Who was John?
The John who writes this gospel is the apostle John who also writes three epistles, 1, 2 and 3 John, and the book of Revelation. He was one of the 3 disciples closest to Jesus, and so it’s not surprising that he has many unique insights into the person of Jesus. (He is a different John to John the Baptist.) He writes from Ephesus to Jewish Christians living across the Mediterranean area, sometime between AD 70 and AD 100.
The gospel opens presenting Jesus as the eternal word of God (v1-2). This suggests that Jesus is the full expression of God, the total declaration of who God is; now visible in human form. Indeed Colossians says that ‘He is the image of the invisible God’ (1:15), and Hebrews, ‘the exact representation of His nature’ (1:3). This theme of the divinity of Christ will occur again and again in John’s gospel.
Other major themes that occur in the first chapter include Jesus as light and life (v4-5), and as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v29). John the Baptist declares Him to be the one who will baptise in the Holy Spirit (v33). This is first fulfilled in Acts Ch 2.
The theme we could consider more personally is that of ‘incarnation’. ‘The word became human and made his home among us’ or as the message translation says ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ (v14). The challenge for us today is to be Christ to our neighbourhood, work place, friends and family. For many we are the only bible they will read. How are we doing being the hands, feet, mouth and love of Christ to those around us?
The chapter closes with Jesus calling his first followers. What were they thinking, leaving all that was dear to them to follow an unknown teacher, a carpenter’s son? What courage to hear the call of God and to follow. It is interesting to see that the first thing Andrew did was to go and recruit his brother Simon Peter, and the first thing that Philip did was to go and get his friend Nathanael.
Chapter 2 focuses on 2 main events. The first is Jesus turning water into wine, said to be his first miracle. What a cracker to start with, 120 gallons of well water turned into vintage claret! One little phrase that may challenge us is what Mary said to the servants ‘whatever He (Jesus) tells you to do – do it’ (v5).
The second event is the cleansing of the temple, the first of 2 occasions when He did this. The latter being at the end of his ministry just before his crucifixion (Mark 11:15-19).