WORD: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men."
The fourth gospel was written by John, one of Jesusí twelve disciples, called "the disciple whom Jesus loved." This John wrote the gospel 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."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," Johnís account about Jesus begins. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." When he came to the people of Israel, his own people, the chosen people, most of them didn't recognize - from descriptions and promises in their Scriptures - who he was. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." But to those who receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God by being born spiritually of God.
Before Jesus began his public ministry, another John, the Baptist, had already begun announcing the coming of the Messiah, without knowing the man's identity. John, baptising people near Bethany (where Mary, Martha, and Lazareth lived), declared he was "the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" When people coming to John for baptism - or for curiousity - asked if he was the Messiah, the Christ, he assured them he was not. But John could see things spiritually as well as naturally, and the One who sent John to baptise with water had told him to watch for the Holy Spirit coming down and staying on a man. This would be the Messiah, the Son of God. When John saw the Spirit remain on a man, he identified the man Jesus, and began telling others - calling Jesus "the lamb of God."
Jesus began calling his first disciples. At first still continuing his private life, Jesus accompanied his mother to attend a wedding of friends in the town of Cana near Capernaum, where they were living. It was at this wedding party that Jesus turned water into wine, his first miraculous sign. A few believed in him after that. Then just before the next Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. When he saw the money changers there making God's house into a market, Jesus whipped them out of the temple. (see Ps 69:9) Challenged, Jesus claimed the authority for cleansing the temple by a prediction about destroying then raising the temple that most didn't understand until his mission was completed.
Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, quietly comes to Jesus because of the miraculous signs Jesus was performing. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he and every man must be born again to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus says, "How can this be?" Jesus tells himÖ."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." No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again, this time spiritually, of water and the Spirit. Jesus explained scriptures (like Ezekiel 34:2-4
and 37:4-6, Isaiah 23:9)
WORD: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."
Jesus stops at a well in Samaria and, because he is thirsty, asks a woman for a drink. She is surprised because Jews donít usually talk to Samaritans. Jesus tells her that he can give her living water which will well up to eternal life. Jesus tells her things about her life. He tells her that the followers of God must worship him in spirit and truth. She tells him that she knows the Christ is coming. He tells her that he is the Christ.
Because of this encounter many of the Samaritans believe and openly state that they know that this really is the Savior of the world. Jesus heals an officialís son. He then heals an invalid, sick for thirty-eight years. The Jews attack him for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus defends himself by telling them of his relationship with God. His Father is working and Jesus does what he sees Him doing. Jesus reminds the people what John the Baptist testified about Jesus. Finally he says to them, "I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Fatherís name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him."
WORD: "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'"
More and more Jewish people were following Jesus around the countryside because they had seen him do the impossible to the sick. To make a point, Jesus asked disciple Philip where they could buy bread for the crowd of people. Philip exclaimed that it would be impossible to come up with enough money for that! Disciple Andrew had a small resource - he knew a boy there who had a few loaves and fish. When Jesus fed nearly 5,000 people with them, people started thinking Jesus was the promised Prophet, and wanted to make him king by force. He left and avoided them all.
For some reason the disciples took the only boat and left without Jesus for Capernaum that night, not expecting to see him walk toward them on the water. The next day, the Jewish crowd came by the boatloads to see what Jesus would do next. They were following him for the wrong reason. He had multiplied the food as a physical demonstration, a living parable, to make a lasting offer of spiritual bread. Jesus is the bread of life, come down from heaven to do the Father's will. The Father's plan is for everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him to receive eternal life, to be raised up at the last day. (6:40) This sounded arrogant if not blasphemous to the people. Confident that the Father attracts believers, Jesus persuaded the grumbling crowd through scriptures: Isaiah (54:13) and Jeremiah (31:33-34). Some Jews heard something about eating flesh, and balked. Jesus didn't stop offending them, adding that his blood would be drunk as well. This was too much for even his closest disciples. But Jesus taught that no one could believe him unless the Father was drawing him or her. "The flesh counts for nothing," Jesus said. "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (6:63) Many of his disciples stopped following him after this, but others stayed, including the twelve disciples.
In Judea, the Jewish leaders were ready to kill Jesus, so he taught around Galilee. When it was time for the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus' brothers told him he should go public again and do miracles around Jerusalem. They knew he could do miracles, but didn't believe his explanation for why yet. Jesus didn't go with them, but went secretly and heard the quiet conversations debating about him. Midway through the feast, Jesus started teaching in the temple courts. "How do you know so much about scriptures without studying?" some wanted to know. Jesus asked them a hard question of his own - why Moses' law lets them circumcise a child on the Sabbath. "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." The people hearing Jesus teach made a judgment by appearance, wondering if the fact that the authorities weren't arresting Jesus meant that they now believed him to be the Messiah. They weren't convinced. Christ the Messiah would come from some unknown place, so Jesus couldn't be him. The right judgment was that they didn't know the One who sent Jesus to Israel, or from where. This sign convinced many. Then again doing the impossible, Jesus slipped past men sent to seize him.
WORD: "When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground."
Jesus continues telling the Jews things that divide them and turn their world upside down. Not only don't they know where He is coming from, He is going somewhere they can't go (in their present condition). He offers streams of living water to believers. His knowledge of scripture challenges that of the chief priests and Pharisees. His application of scripture shakes them up even more. ("If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8:7b) He is the light of the world, and talks mysteriously about where he came from and where he is going. He doesn't judge by appearance the way these men do. His truth is based upon Scripture from the Father, and not from other men or appearance. Jesus warns the Pharisees that they will die in their sins if they don't if they don't see - and believe - that the Scriptures describe him. His answers bring more and more questions.
They take exception to Jesus' offer of holding to his teachings so the truth would set them free. They are Abraham's descendants and have always been free. That's how it looks. Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin." With scriptural logic, Jesus says that those men making plans to kill him aren't doing things that Abraham did. There is another father at work here, the devil, and his "static" keeps people from hearing the truth in what Jesus says. A man inherits traits from his father, and the devil's traits are murder and lying. What is Jesus' sin? People don't hear the truth if they don't belong to God. The Jews then accused Jesus of being demon possessed, and attempted to prove it with Jesus' statement that "if anyone keeps my word, he will not see death." (8:51b) Ah-HA! Abraham is dead. So are the prophets. "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." (8:56) They were sure they had him in a lie there. Jesus said, "before Abraham was born, I AM!" and then hid himself from them. (People we see as dead, God knows are living, according to Luke 20:37-39.)
People continued asking him questions. His disciples wanted to know if a blind man was born sightless because of his own sin or that of his parents. (9:2) After Jesus healed him on a Sabbath day, the Pharisees judged that the healing wasn't from God who said not to work on the Sabbath. But the formerly blind man said, "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." The Pharisees threw him out for trying to teach them. Jesus later found the man, and taught about the problem of spiritual blindness.
WORD: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus states that he is the good shepherd and that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. There shall be one flock and one shepherd. The scriptures say "At these words the Jews were again divided." Some thought he was demon possessed, while others believed his miracles."
Later, the Jews gathered around him asking Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the Christ. Jesus said that he did tell them, but they did not believe him. They did not believe because they were not his sheep. Jesus' statement that he and the father were one caused the Jews to attack him.
Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. When told of Lazarusí sickness he delayed going to see him. When questioned about the delay, Jesus said Lazarus was dead, and in order to help the disciples, Jesus would raise him up from the dead. When he got to the place, the sister and people were mourning. This so distressed Jesus that he began to cry. Taken to the tomb, he restored Lazarus to life. From that point on the Jewish leaders tried to kill Jesus.
WORD: "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."
Going to Lazarusí home, Jesus is anointed with oil. Many Jews came to see Jesus and Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Because of this, many of the Jews at this point placed their faith in Jesus.
When a great crowd heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, they went before him shouting praise. Many more people came out to see him. Jesus talked in some detail about his impending death, and many Jews continued in their unbelief. Jesus reaffirms that whatever he says is just what the Father has told him to say.
Jesus washes his disciples feet. He then tells them that if "I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one anotherís feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (13:14-15) Knowing what is coming, Jesus comforts his disciples. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God, trust also in me." (14:1) "I AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me." (14:6)
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth."
WORD: "If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'"
(15:24-25) quoting Psalms 35:19 and 69:4
The disciples had become concerned that Jesus said he was going to leave them, and go somewhere they couldn't immediately follow. The ability to see Jesus is tied up with obeying Him, loving Him, and receiving the Holy Spirit when the Father sends him to you. The Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us of what Jesus taught earlier. The peace available from Jesus isn't the kind of peace surrounding people politically. The peace Jesus has for us is untroubled hearts and lack of fear. Be glad that Jesus returned to the Father. Be glad that He told us things in advance so we aren't troubled or fearful about situations around us.
Jesus told his disciples to see themselves as a fruit-bearing branch growing from him, the vine. See how the Lord's commands and love are united. Earlier, when Jesus taught about spiritual things that are united, it caused division with the Jewish crowds and leaders. The disciples are being recruited to go into a world that hates and persecutes them, just as people hate Jesus. Miracles don't make some people hateful rather than thankful - for no reason. But Jesus is calling people to keep testifying about Him, His commands, and why He came to earth.
Telling disciples in advance of the hatred and danger they will face in the world is to prepare them, and us, to stay on the designated way. Are you worried about being barred from the synagogue? (12:42-43) Don't worry - you will be. People will KILL some of you, thinking they are offering a service to God. This warning is coming early so that when it happens to you, you'll stay on track. This isn't punishment from God. You know the Father who loves you; they don't. You know the Messiah who died for you; they may see him through you. They will be convicted of guilt along with the prince of this world. They judge themselves of the sin of not believing in the Lord's Messiah. The Holy Spirit recognizes who belongs to the Lord, and tells them what he hears from the Lord including things to come.
Jesus prayed for himself and for his disciples both living and those to come. He said eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ, who the Father sent. He prayed and repeated the truths he knew and had taught from the scriptures (Old Testament). He prayed for protection and sanctification of the disciples, sharing his glory.
WORD: Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
At night in the olive grove where the disciples had often met with Jesus, Judas arrived with soldiers, some officials, and Pharisees to capture and arrest Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus identified himself to them, he used a name of God ("I AM"). Some of the group responded by falling to the ground, but they recovered to arrest, bind, and take Jesus for questioning to the father-in-law of that year's high priest. The disciples scattered. Peter and perhaps John followed at a distance. Peter denied being a disciple of Jesus three times before a rooster crowed, as Jesus had said he would. Moved to just outside the palace of the Roman governor Pilate, Jesus was turned over to him for the Roman death penalty. The Jews were careful not to become ceremonially unclean by entering the palace, because it was the day of Preparation of Passover week. Literally and figuratively, the Passover lamb was about to be slaughtered. Pilate talked with Jesus about what truth is, before offering to release Jesus to a crowd gathered for Passover. The Jewish crowd chose Barabbas, a rebel leader.
Pilate's soldiers took the opportunity to torture Jesus. Pilate offered to release Jesus to the Jews several more times and was refused each time. The Jewish chief priests and officials led the crowd to chant, "Crucify! Crucify!" Finally Pilate ordered his soldiers to begin the crucifixion process and insisted there be a sign in 3 languages stating "Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews." Pilate knew this wording was offensive to the Jewish leaders. He could irritate them, but he saw no way to overrule them without causing a riot.
So Jesus was crucified and scripture was fulfilled about the Messiah. Simeon's message to Mary ("and a sword will pierce your own soul too" Luke 2:35b) was fulfilled as well. After Jesus died within a few hours, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to ask Pilate for permission to bury Jesus by Jewish custom, in a nearby new tomb in a garden.
WORD: Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
It was early and still dark the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus's body had been placed. She ran to tell Simon Peter and John that the large stone at the entrance had been rolled away, so the tomb was open. The men ran to the garden tomb. John looked in first while Peter went on in. Both saw the burial strips of linen lying there, near the head-covering cloth folded up separately. When John finally entered the tomb, he believed that Jesus had kept his promise. Neither of them realized yet that Scripture (Torah and the Prophets) had required the Messiah to rise from the dead.
The men went back to their homes, while Mary Magdalene stayed, still mourning at the tomb. This woman disciple saw something different when she looked inside the tomb: angels in white were sitting where Jesus' body had been. They spoke to her and she answered, then turned and saw a man she thought must be the gardener. She asked him where the body was, if he had moved it. But when the man spoke her name, she looked at him more closely and said, "Rabboni!" - "Teacher" in Aramaic, the local universal language. She wanted to hold on to him, but he told her to go to his brothers with a message. She went to the disciples with the update and a message.
That Sunday evening some of the disciples met in a house with the doors locked, for fear of the Jews. Jesus appeared among them, spoke, and showed proof that he was the one who had been crucified. Their sorrow changed to extreme joy. Jesus' message was "Peace". He was sending them to others as the Father had sent him to them. He told them to receive the Holy Spirit and described the power they had to forgive, or not forgive, sins.
Thomas Didymus hadn't made it to the Sunday evening meeting, and didn't take the other disciples' word for Jesus' resurrection. But Thomas was there the next Sunday evening when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the same house. Jesus showed him his wounds, and Thomas believed Jesus was both Lord and God. Jesus blessed those who would believe without seeing the physical proof shown Thomas, but continued showing the disciples many more miraculous signs not recorded here. John's goal in writing this book was so WE could believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing WE may have life in Jesus' name.
Jesus appeared again another day to a small group of disciples who had gone fishing. They tried all night, but caught nothing. As they were returning, a man from shore shouted that they should move the net to the right side of the boat. When they did, the net was too full to haul in. John recognized the man as the Lord, and everyone jumped from the boat, towing in the full net and the boat. Jesus had some fish on a fire of coals with bread. The men had caught 153 large fish and somehow the net hadn't torn. Jesus gave them fish and bread to eat for breakfast, then asked Simon (Peter) son of John three questions, for each time he had denied being the Lord's disciple. [Someone - Archbishop Timothy Dolan? - has said that Peter believed the Lord's forgiveness is stronger than his sin, while Judas thought his sin was stronger than God's forgiveness.] To each answer, Jesus gave Simon an assignment, then told him the kind of death he would have to glorify God. Jesus encouraged Simon how to face that death: "Follow Me!" Simon asked what would happen to the disciple Jesus loved (John), and Jesus asked what the length of John's life was to Simon Peter.