In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Right from the start the book of John sounds different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the other three narratives about Jesus’ life and ministry). John doesn’t begin with Jesus as a baby in a manger or as a young man being baptized and starting his ministry. God’s Spirit led John to launch his story by showing us who Jesus is on an eternal and cosmic scale.
John introduces Jesus as “the Word.” Pastors and teachers have long discussed the meaning of “the Word” or logos in Greek. It is sometimes translated “reason” and is the root of the English word, “logic.” We could say that Jesus helps us make sense of God or helps us understand who God is. In Jesus, we see God’s character, his purposes, and his thoughts, because Jesus is God.
“The Word” can also refer to God’s promise to save his people. When we make a promise, we say that we have given our word. Jesus is God’s Word—God’s promise—which has taken on flesh and become a person (John 1:14). In Jesus, all of God’s promises are fulfilled.
What a profoundly mysterious truth that Jesus is the Word of God—God himself—and a human being! Thankfully, John doesn’t leave us with puzzles. The rest of his book helps us understand this beautiful and mysterious beginning.
John records seven “signs” Jesus performed which prove his identity as the promised Savior sent by God. These signs included changing water into wine (John 2:1-11), healing the sick (John 4:46-54, 5:1-15, and 9:1-41), and feeding huge crowds from one boy’s lunch (John 6:1-15). The signs culminate in Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). We know that only God has this kind of power over life and death, and so these signs are hints leading us to the conclusion that Jesus must be God.
In addition to the signs, John also records seven times when Jesus described himself using “I am…” statements. These statements are like word pictures, which help explain Jesus’ identity and purpose. They also identify him as the God of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:13-14) come to us in person.
Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life (John 6:35); the light of the world (John 8:12); the door for the sheep (John 10:7); the good shepherd (John 10:11); the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); and the true vine (John 15:1).” The stories and conversations in John’s gospel work together with these word pictures to help us know Jesus.
At the end of his book, John explains why he wrote it: “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV). John writes so that each one of us can “meet” Jesus, believe that he is really God, and find new life through knowing him.
John writes so that each one of us can “meet” Jesus, believe that he is really God, and find new life through knowing him.
Throughout his book, John introduces us to people who encounter Jesus and react in very different ways. Some believe and trust Jesus, others misunderstand his teaching, and still others reject him and even seek to destroy him.
When Jesus’ disciple Philip asks Jesus to show him God the Father, Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, 8-10 ESV).
Jesus doesn’t leave third or fourth options—we either believe he is God or we reject him as God. How we respond to Jesus—God’s Word—is the most important choice we will ever make. Whether we believe in Jesus is literally a life-or-death decision. John urges us to choose life in Jesus.
Have you met Jesus? If not, open John today!