A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (3)
The Prologue (John 1:1-18)
John’s prologue reveals the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. It reads like a majestic hymn, praising Jesus Christ. It is like a doxology in which John sings praises to Jesus, who brought light and life into a lost world.
We can read this prologue as a pilgrim on a journey deeper into the heart of God. Throughout your study of the Gospel of John, you will want to come back time and time again to re-read this prologue. My beloved teacher, Dr. Ronald S. Wallace, used to quote his teacher, H.R. Mackintosh, as saying after reading the first 18 verses of John, “Never in any experience of God here or hereafter will you or I ever find anything that is not already there for us in Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh.”
It would be good at this point to compare the beginning of the Gospel of John with the beginning of the other three Gospels. Matthew begins with Jesus’ genealogy going back to Abraham and then with Jesus’ birth. Mark begins in an urgent way directly with the ministry of Jesus. Luke, writing an orderly account of Jesus’ life and ministry, begins with John the Baptist’s birth and Jesus’ virgin birth. John begins before the creation of the world, with God Himself. Each of the 4 Gospels is unique; yet they complement each other and give us a complete picture of Jesus Christ.
Some things to notice in the prologue of the Gospel of John:
- Notice that Jesus is referred to as the “Word.” What does it say about the Word? You may want to refer to Hebrews 1:1-2, which gives us a clear understanding of the Word of God. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son!” God’s last word to the world is “Jesus.” Jesus is God Himself, entering the world as fully human and fully God.
- The Word of God moved from heaven to earth. John 1:1 — “ . . . the Word was with God.” John 1:14 — “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God’s Word does not stand still. It is mobile. Jesus later says, in John 6:63, that the words He spoke were spirit and life. The words we hear God speak to us in the Gospel of John are alive, and they move off the printed page to enter our minds, heart and will, and then through us into the world.
When we meditate on the words of the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit plants the words in our hearts as living seeds that will germinate and produce fruit for God.
Take time, especially as you read and study John’s prologue, to meditate, to ponder and reflect, on these precious words. Invite the Holy Spirit to plant these words in your mind and heart, so that you can be a fruit bearer for the Lord.
3, What were the two great gifts that Jesus the Word brought into the world?
(1)______________ (2)______________ (John 1:4) These two gifts are inseparable, and they become important themes in the Gospel.
As you read John 1:4-5, and 1:9-12, notice how Jesus uses these two words symbolically. He continues to do this throughout the Gospel. The prologue not only reveals the gifts that Jesus gives us; it also reveals what Jesus overcomes. The struggle between light and darkness, life and death, continues throughout the whole Bible. Jesus came to free the world from bondage, but He was rejected even by His own people of Israel.
- John 1:12-13 tells us of the great gift that Jesus gives to those who believe in His name. These are 2 key verses to remember as you study this Gospel. Write them here. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- John 1:14-18 contains 3 important words that are key to understanding John’s Gospel — glory, grace and truth. As you read through the whole book of John, notice how these words are used. Hans Uhrs von Balthasar has described “glory” as “the majesty of God’s love fully revealed.” As you continue to read in this Gospel, see if you can understand more fully the meaning of this important word. Remember John’s world later, in 1 John 4:16 — “So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love.”
How do you understand the words “grace upon grace” in John 1:16?
How does John use the word “truth” in his Gospel?
Some people see John 1:14 as the heart of Gospel. How do you understand this?
You will find yourself coming back to this prologue (John 1:1-18) very often as you continue your study of the Gospel of John.
May God bless you richly as you continue your study.