Welcome to the Gospel of John. The Gospels all give us a clearer picture of Jesus, and we are called as Christians to imitate Christ. As you read through this commentary please take the time to really look at Jesus’ actions. Look at His words, His love, His actions and imitate them in your own life as best you can. Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you do this. Now, let’s begin.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
Before all creation the Word was there. Who is the Word? John is referring to Jesus, the central figure of the Gospel. Before anything came into being Jesus already existed with the Father, and was already God. Jesus did not have to become God, nor did His actions on earth make Him God, but instead He has always been God. Not only that, but everything that was created was made through Him. Throughout the first chapter of Genesis we are told that everything came into existence when God said it. Jesus is the word, and that word spoken by God created everything. On top of that Jesus has life in Himself, and gives that life to people. The life of Christ is the light in the darkness, and no matter how hard the darkness tries it cannot extinguish the light. This light came to the very world He created. John the Baptist was sent as a witness to the world of Jesus coming. Finally, Jesus came, but His own creation did not recognize who He was. He came to Israel, His chosen people, and they did not recognize Him either. But, anyone who believed in Him were now children of God, born not by nature, but of God. This is a powerful statement of who Jesus is and why He came to us.
14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
Again we are told the Word, Jesus Christ, became flesh. Even in His flesh, Jesus still revealed God’s glory. We are also told that He was full of both truth and grace. This important. Many people can be filled with truth, but have no grace, this is the essence of legalism. Others can be full of grace with no truth, which often becomes heresy. Jesus balanced both, unwilling to compromise on truth, and yet full of grace when speaking it. Moses brought the law, which was legalistic and impossible to keep, but Jesus brings grace and truth. No one has seen God the Father, but Jesus has revealed God to us all, if we believe.
19 This was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He didn’t deny it but confessed: “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “What then?” they asked him. “Are you Elijah?” “I am not,” he said. “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. 22 “Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord—just as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him. 27 He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” 28 All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
It is important to know that Jews believed that Elijah would come back to announce the Messiah. In Malachi 4:5-6 we are told that Elijah will return, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 17:10-13 that John the Baptist was Elijah. John references himself only in the terms Isaiah used, a voice crying in the desert to prepare the way for the Lord. John’s purpose and god given mission was to herald Jesus and to prepare the people, which he did with water baptisms.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ 31 I didn’t know him, but I came baptizing with water so he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. 33 I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on—he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
Now Jesus comes on to the scene and John immediately recognizes Him. Several of us might be wondering why he calls Jesus the lamb that takes away our sin. Well, we need to think about the book of Leviticus. See, before Jesus came the Jews had to sacrifice a lamb each year on Passover, and through this their lives were ransomed from death. It was a symbol of things to come. That symbol was of Jesus. He would come to take our sin and to ransom us, returning us to God. So Jesus is often called the lamb. John baptizes Jesus and witnesses that He truly is the messiah. This is where the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and His ministry begins.
35 The next day, John was standing with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and noticed them following him, he asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come and you’ll see,” he replied. So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed him. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated “the Christ”), 42 and he brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, he said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated “Peter”). 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. He found Philip and told him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. “Come and see,” Philip answered. 47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered. 49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “Truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Finally, we get an account of Jesus picking His first disciples. John the Baptist again points out Jesus, this time to his disciples. Hearing John say this they decide to go and follow Jesus. They come to Him and Jesus invites them to come with Him. Then they go out and find several more, each time Jesus calls out to them to follow Him. Finally, we come to Nathanael. He is initially skeptical, but Jesus merely tells Him about where Philip found him, and he believes. Jesus tells him that he will see many more things in the days to come.
So What Do I Do With This Now?
All the information is great, but what do I do with it now?
1 Jesus is the light, and as we dwell with Him He exposes our darkness, our sin. It is a painful process, but a necessary one. We hate the light because it exposes who we are, but we must strive to stay in His light as He seeks to make us more like Him.
2 The law was fulfilled by Jesus and He brought truth and grace. We must accept His grace, believing that He truly has and will continually forgive us as we remain in Him. You will never sin too much for Him to forgive, but we must seek Him and each time we fall we must turn away from that sin and to Jesus. At the same time remember that we are to love Jesus and if we love Him we will do what He desires us to (See all of 1 John).
3 Like John we must testify about Jesus, what He has done for us and what He will do for others. We are called to witness this to the whole world.
There we have it, the end of the first chapter. John is a big book, so I will try to connect the passages for you, but just keep in mind what we have talked about as it will come into play later. I hope you enjoyed this, but more importantly I hope it helps you to mature in Christ and that it will push you to truly pursue Jesus.