John 1

1 Jesus is the Word. The person of Jesus is like the voice of God. When we speak our words can sometimes take a "life of their own." In the case of God, this is literally true. When God speaks, Jesus is the action.

"In the beginning" parallels Genesis 1:1, and is intended to link Jesus with the creation of the universe. Verse 3 is more explicit. It is also implicit that Jesus was eternally existent with God before He created our universe and time.

"The Word," or logos connotes words, thoughts, and creative action. Jesus is the manifestation of the first and final word of God. Jesus is the manifestation of the Word of God throughout history (John 5:39). Jesus is also the manifestation of God's creative, sustaining, and transforming power.

This verse presents one of the mysteries of the Trinity. The phrase "with God" implies that the Word is separate (although associated), while the phrase "was God" implies that they are the same Being. The question of how this can be is not raised here. It is stated as a fact. In truth, the concept of the Trinity is something we are unlikely to be able to understand since we seemingly have no examples of this on earth.

One might think of the Trinity like the triple-point of water (the temperature and pressure where ice, water vapor, and liquid coexist in equilibrium). We can see the unique properties of each phase, while at the same time we recognize that they are all composed of the same substance. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each show different aspects of God, but together they compose one Being.

2 Jesus is not a created being. He was with God before Creation.
3 In Gen 1, when God said, "Let there be..." Jesus performed the action. The whole universe was made by Jesus based on the pronouncements of the Father.
4 When the Father pronounced that living creatures come into existence, Jesus created them. Jesus is the source of life, and when people recognize this, it is like light to our spirits. As physical light makes it possible for us to see our surroundings, the spiritual light of Jesus reveals to us who, and where, we are. The light of Jesus also serves as a beacon to give us direction. We should be directed to and guided by the light that Jesus gives us.

The connection between logos and light indicates that the knowledge of God is within Jesus and is revealed to people through Him. Just as the human eye can only detect the visible portion of the light spectrum, so the minds of people can only comprehend a small part of the knowledge of God. Yet, what we can understand is both revealing and extremely helpful.

The comparison of life to light makes it clear that life is more than physical existence. It has a spiritual aspect that is difficult for us to understand from a material mindset. Life is more than the mere presence of chemicals and reactions. A dead body has all the chemicals, but it does not have life. Life is something that only God can give.

Science has been able to demonstrate empirically that life must come from life. The theory of evolution would have us believe that at some point life came from non-life. Scientists have not been able do demonstrate how this could happen physically or philosophically impossible. The Christian, however, recognizes life on earth came from God, the eternal living One. In this and several other respects, Creationism adheres to the facts of science more than the theory of evolution.

5 Darkness is the absence of light. Light penetrates and dispels darkness, and in this sense, darkness can not overcome it. Nothing can threaten God because He is greater than His creation.

Many translations use the word "comprehend." We can take this in the spiritual sense that the mind darkened by sin can not understand God. However, when God "enlightens" his mind he can then understand the important aspects of God's character and works. God understands all things because He made them, but the creation can not comprehend everything about God.

7 A witness tells people what he has seen and heard so that others will believe something happened that they did not themselves experience. In the spiritual perspective, the world has put God on trial. This started with the serpent's question in Gen 3:1. Since then people have asked, "can God can be believed?" "does He really care?," and "does He really exist?." The Israelites in the Old Testament and now the Christians of the New Testament have experienced God's works. God does not intend to work astonishing miracles for everyone to try to prove His power and authority. Instead, He has chosen that those who have experienced Him to be a witness to the world on His behalf.

John the Baptist, like many prophets before him, was a witness that would testify about things yet to come. God gave him special information, so he could proclaim it as fact even though the events had not yet happened. His goal was for people to prepare themselves for the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament.

8 The author wants to make it clear that John the Baptist was not the Messiah, nor was he to be deified. Since most people are uneducated in spiritual matters and reasoning, they can sometimes make this kind of mistake (for examples, a cult leader can use his followers' lack of knowledge to his advantage). There is only one true Light, and people should not confuse Jesus' witnesses with Jesus Himself.
9 Jesus' work would not only benefit the Jews, but the Gentiles as well (Eph 3:6).

Jesus gives light and life to people. However, one must choose to receive this gift -- he can not take it by force. If one ignores the offer, it will not be given to him. One may try to accept (or make) imitations, but Jesus is the only source of life and light.

This statement does not imply that John the Baptist was a "false" light. John, the author, is making a contrast between what John the Baptist and Jesus were able to reveal about God. John the Baptist's ministry was to point people to Jesus. However, several of John's disciples continued to cling to him rather than follow Jesus. John, the author, wants to make it clear that people are far better to follow Jesus' teaching since it is much greater than John the Baptist's teaching. One might also point out that John's light was snuffed out while Jesus' greater light continues on forever (John 5:35-36).

10 Many people claim they would believe in God if they could see and touch Him. Jesus' life and ministry proves that this is not necessarily the case. Sin has caused such a gap between people and God that they did not recognize Him when they saw Him. Although He performed great miracles and still works in people's lives today, most people still refuse to believe in Him.
11 The descendants of Israel were given the special honor as custodians of God's Law and the prophecies of the Messiah. Yet, when these prophecies were fulfilled, the Israelites did not understand what was happening. The Jews had developed their own ideas about what the Messiah should be and do, but Jesus fulfilled the Scriptural definition of Messiah, not the expectations of the people. When many Jews saw that Jesus did not meet their contrived requirements, they rejected Him as their Messiah.
12 Some Jews believed, and God adopted them as His own children because of their faith. Mercifully, God extended this privilege to anyone who would believe in Him, whether of Jewish or non-Jewish descent.

The Bible does not often speak of a person's "rights," but here we see one given. God has promised that those who believe in Jesus would become His children. Therefore, if one believes, he can expect God to adopt him. It is his "right" because God has granted him that right.

13 When a person becomes a Christian, they are "born again" (John 3:3-7). This spiritual birth is from God, and is completely different from the physical conception and birth of a baby.
14 Jesus shrouded His divine nature in a cloak of human flesh. One reason many people did not recognize Him as God was that He looked like an ordinary man. During His ministry, His words and miracles gave evidence to His divine identity.

The glory of God had dwelt with the Israelites as a light hidden within a cloud (Exo 40:34, 1 Ki 8:11). The Jews refer to this as the "shekinah" glory, which means "dwelling." Ezekiel records a vision of God's glory leaving the Temple (Ezek 10-11) before it was destroyed (2Ki 25:8-9). Here, we see the return of God's glory, hidden within the flesh of Jesus as He dwelt among the Israelites again. Jesus would also depart after His resurrection, but we are promised that those who believe in Him will share God's glory forever when He takes up permanent residence with us in New Jerusalem (Rev 21:3).

Jesus is the only Son of God. There may have been speculation that Jesus was one of many "begotten" of the Father. In fact, there is an occult belief that Jesus and Satan are brothers. It is clear throughout Scripture that this is not the case, and John simply emphasizes that here.

One of Jesus' missions was to speak the truth about God and clear up many of the misconceptions that developed about who God is and what He expects of us. Another aspect of His ministry was grace, or undeserved merit. His ultimate display of grace was dying on the cross in our place. When we believe in Him, His blood atones for our sins and makes us acceptable to God.

There is a belief system called Gnosticism that believes that the material world is evil. Thus, they feel it is impossible that God, who is good, could interact with the world the way Jesus did. John in particular puts much stress on the fact that Jesus did come in the flesh to contradict such false beliefs. Jesus had to come in the flesh to sympathize with our weaknesses, suffer, and die. The only difference in how He lived His life is that He never sinned.

15 John was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and he served as a witness to Israel. Since Christians recognize Jesus' divine nature and work, we are qualified (if not obligated) to also be witnesses for Him. Such witnessing is not merely for the sake of God, but for the sake of people who want to be freed from the slavery of sin.
16 God has given us grace, or undeserved merit, based on our faith. Here we can receive the blessing of hope, and in the afterlife, we will receive the blessing of being eternally in the presence of God.
17 The Law of Moses pointed out that people are sinners, and it is impossible for us to pay for our own sins. Furthermore, the Law gives us a glimpse of how sin leads to judgement. Jesus died in our place to fulfill the requirements of the Law and suffer the judgement for our sins in our place. His good works are credited to us based on our faith in Him. We do not deserve this, but He graciously does this for us.
18 God is a spirit, so it is not possible for human eyes to see Him. He has appeared in physical form to prophets in the Old Testament (these are called "theophanies"), but these limited representations can not reveal the complete nature of God.

Jesus is a member of the Trinity and has seen the Father and Holy Spirit in their natural state. Since Jesus is part of the Godhead, He has the mind of God and is qualified to speak of the nature and will of God.

19 The religious leaders of the day were concerned about the great number of people who were going to the wilderness to have a "religious" experience. The nature of the message that John preached was unknown to them, as was the man.
20 John knew that the Jews were searching for their Messiah: the promised King and spiritual leader. John wanted to make it clear that he was not the Messiah ("Christ" is from the Greek word meaning "Messiah").
21 Mal 4:5 states that Elijah, the great prophet, would appear before the Messiah came. John denied being Elijah, although Jesus later indicated that he was (Mat 11:13-14). We can understand this to mean that John knew that he was not the literal Elijah, but he did know that his purpose was in line with what Isaiah had proclaimed, as is quoted in verse 23.

Before Moses died, he said that another great prophet would come (Deu 18:15). This probably refers to the Messiah, but the Jews thought it could refer to someone else.

John wanted to point people to God. He did not want people to look to him for their salvation. This is a proper perspective for anyone who is a witness for God.

23 John quotes from Isa 40:3-5 to explain that he is preparing the people to meet the Messiah. The Isaiah verse also has a sense of immediacy to it, and this urgency was being effectively conveyed to the people.

God comes to us to meet us where we are, but the success of His purpose for our lives depends on how we are prepared. If one is prepared by faith and recognizes his sins, he can then ask God for forgiveness. If one refuses to believe God exists or sees no need for forgiveness, then he will not ask God for help, nor will he receive the gift of forgiveness that God offers.

24 The Pharisees believed in strict adherence to the Law of Moses. They believed that ritual sacrifices were the only proper response to sin, and were uncomfortable with the people seeking forgiveness through repentance and baptism. The Pharisees may also have been jealous of the people's enthusiastic flock to the wilderness to hear a preacher that they had not trained and did not know.
25 The implication is that John has no authority to baptize.
26 John does not deny or defend his authority to baptize. Instead, he responds by saying that his baptism meant very little compared to the baptism that the Messiah would soon bring. In fact, the Messiah was alive and among them, but He had not been revealed yet.
27 Some people thought that John was a great man, but he explains that the Messiah will be so great that not even he was worthy to be His slave.
28 This Bethany was on the East Side of the Jordan River, north of the Dead Sea. Geographically, it was close to Jerusalem and Jericho. When Jews traveled between Galilee and Jerusalem, they often traveled east of the Jordan to avoid Samaria. Bethany may have been along that trail, making John's ministry easily accessible to those pilgrims.
29 Right from the outset, God makes it clear that Jesus would be sacrificed. The Jews would have recognized that John was referring to lambs used in sacrifices. While ritual sacrifices only atoned for certain sins, Jesus' sacrifice would take away the sin of everyone who would believe.
30 To the Jews, chronology was very important in determining a person's status. The firstborn was considered greater than his younger siblings were. Ancestors were held in higher esteem than their descendants were. Even the age difference among people would be used as a determining factor in status. Jesus would physically "come after" John the Baptist, but spiritually Jesus was existent before the world. Thus, Jesus takes preeminence over all people because He existed before any person.
31 John's ministry was primarily to point out who the Messiah was. God did not tell John ahead of time who the Messiah would be. He would reveal the Messiah to John, and John was to reveal this knowledge to the Jews.
32 The dove was used in sacrificial and purification rituals in the Law of Moses. Thus, the symbolism of the dove used in conjunction of the title "Lamb of God" would indicate Jesus' purpose of being sacrificed for the world's sins to bring about the purification of those who would believe in Him. The dove was also a symbol of hope, since Noah had used a dove to determine when the Flood had receded (Gen 8:8-12).
33 Jesus seemed like an ordinary person until God gave this sign to show that He was very different.
34 This is what it means to be a witness: to tell others what you have seen and experienced.
35 The preceding verses indicate that these recorded events took place over a three-day period. Some people feel there is an inconsistency here since the other Gospels record that Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days before He began His ministry. Some try to resolve this by saying that the word for "the next day" is a story separator, and not necessarily to be taken literally. However, it is also thought that Jesus had already been baptized between verses 18 and 19. The conversation with the Pharisees would have happened while Jesus was in the wilderness, and verse 29 records His return to the area before His trip to Galilee (this verse would indicate that Jesus spent the night in the area). Thus, in the preceding conversation with the Pharisees, John already knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but did not openly identify Him until the next verse.
37 Part of John's ministry was to point people to Jesus. This included sending His own disciples to Jesus. It is unclear why John himself did not follow Jesus and continued to baptize after this.
38 It is interesting to note that when the disciples were asked what they sought, their reply indicated that they were looking for a teacher. Most Jews of the day were looking for a king who would free them from Roman rule, not a teacher.

"Rabbi" is a term used for a highly respected teacher. Jesus had not taught anything yet, but the disciples had high expectations.

Those who wanted to learn from a respected teacher would seek to be with them constantly. "Disciple" literally means "follower," and during these days, it meant that the disciple would travel with the teacher wherever he went. The disciple would want to be with the teacher day and night to learn from his life and glean every word of wisdom the teacher had to offer. Here, the men's question indicated that they intended to become this kind of disciple to Jesus. For the Christian today, we should ask God, "where are You working?" and then go to Him in the place that He indicates.

39 Jesus cordially accepts their offer. He would be their teacher and they would be His disciples. Jesus will not refuse anyone who earnestly seeks to follow Him.
40 Andrew is known as the disciple who was always bringing someone to Jesus. In this case, Andrew immediately tells his brother, Peter, about his encounter with Jesus. Peter then follows Jesus and becomes one of the most energetic leaders of the early church.

When we come to know Jesus, it is not something we should hide. It is something we should share. One may not be a powerful witness, but perhaps he can lead someone to Jesus who will be.

41 Andrew immediately recognizes Jesus as the Messiah prophesied in the Scriptures. It is not indicated that Jesus had performed a miracle yet. Instead, Andrew relied on the testimony of his former teacher, John the Baptist, and whatever Jesus had spoken with him about that first night.
42 In the Old Testament, God often changes people's names to indicate their new purpose in life. Peter was to be important in the establishment of the Church after Jesus' resurrection.
43 Philip was the first person that Jesus called directly. Jesus did not call him with a request. It was a command. God calls each person this way. It then becomes a question of faith and obedience whether one chooses to follow Him or not.
44 Bethsaida was a small fishing village, so it is likely that he knew Andrew and Peter. We are not told whether Phillip was a fisherman or not, as were Andrew and Peter.
45 After listening to Jesus, Philip recognizes Him as the Messiah. Philip appears to be familiar with the Scriptures, which indicates he may have had formal training. Books (i.e., scrolls) were rare and expensive; so most people had to rely on weekly synagogue readings to hear God's word. Only a few could spend more time reading and studying the word of God.

Philip is very excited about Jesus, and immediately tells Nathanael. We are not told what the relationship is between Philip and Nathanael. In the other Gospels, Nathanael is apparently referred to as Bartholomew.

Place and lineage were important to Phillip, so he indicated Jesus was from Nazareth and was the son of Joseph. We know from the other Scriptures that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and was later raised in Nazareth. We also know that Jesus was created in Mary's womb by God, and He was adopted by Joseph in order to make Him a legal heir to David's throne.

46 Some feel that Nathanael was skeptical that a small and insignificant town such as Nazareth could produce the Messiah. There is some speculation that Nazareth also had a bad reputation. Instead of giving up, Philip simply tells him the he should investigate for himself. Sometimes when we are telling others about Jesus, we can only offer the same advice.
47 Jesus perceives that Nathanael was a "true Israelite," perhaps someone who had been of the Israelite faith as long as he could remember. Jesus also indicates that Nathanael was a trustworthy man with no hidden motives.
48 Jesus had never met Nathanael, and there is not indication that the others had told Him anything about Nathanael. Thus, Nathanael is already amazed that Jesus knows his personality. Jesus answers by indicating He had seen Nathanael by "clairvoyance," thus implying that He knew everything about him. Who's Who indicates that the picture of a rabbi meditating under a fig tree was common.
49 Nathanael immediately recognizes that such knowledge could only come from God. He attributes three titles to Jesus: "Rabbi," indicating that Jesus is a great teacher; "Son of God," acknowledging His divine origin (which was obvious to Nathanael); and "King," recognizing Him as the promised heir to David's throne.
50 Jesus declares that this display of special knowledge was minor in comparison to the miracles that He would perform in the future.

Jesus accepts the titles that Nathanael has attributed to Him, and indicates that it is a sign of faith.

51 In Gen 28:12, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) has a vision of a ladder between heaven and earth on which the angels (i.e., heavenly messengers) ascend and descend. Jesus replaces the ladder with Himself, indicating that He is the intermediary between God and men.

Jesus uses the title "Son of Man" to describe Himself. This refers to Dan 7:13-14. The title emphasizes both His supernatural authority and His appearance as a human.