The Gospel of John begins with an amazing Prologue – the first eighteen verses of chapter one – which serve as a lens to bring who Jesus true identity into focus. From the first five verses, it is obvious that the apostle John is on a mission:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(John 1:1–5 ESV)
Each gospel contributes to a larger, overall portrait of “who” Jesus Christ is. Matthew begins his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy and the virgin birth of Christ. Mark starts with ministry of John the Baptist. Luke begins with the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus. In some sense, the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) paint their portraits of “who” Jesus is from the ‘earth up.’ John, on the other hand, is doing something very, very different. He is painting a portrait of “who” Jesus is – from heaven down!
In these first five verses, John intentionally evokes Genesis 1:1:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
(Genesis 1:1 ESV)
It’s as if John is saying, “Even if I used the night sky as a canvas to paint a portrait of Jesus – it wouldn’t be big enough,” and when we look at what John has written the reason why becomes obvious. In eternity past – before “anything was made,” the Word, who is Jesus, was already existing. There was never a time that Christ did not exist. As part of the Prologue, these first five verses of John not only give us a lens to view Jesus through the rest of his gospel, but an equally powerful Hubble-like lens to look back on Genesis 1:1. Jesus, as the Word, is poised beside His Father to create the heavens and the earth. John makes plain, in speaking of the Word, who is Jesus, that “All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3)
As revealed in the very first verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” – the Word who is Jesus, and His Father were existing closely together – sharing ‘place’ and ‘purpose.’ John 1:18 says Jesus is “at the Father’s side” and yet John ends verse one by saying that the “Word was God.” What is he saying?
- John is saying that the “Word was God in essence, that is His ‘ultimate nature’ and ‘character.’
- He was God in every way, though He was a separate Person from God the Father
- The Greek phrase perfectly preserves Jesus’ separate identity, while also stating that He is God. This was and is His ‘continuing identity’ from all eternity.
Some have argued that the phrase “and the Word was God” should really be translated “and the Word was divine.” Had John wanted to say that, there is a perfectly clear word in Greek for ‘divine,’ but he did not use it. Commenting on the order of the words of this verse in Greek, D.A. Carson, in his Pillar New Testament Commentary “The Gospel According to John” says this:
“Indeed the ordering of the words this way is to emphasize “God,” as if John were saying , ‘and the Word was God!”
Carson is saying that the way John ordered the words is to emphasize ‘God’ as if he were adding an exclamation point! John wants everyone to know up front who Jesus is. Jesus is not just the Son of God…He’s also God the Son! And then John’s portrait of Jesus, skillfully painted from ‘heaven down’ introduces a new dimension of depth when he says:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:14 ESV)
Jesus is the Son of God, meaning He is Divine. But He has also come to fulfill His role as the Messiah – the Son of Man. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. John wants all who read his gospel to clearly see that the deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God. Jesus is not just a good man…He’s the God-man!
As you read the Gospel of John and listen to Jesus’ words…as you see His compassion toward others…as you see Him perform the ‘signs’ John records to prove that Jesus is indeed who John says He is – watch how God’s Spirit uses the written Word of God to lead you to a more intimate experience with the Living Word of God – Jesus Christ. Not only will you see and appreciate Jesus in new and wonderful ways, but you will also come to see the One Jesus has come to reveal to the world – His Father!Last modified: May 17, 2022