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Bible Commentaries
John 1

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-18


14. The eternal Word (John 1:1-18)

To Israelites of Old Testament times, God’s word was more than something merely written down or spoken out. It was something active, so that when God expressed his will, that will was carried out. God spoke, and it was done (Genesis 1:3; Psalms 33:9; Isaiah 55:10-11). By his active word, God created the universe (Genesis 1:6,Genesis 1:9,Genesis 1:14; Psalms 33:6). God’s word had such life and power that people thought of it almost as if it were a person - God’s living agent or messenger (Psalms 107:20; Psalms 147:15,Psalms 147:18).

In John’s Gospel Jesus is called the Word (Greek: logos). Greek philosophers used logos in speaking of what they believed to be the principle of reason in the universe. John may have kept this in mind when he was writing, but he uses logos mainly in the Old Testament sense. The Word of God is the living and active agent of God, which existed before creation and was the means by which God created. It is not just like a person, but is a person - not ‘it’ but ‘he’. He is not just with God; he is God. Though distinct from the Father, he is inseparably one with him (John 1:1-3). He is the source not only of physical life but also of the full and spiritual life that God desires people to have. He brings the light of God into the world, and not even the darkness caused by sin can put it out (John 1:4-5).

John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus as the light of the world. John called people to faith and repentance so that they would be prepared to receive Jesus, but John himself could not give them the light and life of God. Only Jesus could do that (John 1:6-9).

Jesus’ coming into the world was like the coming of a person to his home town. But the people who lived in the ‘town’, especially his own people Israel, refused to receive him. Any, however, who did receive him, whether Israelites or others, became his true people. Such people are God’s true children. They come into this privileged relationship not through birth into a particular family or nation, nor through the actions of others on their behalf, but only through their personal reception of Jesus Christ (John 1:10-13).

When a person writes or speaks, the words he uses are really part of himself. They may have been in his mind for years, but they remain unknown unless he writes or speaks them. As long as the eternal Word remained with God in the unseen heavenly world, it was to a large extent hidden and unknown, but when God became a human being in the person of Jesus, the Word could be seen and heard by all (John 1:14; see also v. 18).

Although John preceded Jesus, in both his birth and his ministry, Jesus preceded John in that he was the eternal Word. The one who had always existed as God now took upon himself human form and made God known to humankind. He showed people what God was like not by commanding them to keep the law given to Israel, but by supplying grace and truth in unlimited supply to meet all their needs (John 1:15-18).

Verses 19-28

15. Preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-17; John 1:19-28)

The preaching of John soon attracted opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. They sent representatives to question him and then report back on what he taught and who he claimed to be. John denied that he was promoting himself as some new leader in Israel. He did not consider himself to be either the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15,Deuteronomy 18:18 or the ‘Elijah’ promised in Malachi 4:5. He was only a voice calling people to turn from their sin and be baptized, and so prepare themselves to receive the Messiah. He was like a messenger sent ahead of the king to tell people to clear the way for the royal arrival (Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-6; John 1:19-23).

John commanded all people to repent, no matter who they were. Those who were descendants of Abraham were no more privileged in the eyes of God than the stones on the ground. All people, regardless of nationality, religion or social status, were to leave their selfish and sinful ways, and produce results in their daily lives that would prove their repentance to be genuine (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14).

Although John baptized people to show they had repented and been forgiven their past sins, his baptism gave them no power to live a pure life. It was merely a preparation for one who was far greater than John. Jesus Christ would give the Holy Spirit, which, like fire, would burn up the useless chaff of the heart, leaving the pure wheat to feed and strengthen the life (Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:24-28).

Verses 29-34

16. Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34)

In due course John publicly introduced Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, for whom he had prepared the way. John’s introduction contained none of the popular Jewish ideas of a political or military leader who would bring in a golden age for Israel. Instead it suggested that the Messiah would die, like a lamb offered in sacrifice for the cleansing of sin (John 1:29-30). John then pointed out that he himself was not at first certain that Jesus was the Messiah, but when he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus at his baptism, he was left in no doubt. John’s explanation indicates that Jesus’ baptism took place before his public introduction (John 1:31-34).

When Jesus approached John to be baptized, John hesitated, because he knew Jesus was superior to him in character, status and authority. But Jesus insisted. He wanted to begin his ministry with a public declaration of his devotion to God. Baptism was an act of obedience carried out by those who declared themselves on the side of God and his righteousness. Jesus was baptized to show that, like all the faithful, he was obedient to God and he intended to carry out all God’s purposes. His baptism displayed his identification, or solidarity, not only with the faithful minority of Israel but also with the human race in general. It was an identification that would lead to a far greater baptism at Golgotha, when as the representative of his fellow human beings he would bear the full penalty of sin (Matthew 3:13-15).

Having shown his intentions openly, Jesus received openly the assurance that his Father was pleased with him. The Father’s announcement, by combining a quote concerning the Davidic Messiah with one concerning the Servant of the Lord (see Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 42:1), gave an indication that Jesus’ way to kingly glory was to be that of the suffering servant. In appointing Jesus to his public ministry, the Father poured out upon him the Holy Spirit, through whose power he would carry out his messianic work (Matthew 3:16-17; cf. Isaiah 11:1-2; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:37-38).

Verses 35-51

18. The first disciples (John 1:35-51)

John the Baptist no doubt felt he had successfully completed part of his work when two of his disciples left him to follow Jesus. One of these was Andrew, the other probably John (who does not mention his own name in his Gospel). Andrew then brought his brother Simon to Jesus. Jesus saw some characteristic in Simon that caused him to give him the name ‘Rock’. (The Aramaic word that Jesus used is transliterated as Cephas. The equivalent Greek word is transliterated as Peter.) These men believed Jesus to be the Messiah of whom John spoke, but they had little understanding of the nature of Jesus’ messiahship (John 1:35-42).

The party travelled north to Galilee, where they were joined by two more, Philip and Nathanael. (It seems that Nathanael was also called Bartholemew.) Nathanael was surprised to hear that the Messiah came from such an insignificant town as Nazareth in Galilee (John 1:43-46). But when he discovered that Jesus knew all about him even though they had not met, he was convinced that Jesus was the messianic king and the Son of God. Jesus was like a ladder connecting earth to heaven, bringing God to the world and making it possible for the world to come to God (John 1:47-51).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/john-1.html. 2005.
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