Reading the Gospel of John (6)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day Six

Jesus’ Pastoral Conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, which was composed of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and priests. The leaders’ sin was perversion of Truth by setting up a tradition of their own in place of the Word of God.

Why did Nicodemus come to speak with Jesus? Was he disturbed by the fanaticism and irrational attitudes of some of his colleagues? Was he dissatisfied with his own spiritual experience? In addressing Jesus as “Rabbi,” did he simply want to discuss with Jesus some aspects of the law?

Why did he come at night? Remember that the Gospel of John frequently uses symbolism. Was he afraid of other leaders, or of public opinion? Was it because he “belonged to the night?” As you read through this Gospel, note that very soon after this conversation he defended Jesus against his fellow Pharisees (7:50-52).

Take note of Jesus’ approach to Nicodemus.

  1. Jesus’ first words are blunt, possibly intended to shock Nicodemus out of his self-confidence. Nicodemus was looking for progress; Jesus speaks only of re-birth.
  2. After shocking Nicodemus, Jesus appeals to him. He explains the re-birth he was speaking of as a complete inward renewal brought about by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they even talked about Ezekiel’s promise in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

How does Jesus use the setting of their conversation? Perhaps they are talking on the flat rooftop in the cool of evening, with a gentle breeze blowing. How does Jesus relate His message to the environment surrounding them?

John 3:12 — Jesus speaks of “earthly things” and “heavenly things.” What does He mean?

3. As Jesus talks of heavenly things, Nicodemus seems to close his interview with Jesus. But Jesus continues to proclaim the Gospel to him. He gave the clearest, simplest, most beautiful invitation found anywhere in the Scriptures. Jesus speaks of the sacrifice made in heaven “out of the fullness, uncalculating tenderness and grace of the Father’s love.” (H. R. Mackintosh)

John 3:16 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

John Calvin, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, said: “Our hearts will never find calm repose until they rest on the unmerited love of God.”

  1. Read again John 3:16-21 to seek to understand how Jesus uses the word “light” as opposed to darkness.
  2. Did Nicodemus change at a later time? Read John 7:46-52 and John 19:38-42 and consider how he may have changed.

 

John the Baptizer’s Final Witness to Jesus (John 3:22-36)

As the last in a long line of Old Testament prophets, John was aware that God was the “Husband” of Israel, and Israel was the “unfaithful wife.” John began to understand his role as the “friend of the Bridegroom.” (John 3:29-30) His task was to work as the messenger of the Bridegroom, and to prepare the bride for the Bridegroom’s coming.

What was John’s greatest joy? (John 3:28-30) What did his joy cause him to confess?

John’s final witness is an appeal to his listeners to listen not to him, but to listen to Jesus, who “gives the Spirit without measure.” He closes with an appeal to his generation to choose eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Spend some time meditating on John the Baptizer’s humility, and on his complete focus on Jesus.

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Reading the Gospel of John

This is an important correction to John 1:42 — Simon’s name change to Peter.

I am very grateful to my dear friend Gary Parrett, former professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, for correcting my statement about Simon Peter’s name change in John 1:42. For many years, I have thought that the name Simon means a “reed,” easily broken in the wind. But Gary helped me understand the true meaning of the name Simon, which is “he hears.”

I had heard many Bible teachers refer to Simon as an easily broken reed, but with the name change to Peter he became a solid rock. But after more careful research I can find no evidence in either the original Hebrew, or the Aramaic or Greek, to support that meaning. The biblical name “Simon” means one who listens, with the intent of obeying.

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter as a challenge for Peter to hear properly. As Gary says, “Jesus changed his name to Peter in a visionary way and He challenges us all to seek His calling for each of us.” When we listen to God and then obey, we become firm in our faith.

Gary is a theologian whose theology leads into doxology — from study and knowledge of God into praise. He and his wife, Holly (Hosun), are worshipers and have composed and sung many of their own songs and hymns. He has given me permission to quote two verses of one of them that relate to Peter.

Into the Waters Deep (Luke 5:1-11)

O Simon, on this very day,

put all thy lesser dreams away.

Thine eye cannot a glimpse now see

of all I have in store for thee.

Wilt thou by faith, then, take this leap?

Put out into the waters deep~,

and for a catch let down thy net.

My child, thou hast seen nothing yet.

 

Thy doubtful question well I know:

“Am I to reap where none can sow?”

And weary, too—I see thy strain;

so great the toil, so small the gain.

But hear my word, friend, and obey,

I will transform thy world today,

though thou shalt sense it by degree.

What wonders wait? Obey, and see!

 

Gary’s willingness to correct and help is a wonderful blessing to me, and to us all. It makes me rejoice that we are studying the Bible together as a community. Let’s learn together and minister together as members of His Body.

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Correction to Wedding Feast

The wedding feast at Cana is in John chapter 2 (not chapter one as I mistakenly wrote).

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Reading the Gospel of John (5)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day Five

A Wedding Feast (John 1:1-12)

Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding. Jesus performs His first miracle, or sign, there, and His disciples come to believe in Him.

Significance of the Wedding Feast

It would have been natural for Jesus to spend time alone with His disciples as He began to train them. But He takes them to a wedding. Consider the significance of this by reading about Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom of God is like a wedding feast, a covenant relationship (Matthew 22). Read also Revelation 19:6-19 about God’s people in heaven attending the Wedding Feast of the Lamb

Why do you think Jesus took them to a wedding in Cana of Galilee as He was beginning to train them as His disciples?

Notice that Jesus did not participate in the religious activities of the wedding. He is in the background.

Why do you think Jesus performed this first miracle of changing water into wine? What does this mean for us today? Remember that all of Jesus’ miracles are signs pointing to a truth about God.

Cleansing of the Temple (2:13-25)

It is important to note that the other 3 Gospels place this story of the cleansing of the temple at the end of their books, but John places it in the beginning. But the issue is the same: Conflict with Satan. The other 3 Gospels show Jesus confronting Satan first in the wilderness; but in the Gospel of John, Jesus confronts Satan first in the one place where most people would think evil did not exist — in the temple!

Jesus challenges Satan not only in the wilderness but also in the temple of God, where Satan and his evil powers were firmly entrenched!

Consider the significance of John’s placing Jesus’ first challenge to Satan in the temple!

What was the original purpose of the temple? How were the people abusing this purpose? Jesus was attacking the religious leaders’ attitude towards God!

Read Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Revelation 22:1-5 to understand the importance of the River of Life flowing out from the temple to heal the nations. As you read through the Gospel of John, you will find that Jesus speaks of the river of life flowing out of the inner life of His believers. (See especially John 7:38-39)

How does this relate to the importance of Jesus cleansing the temple as His first act of confronting the religious establishment of His day? Note that the prophet Malachi prophesied that the Lord whom everyone was seeking would “suddenly come to His temple” . . . but who can endure the day of His coming?” (Malachi 3:1-2)

In what ways do you think the events of John chapter 2 are important for understanding the Gospel of John?

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Reading the Gospel of John (4)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (4)

Day Four

The 1st day of Jesus’ public ministry begins with John the Baptizer’s witness about himself (John 1:19-28)

John 1:6 — “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” This passage opens with John the Baptizer in Bethany beyond the Jordan River. His role is to prepare people for the immediate coming of the Messiah. The Jewish leadership sent priests and Levites to find out who he was and why he was baptizing. He answers all their questions with the words “I am not.”

John’s only claim is to be a voice. Read Isaiah 40:1-8 and notice the similar role John plays to that of Isaiah the prophet. John the Baptizer was the last in the line of Old Testament prophets.

John’s Witness to Jesus (John 1:29-34)

On the 2nd day of Jesus’ public ministry John bore witness to Jesus Christ. In what two ways did John introduce Jesus?

John 1:29

John 1:33

Jesus Calls 5 Disciples (John 1:35-51)

On the 3rd and 4th days Jesus begins to draw a community around Him, a core group that will carry on His ministry after His death and resurrection.

Jesus did not actually call His first 2 disciples; John the Baptizer did. One of the disciples was Andrew, but the second disciple is not named. Who do you think he is?

Andrew called his brother Simon Peter. How did these three disciples of John the Baptizer become the disciples of Jesus? John 1:35-37 Try to imagine John’s reaction when his disciples left him and began to follow Jesus.

What are the first words Jesus spoke in the Gospel of John? What were these disciples seeking? John 1:38

The use of the word “stay” in the Gospel of John is important. It is also translated as “remain,” or “abide.” The first usage is in John 1:32. The second usage is in John 1:38-39. The Greek verb “abide” in John 15 is the same word used in chapter 1, for “staying, remaining” in Jesus. What does this teach us about the main task of a disciple?

 

Consider Andrew and Philip’s important roles in drawing other disciples to Jesus.

What do you think is the significance of Jesus’ changing Simon’s name (meaning reed) to Peter (meaning rock)?

Jesus saw Nathanael “under the fig tree,” and Nathanael immediately confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. For the significance of the fig tree, see Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10. There was a current tradition in that time that the true Israelite, when waiting for the Messiah to come, would go at times to meditate “each under his fig tree.” What do you think Nathanael was meditating on? John 1:50-51 gives us a clue. Refer to Genesis 28:10-12.

Notice the three names used for Jesus in this passage.

Son of God

King of Israel

Son of Man

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Reading the Gospel of John (3)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (3)

Day Three

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

 

  1. 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. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. 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.

 

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A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (2)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day Two

We are reading the Gospel of John to discover how to live in the light, to receive strength from the Holy Spirit and to experience God’s love that will equip us to live our daily lives in community with one another, and to minister to the world.

John’s Gospel is often referred to as the “Eagle’s Eye Gospel.” John’s deep insight into Jesus is compared to the eyesight of the eagle, which “can see a rabbit moving on the ground a mile below even in the moonlight.” (J.R.R. Tolkien) No bird can fly so high and see so keenly as the eagle. This is the insight into the person and work of Jesus Christ that John brings to us in his Gospel.

Chapters 1-11 are centered around 7 signs, or miracles, that Jesus did. John selected these 7 miracles and signs out of many miracles Jesus performed. (John 21:25) The purpose of these signs is found in John 20:30-31. A result of the signs can be found in John 10:41-42.

Write down the 7 signs found in the following passages:

  1. John 2:1-11
  2. John 4:46-54
  3. John 5:1-18
  4. John 6:1-15
  5. John 6:16-21
  6. John 9:1-7
  7. John 11:1-45

Read these miracle stories and make note of the things they teach us about Jesus. These signs were done openly, in the presence of His disciples. Many other people also saw the signs; they are open to all who will see and believe.

Another help in understanding John’s Gospel is to note the 7 “I AM” statements that Jesus Christ made about Himself.

In John chapter 8, Jesus made the most radical claim about Himself, so radical that the Jewish religious leaders attempted to stone Him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58-59) This was the name God revealed to Abraham to use when he went to Egypt to deliver God’s people.

Then, throughout the Gospel, there are 7 statements that begin with the words “I am. Write down the 7 “I AM” statements.

  1. John 6:35 (For example, Jesus says, “I am the Bread of life.”)
  2. John 8:12
  3. John 10:7
  4. John 10:11
  5. John 11:25
  6. John 14:6
  7. John 15:1

You may already have noticed that the Gospel of John includes much symbolism. For example, Jesus says that He is the Bread of life immediately after feeding the multitude of people with bread and fish. So “bread” is both physical bread and spiritual food as well. You will find this symbolism throughout your reading and studying of this book.

Spend some time meditating on these 7 miracles, or signs, and the 7 “I AM” statements Jesus made about Himself. Every sign, or miracle, that Jesus did teaches us about Jesus in a special way. John does not simply tell us that Jesus performed miracles; he also interprets Jesus’ miracles. Remember: John is sharing with us what he actually saw and heard as a disciple of Jesus. This is his eyewitness account. He opens up his treasure chest in order to create faith in his readers.

It would be good to prepare a notebook or journal of your observations and insights into the Gospel of John. Be sure to keep looking at the structure of this Gospel. John 12:36-50 will let you know that one large section of the Gospel is coming to a close. Then John 13:1 seems to open up a new section.

It may be helpful for your continuing study to begin to make an outline of the content of the Gospel of John. Or you can make a chart. But we will talk about that at a later time.

God bless you as you continue to study this wonderful book.

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