Here is an excellent introduction to the first chapters of the Gospel of John!
John begins in the beginning (as good a place as any!). He intends to make a clear parallel with the book of Genesis, and emphasizes that “the Word” (who we later discover becomes human in Jesus Christ) is co-equal with God the Father and involved even in creation itself. Imagine what a shock reading these opening verses would have been to a Jewish audience!
John’s Gospel is more explicit about Jesus’ divinity than any of the others, and Jesus performs “signs” rather than miracles. These signs are evidence of his identity. Did you notice the first signs Jesus performed in our reading? How are these signs described and celebrated?
Jesus tends to be more straightforward about his identity in John than he was in the Gospel of Mark, but the crowds and disciples react the same in both Gospels; they are completely bewildered and confused by Jesus at every turn. In this Gospel, in fact, the author uses this confusion as a literary tool. Every time someone responds to Jesus, we can assume they are profoundly misunderstanding him. The crowds and disciples become a foil, so that by their ignorance, Jesus can further explain his purposes. Look back at almost any story from this week (Jesus and Nicodemus, or Jesus and the Woman at the Well, are two easy examples). Do you see how this misunderstanding motif is used by the author to help us understand Jesus better?
Both Jesus, and John the author of this Gospel, tend to speak cyclically. Speaking in circles can be extremely distracting to our modern ears, but was a common rhetorical style of the era. When Jesus starts speaking in these conversation loops, pay attention; he is drawing something forward for us to especially notice.
This coming week is the longest section (by chapters) of our New Movement reading plan. Nine chapters still isn’t that much, however - stick with it! As you read, look for some of the same themes mentioned above. Pay especial attention to the “I Am” comments by Jesus and the conversation in John 8 that ends with Jesus saying, “before Abraham was, I am.” The divine name of God, Yahweh, means “I AM” or “I am that I am”.
See you Sunday!