Behold the Lamb of God

We continue our series through the book of John. Click here for the first installment. I am writing a couple of weeks after the first few discussions took place, so as our discussions actually get closer to the dates of writings, these might be a bit more in depth because my memory will improve!

Prove it

What would you think if your cousin started claiming that He was God in the flesh? If you’re anything like me, you would have some serious concerns about him. Yet that is the exact position that John the Baptizer is in at the onset of John’s Gospel (different John, just to keep things confusing). In John 1.15-34 we are introduced to this man who was the forerunner of Jesus, our Messiah. We also get a bigger glimpse of who Jesus is. In addition to God making His dwelling among us (verse 14) we have an astonishing claim made in verse 18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”

Anyone who has knowledge of the Old Testament may have a problem with this passage. Didn’t Moses see God’s glory as He passed by on the mountain (Exodus 33.17-23)? Didn’t Jacob wrestle with God in the wee hours of the morning and come away with a blessing and a limp (Genesis 32.22-32)? Didn’t Samson’s parents see God and fear for their lives afterwards (Judges 13)?

But perhaps that is just the point. It has been long held by Christian theologians that whenever we see God walking in the midst of His people in the Old Testament it is actually the pre-incarnate Christ that we are being introduced to. The Son is eternally beside the Father. He was not (contrary to Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness theology) a creation of God. He is one with God and has always been making God known to His people. How great a God do we serve who has chosen to make Himself known in this way – by coming to us and (again) dwelling in our midst (compare this with Romans 10.5ff). He could have chosen any other way to manifest His glory and to make the Father known, but He humbly chose manhood (see Philippians 2).

Who is this Jesus?

And this brings us to the second point of this passage. John confesses that he himself is not the Messiah or the prophet that is meant to bring salvation to Israel. He tells those around him about someone else – one who comes after him (Jesus is six months younger than he is) who ranks before him. And then, just to solidify what both Johns believe about this Jesus, we get more names for Jesus. They are:

  • The Word (1.1)
  • The Light of Men (1.4)
  • The Christ (Messiah) (1.17)
  • The Only God (1.18)
  • The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World (1.29)
  • The Son of God (1.34)

By our reckoning this is a total of six names given to Jesus just within the first chapter of John’s Gospel. If there is any doubt about what John and John believed about Jesus, may it be expelled here. But what remains of John’s Gospel narrative will be aimed at proving not only that Jesus matches these (and other) titles but that He is God dwelling with us. And that will be further plumbed as Jesus calls His first Disciples.

He has made his dwelling

This is the first installment in a series that will take us through John’s Gospel Account. My men’s group is currently going through this book together, and I thought it would be a blessing to others to share some reflections from our group in this setting.

What’s the point?

If you could narrow down the message and point of John’s Gospel to one point, what would it be? Many of us, when asked that question would (correctly) point to John 20.30-31 where John explains that the signs (miracles) that he has included in his account are there so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” When the author of the book tells you his purpose for writing it, you should listen to him.

But I would suggest a secondary purpose, or at least a penultimate goal of John in his writing, is found in John 1.14. We focus on this text mostly at Christmas time because the Word (who was with God and is God) became flesh. And it is important for us to realize that this Word is the immortal and eternal second person of the triune Godhead. Jesus is (the one and only) God and He became a man. This message alone has enough weight to fill the world with books (John 21.25).

But it is the next few words that we focused in on, and for this I am grateful for the diversity of Bible translations that are present. One of our members has essentially a Messianic translation of the Bible that leaves many Hebrew words merely transliterated rather than translated. This isn’t the easiest way to read the Scriptures, because it requires a Hebrew-English dictionary to actually find out what the words mean, but it is helpful when it does translate some words. The phrase that the ESV translates “dwelt among us” is, in my friend’s translation, “tabernacled with us”.

The Tabernacle

Do you remember this from the Old Testament? God chose a specific people (the Israelites) to be where His glory would be shown on earth. And in their midst, first in their desert wanderings and then in their nation, He instructed them to set up a tent of meeting where they would be able to come into His presence. But more than that, it was to show that His presence was always with them. When Moses had the Tabernacle constructed and blessed it, God blessed it with his presence – physically seen as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. So if you were an ancient Jewish person reading John’s account and you came across verse 14, a very specific image would come to your mind – one that no one had seen in a few hundred years – that of the glory of God dwelling in your midst.

So now John is saying that this Jesus – God in the flesh – has made His dwelling among us. He has “tabernacled” with us. That carries such weight and meaning! What do you mean that God is dwelling with us? What does that look like? What, then, is Jesus going to do? And can you prove that this is actually God dwelling with us?

So this is the framework that my guys and I have decided to follow as we read John’s Gospel together: if Jesus is the Word become flesh and He is dwelling among us, where do we see Him doing that and what does that look like for Him, and what implications does that have for us.

My guys group is pretty awesome and it’s so exciting to be able to talk through God’s Word with them. I look forward to more of this!

PS. Check out these videos from the Bible Project to get a better idea of God’s dwelling with us: