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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read John

DAY 5 // TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 

~ JOHN 4:48–50 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 4:43-52 narrates the story of Jesus’ second great “sign” in the book of John. Like His first sign, Jesus performs this miracle in the town of Cana in Galilee. Also like His first sign, Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson through the miracle. 

In this story, Jesus is welcomed by a crowd of Galileans who are eager to see Him perform more miracles. These Galileans had seen His power on display in Jerusalem at the Passover festival (John 2:23, 4:45). We might presume that some of them had even come to believe as a result of His past work (John 2:23-25). But Jesus isn’t certain their belief is directed toward Him so much as it is toward the visible expressions of His power. As Jesus says in John 4:48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders . . . you will never believe”. 

For this misguided crowd, Jesus performs a counterintuitive kind of sign. To a man who begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his sick son, Jesus says, “Go . . . your son will live” (John 4:50). This sign is counterintuitive because it can’t be seen immediately. Signs by their very nature are supposed to be visible, pointing to something beyond themselves. But this sign is invisible. It can only be seen if the man and those in the crowd take Jesus at His word and go to see it. In other words, it challenges them to believe without seeing the miracle, to believe in Jesus because He is trustworthy. 

This is relevant for us today because some people are still waiting for a miracle to believe. What Jesus conveys here is that the signs He performs are not always immediately visible to us. The challenge for us is to have a greater kind of faith and to take Him at His word. If we do, we might discover that He is working miracles behind the scenes in ways we didn’t see at first. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 4:39–5:15 

MANY SAMARITANS BELIEVE 

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” 

JESUS HEALS AN OFFICIAL’S SON 

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee. 

5 THE HEALING AT THE POOL 

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. 

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. 


REFLECTION

1. Like the unseen miracle in John 4:50, God is always at work in our lives. How have you seen God at work in your life, maybe even behind the scenes? What made it possible for you to “see” and acknowledge the things He is doing for you? 

2. In John 5:10, it’s almost shocking to read the reaction of the Pharisees as they disregarded the miraculous healing of this man and instead focused on petty rules! However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we often overlook the people around us in an effort to please ourselves or follow certain patterns or rules in life. What are some ways that you get caught up in structures, rules, or policies and forget the people involved? How can you be more present with the people around you at work, running errands, or at church?

DAY 4 // A SURPRISING CONVERSATION, A MORE EXPANSIVE VIEW OF THE CHURCH

Willow Creek Community Church

 

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 

~ JOHN 4:9 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 4 details a surprising conversation Jesus has while traveling from the region of Judea to Galilee. This conversation is surprising for a few reasons. First, it is between Jesus and a Samaritan in the region of Samaria. At that time in history, Jews and Samaritans despised each other for both religious and political reasons. Because of this mutual animosity, Jews traveling from Judea to Galilee would often go out of their way to bypass Samaria, which was located in between the two regions (see map on page 7). In John 4, Jesus chooses to walk straight through Samaria. In fact, verse 4 says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It may be that Jesus “had to” walk through this region for logistical reasons, but perhaps He was compelled to take this route for divine reasons: Jesus wanted to have this conversation. 

This conversation is also surprising because it is between Jesus and a woman. During that time and place, it was frowned upon for men, especially those of Jesus’ stature, to converse with women. This was perceived as a waste of time and a potential source of trouble. As John 4:27 indicates, even Jesus’ disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” Jesus had little regard for how culture viewed women, and instead invested in this woman because He saw her true value. 

Lastly, this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is surprising because she was an ostracized person, rejected by her own community. Jesus encounters this Samaritan woman when she comes to draw water by herself at noon. Typically, women would draw water with other women at dawn or dusk, not during the heat of the day (Genesis 24:11). This suggests that she was a woman who lived on the margins of society, likely because of past mistakes. But Jesus isn’t derailed by her history or social standing. He speaks with her and even explicitly reveals His messianic identity to her because Jesus wants His community of followers, His church, to include people like her. Jesus’ example here ought to challenge us to have a more expansive view of the church, and to invest in people we might normally neglect. Jesus didn’t come to save just certain people. He came to save the whole world. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 4:1-38

JESUS TALKS WITH A SAMARITAN WOMAN 

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 

17 “I have no husband,” she replied. 

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 

THE DISCIPLES REJOIN JESUS 

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” 


REFLECTION

1. In John 4:34, Jesus speaks symbolically about food, saying that His nourishment comes from doing the will of God. In this passage, Jesus is talking about a spiritual nourishment we receive when we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. When we think about spiritual nourishment, we often think of Bible study, prayer, and attending church. But Jesus reminds us that we are not only nourished by what we take in, but also by what we give out. In what ways are you serving others and expanding God’s kingdom? How are you living out God’s purpose for your life?

2. After the encounter with Jesus, the woman at the well went back to her village and told as many people as she could about her experience. This woman, who was likely an outcast in her community, boldly and courageously spread the gospel. Why do you think she was so eager to tell even those who had ostracized her about Jesus? How have you seen God work through unlikely people or circumstances in your own life?

DAY 3 // FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

~ JOHN 3:16

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

Today’s reading contains one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse has been a favorite of Christians for millennia. One reason why Christians are so drawn to it is because it presents a stunning depiction of God’s love.

This verse teaches us that God’s love is universal. It is given to the entire “world.” This would have been a big deal to the first century Jews reading the book of John. Rabbis, like the one with whom Jesus is speaking in John 3, often emphasized God’s love for Israel. Here, God’s love is portrayed as being without borders.

We also learn that God’s love is unconditional—it is given to people whether or not they reciprocate the love back to Him. In fact, in the book of John, the word translated as “world” oftentimes refers to people who actually hate God (e.g., John 7:7, 14:30, 15:18, 17:14). When God showed His love to the world through Jesus, He did so because of His commitment to us, not because we loved Him first.

Finally, we learn that God’s love is self-sacrificial. The word translated as “gave” in the phrase “gave His one and only Son” is a word that is used in other places in reference to Old Testament sacrifices. This word points to the meaning of Jesus’ death. He was given up like a sacrifice to deal with the problem that our sins presented, even though Jesus had done nothing to deserve that penalty.

This is why the picture of God’s love in John 3:16 is so stunning. We may never choose to love or believe in God, but that didn’t stop Him from showing the greatest expression of love to us. He was willing to do whatever it took, and pay whatever the cost, to offer humanity a relationship with Him. If God could love the whole world that much, He’s worthy of our faith.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 3 

JESUS TEACHES NICODEMUS 

1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 

JOHN TESTIFIES AGAIN ABOUT JESUS 

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” 

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.” 

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. 


REFLECTION

1. In John 3:3, Jesus clears up any confusion for Nicodemus about who will have access to the kingdom of God. He wants Nicodemus to know that following religious rules aren’t the ticket into heaven, but rather, only those who are “born again” can see the kingdom of God. When we think about who will spend eternity with God, it should motivate us to want everyone to be “born again!” It’s our job to spread the good news! Who in your life needs to hear the gospel? What can you do to expose them to God’s unconditional love?

2. Jesus’ testimony was trustworthy because He was an eyewitness from heaven and His words were the very words of God (John 3:31-35). One of the central truths in the book of John is the fact that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the Messiah, and Savior. When we understand who Jesus is, we should be compelled to believe what He said! In your own words, answer this question – “Who is Jesus Christ?”

DAY 2 // THE BEST IN ABUNDANCE

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

~ JOHN 2:10

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 2:1-11 records a story about how Jesus helped a friend overcome a social blunder by turning water into wine at a wedding. This miracle is the first of seven “signs” recorded in the book of John that Jesus uses to reveal His glory (John 2:11). Through this miracle, Jesus shows that He is more than just a normal man, He is the Son of God.

Not only this, a number of interesting details in the story suggest that Jesus had a further message He wanted to teach. First, we are told that the context of this miracle is a wedding and that the result of this miracle is wine. Wine and weddings are familiar images from everyday life, but it’s worth noting that in the Bible, these images are often symbolic of abundance and of the last days (Amos 9:13; Revelation 19:7-9). We are also told that Jesus performed this miracle after having “six stone water jars . . . used for ceremonial washing” filled to the brim (John 2:6-7). The number seven is symbolic of wholeness or perfection in the Bible, and we see this used often in the book of John. The number six here gives the sense that there is something imperfect about these jars. This seems significant because these jars were originally designed to restore people to spiritual wholeness through ceremonial washing with the water they contained.

Finally, it’s worth noting that these jars needed to be filled, which implies that they were depleted. This physical description may symbolize a spiritual reality. These jars lacked the power to bring lasting wholeness to people.

Read together, these details may suggest that this miracle was not only intended to put Jesus’ power on display. This first sign was also intended to show that He has the ability to fill what has been emptied and depleted. Jesus provided superior and overflowing wine when it had run dry, and He conveyed that He could fulfill and complete what was inadequate in religious traditions. Jesus’ point is that we may look to many different sources to meet our deepest needs, but He alone can meet our spiritual needs in a lasting way. He offers what is best for us, and He offers it in abundance.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 1:35–2:25

JOHN’S DISCIPLES FOLLOW JESUS

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

JESUS CALLS PHILIP AND NATHANAEL

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

JESUS CHANGES WATER INTO WINE

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

JESUS CLEARS THE TEMPLE COURTS

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.


REFLECTION

1. John the Baptist’s purpose in ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus, including preparing Jesus’ first disciples. These disciples were excited and eager to learn from Jesus (John 1:37-38). What is it that you hope to learn from Jesus today? How are you positioning your life to hear from Him?

2. In John 2:23-25, Jesus discerned that the faith of some believers was superficial. He knew that it is human nature to go along with the crowd when everyone else is on board too! It’s easy to live out our faith at church or with our Christian friends, but it’s hard to do in places where it isn’t popular to be a Christ-follower. Where do you struggle to live out your faith? What steps might you need to take to live more boldly?

DAY 1 // GOD MADE KNOWN

Willow Creek Community Church

 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

- JOHN 1:18

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

The book of John begins differently than the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Rather than beginning with a genealogy like Matthew, or with a few brief comments from the author like Mark and Luke, the book of John begins with a poetic reflection about Jesus. John tells us who Jesus is and what His purpose was in a style that is as beautiful as the message he’s sharing.

John starts this reflection by identifying Jesus, whom John refers to as “the Word”, as someone who is distinct from God, and at the same time as someone who paradoxically is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

John then goes on to tell us that one of Jesus’ primary purposes as the Son of God is to reveal, in a clear and unmistakable way, what God is like. In fact, this is one reason why John refers to Jesus throughout chapter 1 as “the Word.” Just as we might use our words to clearly share about ourselves with another person, Jesus reveals to us what God is like as the Word of God. Through His life, teachings, and actions, Jesus allowed people to see the unseen God (John 1:8, 1:14; Exodus 33:18-23).

This reveals a lot about God. It tells us that God wants to be known. He wants to have a personal relationship with us, so He sent Jesus to earth to make Himself known to us. This also serves as an invitation for us to read on in the book of John. If we want to know more about what God is like and to personally know God in relationship, there is no better place to start than by exploring how Jesus makes God known to humanity through the stories recorded in the book of John.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 1:1–34

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

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 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

JOHN THE BAPTIST DENIES BEING THE MESSIAH

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


REFLECTION

1. The phrase “the Word” is mentioned repeatedly in the first chapter of John as a way to draw readers to a reference they would understand. While we may find “the Word” slightly confusing today, it was a reference known by Greeks and Jews as the source of God’s message, His standard of holiness, and a principle of reason. What do you think John is trying to say about Jesus in John 1:1? Why do you think this is important to open his gospel?

2. In John 1:12-13, John states that all who welcome Jesus as the Lord of their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God. This is why many Christians describe themselves as being “born again” after deciding to follow Christ. How would you describe the “new life” you receive when you are reborn through Christ? If you are a follower of Jesus, describe your own personal decision to invite Jesus into your life. What prompted you to do it?