John 3

Jesus and Nicodemus

This is a crucial chapter in John’s Gospel. Nicodemus is a teacher of Israel, a Pharisee, and a member of the ruling council - Those three things might make us expect that he is an opponent of Jesus- and this meeting seems to end without Nicodemus accepting Jesus claims.  We will find out, at the end of the Gospel, that Nicodemus has become a believer, when he helps Joseph of Arimathea to claim and bury the body of Jesus.

Born Again This is a crucial term in the Bible: that in Christ we are made new, and get a completely new start in life. In some sense, disciples of Jesus are alive in a way that no one else can me. All people are alive biologically, but disciples come alive spiritually- alive to God. It is analogous to the difference between plant life and animal life, animal life and human life. Nicodemus is almost right: the one born of the Spirit has gone through a change like the baby emerging from the womb, into a whole new world.

John 3:16-17 So much can be written about this verse that it would  be impossible to add anything here, so let me repeat what has been said elsewhere: 

1.     The whole bible, old and new testaments is a commentary on this verse. 

2.     Try reading this verse and replacing every reference to people with yourself: “God so loved me that  he gave his only-begotten Son, so that by believing in him, I will not perish but have everlasting life. . .” Is it hard to believe that Jesus loves you that much?

3.     Now  substitute the name of a friend or family member you are praying for.

4.     Now (and this might be harder) substitute the name of someone you don’t like. Is it so hard to believe that God also loves difficult and wicked people, and desires to save them from perishing?

John the Baptist confirms his testimony about Jesus 

John declares that the people should follow Jesus instead of himself. In fact he says that whoever puts their faith in Jesus has eternal life, but anyone who rejects Jesus continues to be separated from God and eternal life by their sin.

John 2

The Wedding at Cana.   

Changing water into wine may not seem like the greatest way to start Jesus’ ministry, but as miracles go, it was a generous, quiet act which kept a wedding from becoming a disgrace. And it is an act on par with the feeding of the multitudes. It marks Jesus ministry as life giving - Moses turned water to blood as a curse, a plague, but Jesus made the water into the best wine, a blessing. And his disciples, in on the secret, put their faith in hiim. 

Clearing the temple

John already doesn’t seem as concerned to put things in the same timeline as the other Gospels. He orders events,at least partly, by their significance.  The clearing of the Temple introduces the theme of Jesus' death and resurrection: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”  John has jumped ahead in the story to give us a glimpse of the climax of Jesus ministry, his crucifixion for our sins. This segment also ends by pointing to the disciples response to this prophecy - they believed when the prophecy was fulfilled at the resurrection.

Jesus, on the other hand does not put his trust in people. He knows that the crowds, so amazed at his miracles, have not yet come to any steadfast faith.

John 1

Jesus is the Word of God

John’s Gospel starts at the very beginning - before space/time, before energy and matter, before God Created the Heavens and the earth. 

Jesus is the Word of God. A person’s word is who they are - if they lie, they are a liar, if they tell the truth you know them by their word. In a perfectly honest person, their words and actions are identical. With God it goes even beyond that. God’s word is more than a sound in the air, more than just an expression of meaning. When God speaks, his Word creates things : “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ and there was light.”

God’s Word is living and active, and when God says,”I will dwell with my people.” Boom. There he is, Jesus, God in the Flesh, conceived in a virgin’s womb, growing, living, speaking, healing, shining in the darkness, like the light he created in the beginning.

John, the Baptist (a different person than John, the Gospel writer), is not the Messiah

This Gospel weaves the ministry of John the Baptist into Jesus’ ministry, as an MC introduces the main attraction at an event. John’s insistence that he is not that important really highlights how spectacular Jesus is, because John’s ministry was big news. But John merely says about himself, “I’m no one, just a voice in the wilderness saying that the Lord is coming.

Jesus is a big deal

He is the light in the darkness, he is the maker of the whole world, He can make us children of God through faith in him.He is the visible glory of God, full of grace and truth. He is greater than Moses, he is the only one who truly knows The Father, and therefore the only one who can truly make him known. He is the Lamb of God - that term is filled with meaning that will become more clear as his self-sacrifice takes place. He is filled with the Spirit of God.

A note about the Trinity

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three persons, One God. It’s hard, perhaps impossible to understand. Every description falls short. The doctrine of the Trinity does not explain the mystery, it simply describes what scripture teaches.  Jesus is fully God. The Father is fully God, The Holy Spirit is fully God. There is only one God. They are not like different masks or roles that God puts on, or we would have to ask, what does God look like behind the mask? They are not separable, as though there were three gods, nor can they be collapsed into one person. Jesus, the Son, as a human being needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as we all do. He needs to pray to the Father, and submit to him as we all do. We might think then that Jesus is second string, lower than the Father and the Holy Spirit, but we’d be wrong. 

I think of it this way - you never can meet one person of the Trinity without meeting all three. You meet Jesus, doing the will of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit - one God. You receive, as a believer, the Holy Spirit, who reveals the Father and the Son.  We only can know the Father through his Word, Jesus, spoken by him, a Word which we can only receive when the Spirit works in us. They are inseparable, three persons, the fullness of God. 

 Don’t be surprised if this is confusing. In Physics light can be a particle and a wave at the same time. In psychology a person can be described as Id, Ego and Superego- yet be one person. You are Body, mind, and soul, yet you are one. The world is filled with strange things which we struggle to understand. Wouldn’t it be odd if the maker of this universe was simpler than the creation?

 

Jesus’ first disciples

 

We get a bit more information about the calling of the first disciples: Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist at first, until John points them to Jesus. Who was the second disciple of the Baptist who went to Jesus with Andrew? Could it have been John, the Gospel writer? In John’s Gospel, he rarely refers to himself by name. In humility, he leaves himself almost out of the story, but we see that to John the most important thing was that he was loved by God, most commonly referring to himself, when he absolutely has to, as “a disciple that Jesus loved,”

 

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A quick Lenten commentary on the four Gospels, chapter by chapter.

New 2-3 chapters will be published each day through Lent 2020.