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The Deity of Jesus
The first three words of John’s gospel, “In the beginning…,” send us all the way back to Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God….” Then, just to make sure we don’t miss it, John says in verse 2, “He was with God…” when? “In the beginning.” The Greek word used here means origins. It means the very beginning.
More than any other gospel writer, John focuses on the fact that Jesus is God. He doesn’t start the narrative with the nativity story. The story of his humanity. He doesn’t say, “This is how the birth of Jesus came about.” as Matthew did. John starts at the very beginning. He begins with the deity of Jesus. And in the first 18 verses, you will read, “He was with God in the beginning….” (verse 2), “Through him all things were made….” (verse 3) “…though the world was made through him….” (verse 10) And, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18)
In the first two chapters of the Gospel of John, you will read about Jesus’ baptism, the calling of a few disciples, changing water into wine, clearing the temple, and the first prediction of Jesus’ death. But it is all set against the backdrop of Jesus’ deity. Jesus is God.
If you have a red-letter edition of the Bible, you will notice that starting in chapter 3, the red letters start showing up more and more. This is because the red letters in the Bible indicate words spoken by Jesus. They capture conversations, teachings, or interactions of Jesus with various people throughout his ministry and give us insight into what is important to Him.
In Chapter 3, we read the story of Nicodemus, and we hear Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (3:3) It is in this conversation when Nicodemus hears, right from the lips of Jesus himself, “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)
Sometimes we hear incredible stories, but details are withheld from us. I mean, who doesn’t want to know the name of the Samaritan woman at the well? Jesus loved her deeply and spent significant time in deep conversation with her. This unnamed woman heard the Savior declare that he was the Messiah. (John 4:25-26)
In Chapter 5, Jesus heals an invalid, and because it happened on the Sabbath, Jesus was persecuted for it. (John 5:16) We are reminded that doing God’s work, no matter how good it is, is no guarantee that we will have a pain-free life.
In Chapter 6, the miracles of Jesus continue. He feeds 5,000 with five barley loaves and two small fish. Why are we concerned if God will provide for us? Jesus walks on water. Why do we forget so quickly that we have a God who walks with us in the hard times of life? And at the end of chapter 6, the crowds desert Jesus leaving only him and the 12 disciples. Jesus knows the disappointment of failed dreams.
In chapters 3-6, we find the friction between the humanity of Jesus and His deity. But we also find hope. We can see how to live here in the lower story because Jesus lived a lower-story life through the power of God.
Sometimes we miss important things because we read too fast. Unfortunately, that is often the case in chapter 7 of the Book of John. It is in chapter 7 that we see some of the family dynamics Jesus lived under and the real-life situations he navigated daily.
If you slow down while reading these chapters, you will clearly see some things you might have missed. In verse 1 of Chapter 7, you will find that there were people in Judea lying in wait to take Jesus’ life. Then the family dynamic shows up. His brothers, who didn’t believe in Him at the time (7:5), were trying to get him to go to Judea, where some Jews were waiting to kill him.
It is in Chapter 7 that we see people grappling with the idea of who Jesus is. Some leaned in his direction, and others didn’t. Some thought he was a good man (7:12), and some accused him of being demon-possessed. It is in Chapter 7 that the first attempt to seize him takes place. But it wasn’t God’s timing (7:30). But it was also here that many in the crowd put their faith in Him amidst the turmoil. (7:31)
As you read the Word of God, it is essential to slow down and absorb what you are reading. You never know what you will see. When you slow down, you will start seeing little verses like, “Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” (7:43) The same is true today. Jesus, the Son of God, is a polarizing figure in today’s society. Therefore, we should not be surprised that when we show people Jesus, some are drawn, and others repulsed. It has been this way since the beginning.
Follow the Evidence
In John 11, Jesus performs an amazing miracle in front of many witnesses. It is arguably the greatest of all miracles that He performed while he walked this earth. First, there is a dead man named Lazarus in a closed tomb. Then, after the stone is removed, Jesus calls him from the grave, and Lazarus comes walking out alive.
We love to read and imagine what it would be like to see Jesus perform miracles like these. But the ultimate value of the miracles was not in the entertainment value. The miracles were a witness to who Jesus is. In John 10:25, Jesus says, “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me.” The miracles were a witness that validated who Jesus was. The Son of God. Still, the Jews picked up stones to kill him. Then Jesus says, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” (10:31). Then, the raising of Lazarus from the dead happens.
According to the record, many Jews had come to visit Mary and witnessed what Jesus did. Because of this, they put their faith in Him. But there are two sides to this coin. Some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. The Pharisees and chief priests called a meeting to discuss what happened and what they would do about it. So, picture this. Here are the enemies of Jesus gathering together, and they say, “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him…” (11:47-48)
Sometimes you just need to follow the evidence. It is understandable why those who believed in Jesus would be excited and share a testimony of the fact that Jesus performed miracles. But in these two verses, we have the enemies of Jesus bearing witness to the fact that he did indeed perform miracles. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.” (10:47)
When you read the scriptures clearly, there is no room for doubt. Jesus was the Son of God, He performed miracles to prove it, and many people witnessed it. Some of those friends and some of those witnesses were enemies.
Do Not Go Astray
As we approach chapters 13-16, the pace of Jesus’ life picks up. His life is now being measured in days and not weeks. He knows that the time has come for Him to return to the Father (13:1), Jesus knows he is going to be betrayed (13:8), and He predicts Peter’s denial (13:37-38). Then, in Chapters 14-16, besides his disciples’ statements or questions, Jesus does all the talking.
When a person comes to the end of their life, they speak about what is most important. They express what is important to them and to others. Jesus knows the burden of the cross is days away. He knew enough about crucifixion to see the persecution and pain involved. And he had spent 3 years with this group of men who hung on his every word. So as you read the profound statements of Jesus, don’t read them without the emotion they must have been delivered in.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled…”, “I am the way the truth and the life…”, “If you love me, you will obey what I command…”, “But the counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said…”, “I am the vine, you are the branches…”, “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you…”, “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first….”
Then, in the first verse of Chapter 16, Jesus says something to the disciples that we need to grasp firmly. “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.”
This is the way we should approach the Word of God. All of it. It is given to us so that we will not go astray. It is Truth, and it does not change. So take it in, remember it, and apply it. That’s what eleven of the disciples did, and it served them well. And it will serve you well, too.
The High Priestly Prayer
If you have a red-letter edition Bible, you will notice that virtually all of Chapter 17 is in red type. Sometimes called the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and all believers.
This prayer just before Jesus’ arrest and trials in John 18 lets us see the heart of God for us. We know we can apply this prayer to our lives, for Jesus prays, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” This includes you and me. The gospel’s message has been handed down from the apostles through the generations until it reached us. So, what was so important that Jesus felt the need to pray about? Unity.
Let’s take a few minutes and read what Jesus said. “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (17:21-23)
Remember these words if you are ever tempted to cause division in the church. “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (17:21). Perhaps the greatest damage to any body of believers is when they don’t live in unity. It damages relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ. But there is also more significant damage done. It causes those outside the church to not find the saving grace of God that is found in Jesus. According to Jesus’ prayer, people look for the Lord in a body of believers who love each other and live in unity.
After this prayer, Jesus turns and walks out into the Kidron Valley to an olive grove. We know it as the Mount of Olives. As recorded in Chapter 18, it is here that the events start to unfold that will eventually cause Him to be put to death. Chapter 18 is a chapter filled with betrayal, denial, and illegal trials. Chapter 19 is where you will find the Savior on the cross and in the tomb. The very words of Jesus would be burning in the apostle’s minds. “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.” (16:20)
The End is the Beginning
Chapter 20 starts with Mary Magdalene seeing that the tomb of Jesus is empty. Then, she runs to tell Peter and John, and they start running to the grave. Slow down as you read. Sometimes it’s in the little things that you see the fun stuff. Here, Peter and John are on a footrace. And John takes one sentence to relay a fact and a little poke at his friend. “Both were running, but the other disciple (That’s John) outran Peter and reached to tomb first.” (20:4). This little interlude gives us hope. After all, if John is determined to write the little details, won’t he be diligent not to leave the important information out? Peter and John eventually end up in the tomb together. Scripture records that they believed Mary but still didn’t understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. (20:9)
Jesus appears to Mary, then 10 of the disciples, and finally to Thomas. Jesus appears to them again when they are fishing, and he makes them breakfast. You find this in Chapter 21. When you read this chapter, think of it as an ending to a great movie. A movie where all the tension is resolved and everything is tied up in a bow. There is fishing and fires along the lakeshore. There is a flashback to an earlier event. Jesus tells the disciples to throw the net over the other side of the boat, and there’s a huge catch. A disciple jumps out of the boat and runs to the Savior. Eventually, they all gather for breakfast, and Jesus gives them bread and fish to eat. Then, in an act of love, Jesus reinstates Peter.
The Gospel of John begins by stating that Jesus is God. Then, the book provides evidence that what John proclaimed about Jesus is true. If you find yourself in the future doubting the truth of who Jesus is, reread this book. When you do, you will again be filled with the hope of the truth that Jesus is who He says He is. You can trust Him to fulfill his promises to you.