10 with his third I AM statement, “I am the door.” Indeed, Jesus is the only way by which we may enter heaven. Through his forgiveness alone do we sinners enter the narrow gate to eternal life.

Jesus continued with the fourth I AM statement, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What a comfort that Jesus loves and cares and provides for us as a shepherd would for his sheep. Though we often stray with our sinfulness, Jesus the Good Shepherd laid down his life as the Lamb of God to save us, his dear sheep!

Chapter 11 is a powerful chapter! Jesus jumps off the pages of Scripture as our true Savior. We see that Jesus is true man as he had care and compassion for Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus who had died. Jesus shows his humanity also when he wept over his friend. (Interesting note: “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible.) Yet Jesus also shows his true divinity as he raises Lazarus from the dead.

Here Jesus speaks his fifth I AM statement, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What a comfort to know that we who believe in Jesus and his saving work will never die! Surely we may die physically, but we will never die spiritually! Because Jesus defeated sin and death and rose to life, so we too will rise to life in heaven.

Later, Jesus returned to Bethany on his final journey to Jerusalem. There Mary showed her love and thanks to Jesus as she poured expensive perfume on his feet and wiped his feet with her hair. Though an expensive gift, Mary was showing just what thankful hearts do–give their very best to Jesus. At the same time, Jesus pointed out that Mary was preparing Jesus for his burial with this anointing.

The next day, Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time. This day is called Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of Holy Week, the week in which Jesus would give his life as the payment for sin. Even as the people shouted, “Hosanna!” (which means “Save Us!”) to Jesus, so on Good Friday he would in fact save all people from their sins.

John 13-17: In these chapters we have a very detailed account of what took place on Maundy Thursday in the upper room with the disciples and on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. John gives us more information about this night than the other three gospel writers.

Jesus’ disciples did not fully understand yet why he had come to this world. They show this clearly on Maundy Thursday. Peter reprimanded Jesus for washing their feet. Those disciples didn’t realize that Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve us in love with his life and death. They tried to dissuade Jesus from talking about his death, boasting that they would even die for Jesus. Again, they didn’t understand that this was why Jesus came in the first place. Jesus had to die to pay for all sins!

Thus, Jesus used every minute of that Maundy Thursday evening to teach his disciples. He taught about his purpose and mission. He taught about his coming death. He taught with his sixth I AM statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus was communicating over and over again that he is the only way to heaven. There is no salvation apart from Jesus. He taught this also with the seventh and final I AM statement, “I am the vine.”

As Jesus encouraged his disciples on that evening, so his words also encourage us today. We ought not let our hearts be troubled. Jesus died to forgive our sins. He has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us. We may be hated and persecuted by the world, but the Triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–will always be with us to protect and provide.

John 18-20: In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was finally arrested. The wicked plan of the Pharisees was set in motion. Through this arrest, the false trials, and a raucous mob pleading with Pontius Pilate, they would finally have their enemy executed. But though this was their evil plan, it was really God’s plan and divine will that this should happen all along. This was the reason that Jesus came. He came to suffer and die. He came to carry sins and guilt. He came to pay for our wrongs with this his passion.

So Jesus went silently like a lamb to the slaughter. He testified to the truth to Annas and Caiphas. He testified to the truth to Pilate. But then he silently and willingly went to his death on the cross where he would bear and pay for all sins of all time. What great joy three English words bring us in 19:30! Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” With that, our salvation had been accomplished and all sins washed away!

Yet if the story ended there, many questions would still be raised. Did it work? Are we saved? Will we live forever in heaven? Thank God the story continues! John, like the other apostles, records Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And so Jesus appeared to many, many people over the next 40 days to prove that he was alive and to prove that he had defeated sin and death. Because Jesus now lives, we also will live! So now, as Jesus told his disciples, we have peace!

God grant that we read the words of John, as also the other words of Scripture, with hearts that believe these words which were in fact written, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Next Week’s Readings (starting 1/30/11):  Acts (note this is posted a week late!)

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

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Posted on February 2, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “New World Translation” Bible and its rendering of John 1:1, it may interest you to know that there is soon to be published a 19+ year study (as of 1/2011), a thoroughly researched reference work (an historical analysis & exhaustive annotated bibliography) in support and explanation of their wording of this verse (especially within the third clause with “a god”), as it will be entitled, “What About John 1:1?”

    When finally published, apart from discussing many other topics and scriptures related to the Trinity, you will discover that there are some 400+ scholarly reference works (including those by Trinitarians) which have opted to say something other than, “and the Word was God,” and that, among these are included over 100 which had chosen to use “a god” (as by a number Trinitarians as well) within the third clause of their renderings.

    As you might expect, we are very excited at the opportunity to share our findings with others.

    Agape, JohnOneOne.

    • Even with an exhaustive study showing the plausibility of translating “a god” or “godlike” in john 1:1, from a contextual and biblical standpoint it is more than 100% implausible!

      A) The things that John is describing about Jesus in John 1 can only be attributed to God alone (creating, being at the beginning, saving, owning the world)

      B) The entire gospel of John is a clear testimony to Jesus’ divinity (miracle after miracle which only God can do, “finishing” salvation, rising from the dead, calling himself I AM)

      C) The rest of Scriptures also clearly testify that Jesus is truly God–from the Father calling the Son Lord (Or Jehovah!) in Hebrews 1 to Colossians 2 to Philippians 2 to all of Revelation and so much more. Jesus is truly God

      D) As briefly mentioned in C, Jesus is even called Jehovah in the original Greek many times in the New Testament!

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