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Thursday, January 26, 2006

John... "In the beginning..."

"No man is condemned for anything he has done: he is condemned for continuing to do wrong. He is condemned for not coming out of the darkness, for not coming into the light." -- George MacDonald

The book of John begins the way many other books do: with a preface. John 1:1-18 sets the stage for the story that John wants to tell. I believe (at least at this point in time) that the key to understanding the book of John is in his preface. If you read John 1:1-18 you will not only find his key themes that are throughout the rest of the book, but you will discover what it is that he wants his readers to understand.

Why is he writing? What does he want his readers to understand? He is writing because he wants everyone to know that GOD WAS HERE! The author of everything (1:1-2) came to His creation, was not recognized by those who should have known Him (1:11), and He lived among us (1:9,14) as one of us, so that anyone who believed in His name could become a child of God (1:12).

It reminds me of the Superman movies. Throughout the movies it is painfully obvious that Clark Kent is Superman (sorry if I ruined the suprpise for anyone). Superman doesn't even wear a mask! However, for some reason, very few people seem to make the connection. Jesus is in a similar situation. His secret identity: God incarnate. Throughout John there are a plethra of hints and even some blatent statements that should tip people off to who they are dealing with, but a lot of people either do not make the connection or convince themselves that it is not true.

In verse 19 of the first chapter we are introduced to the opposition. "Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was." They do not seem so bad at first. All they do is send people to question John the baptist. John, must have understood what they were after because rather than telling them who he is (like they asked), he tells them who he is not. "I am not the Christ." The inquisition continues about John's identity and John replies by quoting part of a passage in Isaiah 40: "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord...'".

Now would be a good time to read Isaiah 40 for yourself. The passage in Isaiah is about preparing the way for God. When the way is ready "Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together..." (Isaiah 40:5a). In the next verse of the Isaiah passage, a voice says to "Call out." The response: "What shall i call out?" The answer: "Here is your God."

The impact of this passage seems to have been missed on those John (the baptist) was quoting it to, because their response is to continue to question John about who he is and if he truly is not who he says that he is not, why does he baptize? John replies by letting them know that he only baptizes with water, but there is someone else, someone that they do not know who comes after John, but is before John.... John (the baptist) at this point does not really finish his comment. "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (1:29) Since it is "the next day" we are left to wonder whether John's questioners were around to hear because John was about to finish answering one of their questions. Why was he baptizing? "I did not recognize him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water." (1:31) Here John finishes his comments of the previous day. The guy he was talking about, the one who was before him, is Jesus (the Lamb of God) and He (Jesus) is not going to baptize with water, He is going to baptize people with the Holy Spirit. (1:30-33) In verse 34 we find one of the most blatent statements about Jesus' identity in the book: "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

I hope that when you (the reader of my blog) read this (my blog) that you are not bored or too busy critiquing the things that I included (or ommitted) that you fail to become awed by what John is telling us. The truth that the God became one of us, living with us, and dying for us so that we could have the chance to know Him and have life is just way too amazing to miss dwelling on. The idea blows me away, but when I try to put it into words it they don't seem to have their full power. Maybe because some of John, some of the story, has been quoted so much that the words often seem cliche.

I would appreciate any input, questions, comments, critiques, suggestions, praises, etc. FYI all direct quotes were from the NASB.