Summary: You might have a lot of questions about who Jesus Christ really is. John helps us understand the voice from the heavens. Are you ready to listen?
In the book and movie by Carl Sagan Contact a loner scientist hears a voice from the heavens, and then tries to convince others that in this voice is a message of great importance. Now Carl Sagan, while he was alive, did not believe in God. In fact the movie goes to great lengths to portray anyone who believes in God as either a terrorist or a moralist governed by poll numbers. Carl does believe in God now.
But I think Carl Sagan was right. In the movie advanced beings send earth a message-simple at first, just prime numbers-then more complicated. The message contained blueprints for building a way for us to get to this more advanced being.
In a sense, that is the essence of the gospel of John. The loner is John the Baptist-crying, "There is one coming that is greater than I. Listen to Him." The message is, in fact, in a person known in John as The Word. It is none other than Jesus Christ who comes to earth to tell us something of such great importance that we must listen and believe it. He Himself is the machine that can carry us away to be with a being so advanced that we cannot begin to understand. All we need do, though, is listen to the voice-to the message speaking to each one of us.
The man who wrote down this message was another John, John the Apostle. John was a very special person and his gospel a very special account of the life of Jesus. John, a rough and tumble fisherman was self centered (sit next to Jesus on the throne (Mark 10), he was quick to anger (call down thunder Luke 9) and was in fact called a son of Thunder. But when John met Jesus something happened. This blustery blowhard became a humble, devoted servant. John became so humble in fact, that he would not even name himself in his gospel. He clung closely to Jesus. He was one of three disciples, along with James his brother, and Peter, to be in the inner circle present at the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9) and is seen laying back on Jesus breast (John 13:25).
John was a young man when Jesus called him. He was probably John the Baptist’s first disciple (at least part time). Though he was not a Jerusalem insider, he had family connections to the High Priest (that’s how he got into the courtyard during Jesus arrest in 18:15). He was a leader of the Jerusalem church and ministered with Peter (Acts 3). But little more is known of him until he wrote four letters: 1, 2, 3 John and Revelation - and, of course, this gospel.
John was written around 85-90 AD (though some suggest earlier). Why did he write this book?
The whole purpose of the book can be summed up on one verse: John 20:31
"but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Jesus came from the Father and should be worshiped. It is written more as an apologetic rather than a biography, that’s why it is not called a "synoptic" gospel.
Each gospel presents Jesus in a different light: in Matthew, Jesus is the king, the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah." Mark portrays Jesus as the servant. In Luke He is the "Son of Man," while in John Jesus is the Son of God. John’s gospel is the most intimate portrayal of the Son of God. We also get to hear Jesus’ words more than any other book of the Bible. That’s one of the reasons it is such a special book.
There are a couple of interesting and important things to note about these first verses: life (its origins and owner), light (where it is and how it is perceived), darkness (what it is and how it interacts with true light), and witness.
Verse 1 - 2
Very much like Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning …" Do you think it’s an accident that John put it this way? Genesis: In the beginning God, John: in the beginning the Word. The Word, Jesus, is God!
Logos "the Word" usually means a spoken word but conveys meaning with it. It’s not just a word in a sentence but a "message." One scholar called it "the expression of personality in communication." Jesus is God speaking out his personality through the words of a man.
1 - in the beginning - Jesus was there before it all began
2 - "was with God" suggests coequality but distinction. The members of the trinity are distinct yet co-equal and one: a triune being.
3 - "was God" Jesus is God. The Greek phrase actually says "God was the Word." So much for the New World Translation "and the Word was "a" god.