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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A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day One

Some of us are studying the Gospel of John. Our approach to this Gospel is to read it together and discuss the main teachings of John. We are reading to meet Jesus and know Him better, to listen and obey all that God says to us, so that we may be used by God to extend His Kingdom throughout the world.

A few people have asked for some guidelines for reading the Bible, so in the next few weeks I will be sharing some ideas about how to read the Gospel of John.

Two excellent books for all Bible readers are How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book, both by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. They will help you as you read.

Reading is basic to all Bible study, and a key to reading is to observe. As I begin studying a book of the Bible, I like to read through it quickly and write down as many observations as I can. Remember: When you observe, just think of the questions “who, what, how, when, where, in what way . . .” and do not write down your own thoughts or interpretations. It is possible to see many things without actually observing them. One reason people interpret the Bible poorly is that they do not begin by observing what the Scripture actually says. Try writing down your observations as you skim through the Gospel of John; you will probably end up with 30 to 100 observations. You will be surprised by what you discover, because the Gospel of John is like a treasure chest of precious jewels.

The basic approach to Bible study consists of 3 steps: First, observe. Second, interpret – what was the meaning to the original readers? Then, what is the meaning to us now? Third, application – What is God saying to me as I read and interpret?

Now, search for the purpose for John’s writing this Gospel. A hint: It is found in the last part of chapter 20. When we know the purpose, we will understand why millions of people have come to believe in Jesus Christ simply by reading this book.

The last thing to do today, or soon, is look for the structure of the book. Is there a major division between the first chapter and the last chapter (21) of John? What happens in the first part of the book? What happens in the last part of the book? Can you make further divisions of the book?

May the Lord bless you as you begin your study of the Gospel of John.

 

 

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Lenten Meditations Part 3

  1. Psalm 129

This psalm reminds us that those who fully follow the Lord will be misunderstood and even persecuted. Christians worldwide are persecuted more today than at any other time since the early days of the Christian Church. Yet we can testify that the Lord is good and faithful. Consider the great blessing of the Lord to us, and also the blessing we can be to others, even to those who persecute us.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 130

The mark of the pilgrim who is going to Jerusalem, and in our case to the New Jerusalem, is to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the world. We wait for the Lord, and for His word to us. Our waiting is a positive longing for the Lord, because in Him alone is hope, steadfast love, and plentiful redemption.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 131

Sometimes in our pilgrimage towards the presence of God, we need times of silence, of stillness, of quiet waiting for Him alone. We turn to God who is both Father and Mother, and are satisfied in Him alone.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 132

The original pilgrims remembered that their forefathers had carried the ark of the covenant, which was the sign of His presence. They remembered God’s anointed servant who had valued God’s presence more than anything else. This is a psalm of one who puts first the will of God, above all else. We still pray this psalm today, asking God to clothe all His ministers, pastors, and others with salvation and with songs of joy. Remember: Through Jesus, we enter the dwelling place of God. We will be blessed with the gifts of eternal life.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 133

Here is the beautiful goal and promise of our pilgrimage! God desires that all who follow Him and count themselves as children of God to be truly united. We as pilgrims are now nearing our goal: dwelling in the glorious presence of God! We can do so only in unity, because this is God’s will. This is where we discover His blessings. Unity is like the anointing oil poured over Aaron, the first priest; God will pour out the anointing of His Holy Spirit on those who walk in unity. Unity is like the dew of Mt. Hermon, the dew of blessing that causes us to grow into maturity. God will command His blessings on those who walk in unity.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 134

The pilgrim arrives at her destination. When we arrive into the presence of the Lord, we are called to do two things: First, to bless God, and then to receive His blessing! We bless God by worshiping and obeying Him. The blessings that God gives to His worshipers include all the blessings of heaven itself! (Ephesians 1:3) As you continue to meditate on the Psalms, may God continue to bless you and enable you to bless the world.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

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Lenten Meditations Part 2

  1. Psalm 121

The pilgrim, surrounded by hills on the journey, is seeking for help. Help comes, not from the hills but from God Himself. We may have passed through a valley of suffering, but now we can lift up our eyes to the Lord; and He will answer.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 122

The psalmist arrives in Jerusalem; we who meditate arrive in the New Jerusalem! (The writer to Hebrews tells us that we already have arrived, spiritually, in the New Jerusalem! Hebrews 12:22-24) Consider some of the things we find there: fellowship, unity with others who worship God, the presence of God, peace with God.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 123

The pilgrim lifts up his eyes to the Lord, longing for Him alone and depending only on Him. He is the one who provides our needs and who shows us compassion. The psalmist prays for mercy.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 124

After the prayer for mercy, this psalm tells of the help and deliverance of the Lord. “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side,” what would have become of us in our distress? We all can ask this question. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Perhaps you feel like a bird who has escaped the cage, or imprisonment.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 125

This is a psalm of trust in God. He is like the mountains surrounding Jerusalem (or Seattle, where we live); God surrounds us at all times, forever. God’s peace “overshadows” our troubles. How has God “overshadowed” your own troubles?

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 126

A psalm of restoration. Here is hope for new life, for the transformation of dried-up souls.

 

Meditate on verse 5. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 127

All of our work is important and fruitful if we realize that God is actually working through us as we labor and toil. This psalm leads us to trust God, and to be happy doing work – any kind of work – that is blessing people in some way. Consider the themes of sleeping in the arms of God, resting in His love and care, and trusting God to give us what we need to do His will in the world.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 128

The happiness of “fearing the Lord.” To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of God. This is a positive fear, and it means to walk in God’s ways. The fear of the Lord is to turn away from sin and evil, and turn our faces to the Lord, desiring to please Him. Another psalm tells us that God has special friendship with those who fear Him. It is the foundation of a happy life.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

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