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!
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.