The Gospel of John bears the name of John the Apostle, not John the Baptist. But in the opening chapter of this gospel it is John the Baptist who is seen in the important role of “forerunner” of Jesus.
Although John was attracting great crowds and could have taken advantage of his fame for selfish purposes, he faithfully deflected all attention to Jesus, the Christ. John said, “I am not the Christ, but I am preparing the way for Him” (v.21, 23) and “I am not worthy to untie His shoes…He outranks me” (v.27, 30). Referring to the baptism of Jesus, John said, “He is the Son of God” (v.34).
The loudest shout of “the voice in the wilderness” (v.23) was John’s announcement, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (v.29, 36). It was a prophetic identifier of Jesus, pointing forward to the sacrifice Jesus would make when He died on the cross as the ultimate sin-bearing sacrifice provided by His Father — the Lamb of God.
The chapter ends with Jesus calling two of John the Baptist’s disciples to be His own, Andrew and Simon Peter, and two others, Philip and Nathanael. It was to Nathanael (v.50) that Jesus made the exciting promise of seeing “greater things.”
I skipped over the first eighteen verses of this chapter, known as “The Prologue,” in order to summarize it at the end of today’s blog. The Prologue is supremely important, one of the mountain peaks of Scripture, and every Christian ought to know why.
John’s Prologue begins with the same words that begin the book of Genesis, “In the beginning.” In Genesis the message is that in the beginning God created. Here in John the message is that in the beginning God expressed Himself in a way that humanity could understand His nature: Jesus, “the Word.” If you want to know what God is really like, look to Jesus.
Jesus did not begin to exist when He was born in Bethlehem. He has existed forever, for He is God’s perfect and complete expression of Himself (not the reflection of God, but the expression of God). In the manger of Bethlehem, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v.14). God so wanted mankind to know Him in all His fullness — in a personal relationship — that He took on flesh ad came as a human being, a person with whom every person could have a personal relationship.
That relationship begins when you receive Him — when you take for yourself His offer of life and light (v.4) and of spiritual birth (v.13). And “receiving” Jesus is not just receiving a part of Him or an idea of Him, but rather it is receiving all of who He is, in all His fullness (v.16). Knowing Jesus fully means experiencing His grace over and over and over again, “grace upon grace,” forever. What a way to live!
“In the beginning was the Word”…and in the end we will be with Him, rejoicing in His endless grace!