3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 1

Contents

Chapter 1: Prologue, and John the Baptist introduces Jesus

NGC_3810_(captured_by_the_Hubble_Space_Telescope)This is part 1 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

John’s Gospel quite deliberately adopts some literary features of the Book of Genesis. The first few verses are more than a hint. But more than just the content, it has parallels in structure. The earliest chapters of Genesis introduce and develop key themes that will define the whole of the Book of Genesis, and arguably the rest of the Bible. The Gospel of John has a similar effect in that verses 1-18 form an introductory segment, and the themes introduced early are developed throughout the work. The important features that we will be tracking is John’s use of the three concepts of “seeing” and “hearing”, and how they relate to “believing”.

Reviewing the Text – Chapter 1

Prologue

There are things to be seen, but it is only those who believe that are able to properly see and understand them.

The world is in “darkness” (1:5). “Life”, which is “the light of all people”, is in Christ (1:4). For this reason, as we will see through John’s Gospel, only those who are in Christ, and therefore “alive”, are able “to see”. While the world “did not recognise him” (1:10), those who believe are born again (1:12-13), and then “we”, only the believing community, “have seen his glory” (1:14).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

– John 1:1-18

Verse 18 contains one very clear sentence, “No one has ever seen God.” It also contains another sentence which is famously difficult to translate, but which is intended, however you translate it, to point us to Christ as the one who makes God known. Our eyes are notoriously inappropriate for beholding God (Isaiah 6:5), until the Last Day (Job 19:25-27).

John the Baptist

At Jesus’ first appearance in the narrative, John “saw” him, (1:29). John, of course, is a prophet. As a believer, he is able to see truly. He pointed out to the Jews that they were unable to see, “Among you stands one whom you do not know” (1:26). There are things to be seen, but it is only those who believe that are able to properly see and understand them. For example:

And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I myself have seen…” – John 1:32-34

Disciples

Now watch how things work with those who do not yet believe:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ – John 1:35-36

Our eyes are notoriously inappropriate for beholding God

Did his disciples look at Jesus and believe? No, not at all! In a seemingly odd expression, it was actually in response to hearing John’s exclamation that they followed Jesus, even though John was obviously pointing out who Jesus was in a visual indication.

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. – John 1:37

This fact is repeated for emphasis in verse 40:

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew… – John 1:40

Seeing and Hearing contrasted

Meanwhile, Jesus asked the disciples, “What are you looking for?”, and they replied “where are you staying?” (1:38). So he said, “Come and see” (1:39). I have heard this expression “come and see” used as a wonderful invitation by Jesus to come and learn the things of God, but I actually think it is included as an irony, because all they ended up seeing was “where he was staying” (1:39)! When Philip said the same thing to Nathanael in 1:46, “Come and see”, Nathanael does not “see” anything. Instead he hears what Jesus says and replies, “You are the Son of God” (1:49).

Nathanael does not “see” anything. Instead he hears what Jesus says and replies, “You are the Son of God”

All the way through this sequence, however, it is Jesus who is authoritatively “seeing”. Simon was brought, “to Jesus who looked at him and said…” (1:42). To Nathanael’s question, “How do you know me?”, Jesus replied, “I saw you…” (1:48). The chapter closes with Jesus affirming that Nathanael believed, “because I told you that I saw you…” (1:50), but went on to say, “you will see greater things … you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (1:50-51). In other words, now that you have heard, and therefore believed, you will finally see the truth clearly.


Questions to ponder in Chapter 1

What significance can you find in John’s use of the terms “light” and “dark”?
Why is it important to believe what we “hear”, rather than “see”?
What relationship is there between the ideas of “light” and “seeing”?

Other posts in this series:

Gospel of John

Posted on May 24th, 2012 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

The Gospel of John: Many people's favourite book, but scholars neglected it for centuries! Historicity Differences between John and the Synoptic…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 1

Posted on May 3rd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 1: Prologue, and John the Baptist introduces Jesus This is part 1 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 2

Posted on May 10th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 2: Signs This is part 2 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 3

Posted on May 16th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 3: Nicodemus, and darkness This is part 3 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 4

Posted on May 23rd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 4: The Samaritan Woman, the Harvest, and the Return to Galilee This is part 4 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 5

Posted on May 30th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 5: Sabbath, and the Son of God This is part 5 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 6

Posted on Jun 6th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 6: Feeding the 5000, Bread from Heaven, Words of Life This is part 6 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 7

Posted on Jun 13th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 7: The Festival, The Living Water This is part 7 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 8

Posted on Jun 20th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 8: The Adulteress, Light of the World, and Abraham's Sons This is part 8 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 9

Posted on Jun 27th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

 Chapter 9: To see This is part 9 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 10

Posted on Jul 4th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 10: The Voice of the Shepherd This is part 10 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 11

Posted on Jul 13th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 11: The Resurrection and the Life This is part 11 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 12

Posted on Jul 18th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 12: This is part 12 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 13

Posted on Jul 25th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 13 This is part 13 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 14

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 14 This is part 14 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 15

Posted on Sep 5th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 15 This is part 15 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 16

Posted on Sep 19th, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 16 This is part 16 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 17

Posted on Oct 3rd, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 16 This is part 17 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 18

Posted on Oct 31st, 2014 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 18 This is part 18 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 19

Posted on Jan 2nd, 2015 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 19 This is part 19 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading

3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 20

Posted on Jan 11th, 2015 - By Kevin Bennett - 0 Comments

Chapter 20 This is part 20 of a 21-part series which traces "seeing" and "hearing", and looks at how they relate to "believing", through the Gospel…

Continue Reading


facebook comments:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *