recently, one of my favorite preachers of late (who happens to be a co-worker of mine and preaches every other week at my church) invited our entire church (which is comprised of four different campuses in four different cities and thousands and thousands of people) to read through the book of John together as a church. the sermon he preached dealt with how we can hear from God, and the primary way we can hear God’s voice is by reading God’s word. so, we’re reading.
this morning i was talking with Ayla about how i often underline and write little notes, but i can’t always remember how i got to those thoughts, so they’re often undercooked and aren’t necessarily helpful later, and the margins of my bible aren’t necessarily enough to hash out whatever thought i have that day.
so what i’m gonna do is write a brief blurb with every chapter that i read, and it’s for my own sake so i can chronicle what i’ve thought about, but if you get something out of it, that’s great and just dandy.
John 1 – for this chapter, i’m going to cheat just a little…last year, i went through a study of John with some friends, and the more we read, the more we realized that the first chapter is a bit of a thesis statement – at least the first 18 verses. almost everything you read in the rest of John will fulfill something he says here. for the rest of John, you’ll read about how life is in Jesus, how Jesus shines like a light, how darkness didn’t/doesn’t/can’t overcome Him, how the world that He made didn’t receive or recognize Him, how He made disciples (children of God,) how He became flesh and dwelt with people, how He’s full of grace and full of truth, how people receive grace upon grace from Him. Overall, there is this unknownness and unrecognizability about Jesus that bears itself out in the gospel – and you’ll see it time and time again.
i’ve studied this chapter a little before, and my favorite verse is verse 16 – because the phrase “grace upon grace” can be translated to “grace in place of grace.” so, we receive grace from Jesus, and any time we squander or sully or try to stain that grace (ie. times we repent and receive forgiveness for something we just end up doing again) we just get grace in place of it. it’s as though God’s grace is like a hydra (to borrow a mythological reference) – anytime you try to cut it off, it just comes back stronger and with more than there was before.
John 2 – i’ve never understood – and still may not – why exactly the miracle of turning water to wine was included. i have this pious thought that it doesn’t help anyone and didn’t really do anything for anyone, so why did it get tucked into the gospel, aside from the fact that it’s Jesus’ first recorded miracle? on one hand, i think that’s the only reason, but this time around i’m stretching myself to believe there’s a little spiritual significance to it…the master of the house says to the bridegroom, “people normally use the good stuff first and then bring out the bad wine once everyone’s already drunk! but you kept the good wine!” i wonder if it’s a metaphor for the arrival of Jesus. i wonder if someone reading this might think that, before Jesus, God served wine – that is, God intervened, He acted, and He spoke – but Jesus is the actual manifestation of God on earth. God saved, He forgave – but He kept His best – Jesus Christ – for last. Jesus is the ultimate intervention. He is God’s hand ultimately at work. He is God’s voice ultimately made known. He is God’s face ultimately seen. He is God’s mind and will ultimately revealed.
John 3 – of course, everyone knows John 3:16, but i couldn’t help but think about how the first half of John 3 sits with the thesis statement when it says, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” this is an example of Jesus showing God’s other-ness…putting out a statement so absurd and inconceivable that grown men, teachers of the law, can’t understand it. now, i don’t want to pretend that i fault Nicodemus – i wouldn’t know what Jesus was talking about if i were in his shoes. of course, now, because we have Jesus’ teachings, the idea of being born again and being born in the Spirit make sense, but that probably sounded looney at the time. Jesus is saying that a man can’t see the kingdom of God if he isn’t born again – and his dig at Nicodemus seems to be implying that the law should make man’s need for change obvious. (again, we know this because of Paul’s discourse on the law and repentance, but this would have been a new concept at the time.) Nicodemus might have seen the law as a set of rules to follow, as something done by willpower – as many of us even do today. Nicodemus might not have understood that the power to do the will of God might come from God Himself – but that’s what Jesus is saying in essence when He says that anyone who believes in Him can have eternal life. the broad takeaway is that mankind needs a change of mind (i believe, through reading scripture, that we also need a change of heart, but Jesus’ big point here seems to be about the mind – what you know.)
John 4 – as i read this chapter, i notice two themes: satisfaction, and what the real thing is. first off, Jesus touches on how whoever drinks the water He gives will never be thirsty again. this reminds me of the Psalm that says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” the idea being that when we taste of God’s goodness – when we drink the Living Water, there’ll never be anything like that again. we have an insatiable (other than by His own presence) desire for His presence and His goodness. then He also says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus was (and the hope is that we will also be) unsatisfied by anything else – but to do the will of the Father. i hope i find satisfaction and nutrition in that, too. finally, as He’s talking to the Samaritan woman, He says that a time is coming when the worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. i wondered what that meant for so long and i’ still not sure i know exactly, but i suspect it has something to do with seeing the real thing and worshipping the real thing – how until that point, people had to extrapolate God from scripture and from the various acts they saw Him perform (and assume it was indeed Him) – but now they see Him with their very eyes in the form of Jesus. as Jesus would later say, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” we worship sincerely when we have seen and tasted and experienced God.
i will continue to update this as i continue reading, and link thoughts that seem to overlap from various chapters.