Thursday, June 6, 2013

John 1-3: The Whole Gospel is Here

It's amazing what happens when you really read scripture. I mean really read it. We often skim along, "read this, understand that, I know what happens here...skipping ahead." And at other times, even when we are truly spending time in a passage, it is all too easy to see only the obvious. Jesus turned water into wine... cool story! His first miracle was making alcohol for a wedding! Cool. Jesus must like parties. Or, "Come follow me." I get it, Jesus asks his new disciple to follow him. Simple. Got it.

But there is such an incredible depth behind the simplest of verses... even the ones that seem to have one simple, even strong, obvious meaning.

I've just been digging into John 1-3. I did not know this... but Jesus gives us the entire gospel in the first three chapters.

The first words uttered by Jesus in the book of John are, "What do you seek?"  Yes, Jesus said this to two men who were probably awkwardly following behind him as he walked. But look deeper. "What do you seek?"  This is really the big question every man and woman asks him or herself in life. What do I seek? What do I want? What is this life about?

Next, we have the answer: "Come and you will see." Jesus' answer here is in response to the question, "where are you staying?" Simple right? Some guys ask him where he's staying and he gives a simple answer, come and find out. But is this not the invitation Jesus gives to all who are seeking? He says to us, "come with me and you will see what it is you seek." We see an even clearer example of this in vs. 43 when he calls Phillip. He simply says, "Follow me." Jesus offers an invitation to follow him.

The next passage is the all-too famous turning of water into wine, his first miracle. We all know it's his first miracle. I tend to think of it fondly as Jesus' endorsement of wine, which I happen to love. But looking deeper, it's incredibly meaningful and significant. This may not be the only "truth" in this passage, but it has struck me. We tend to see water as the most life-giving of substances. This is probably true. But in Judaism water most often symbolized death (the flood, baptism is a death and rebirth as we emerge from it, etc.). Wine often symbolizes life and abundance, even spiritual love. Jesus' first act of ministry is to turn death into life. He is showing us the core of who he is. He the man that turns death into life.

Next, Jesus turns over the tables and pours out the coins in the temple. We often see this as Jesus showing his more masculine side, right? He's furious, so he acts. He takes charge. He stands up for God's name. This is true. But, there is more! We know that we as Christians are called God's temple. He dwells in us through his Spirit. Jesus has come to this temple to drive out that which has taken the place of His holiness and purpose for this temple. Namely, sin. Jesus then tells us how he'll do it.

Jesus predicts is his death for the first time. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" He was just in a temple, a literal temple. He's talking about that temple, right? No. He is talking about his body. John explains this. This is the cross. We could stop here and it's pretty complete overcast of the gospel. But, the final forecast is given in chapter 3.

Jesus begins to talk about the kingdom of God. Want to see it? First, you must be born again... not physically but spiritually. Notice the capital "S" in verse 6 of chapter three. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We must be born of God by his Spirit to see his kingdom. Are you able to do this, will yourself to be born? Nope. We are born of the Spirit. Jesus begins to tell us about the sovereignty of God here.

And lastly he explains the saving power of the cross. He has foreshadowed his death already when he mentioned the temple. But, here we see the purpose more fully. Jesus tells Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel by the way, about the serpent that Moses lifted up on a pole that whoever looked upon would be forgiven (interesting to note, too, that Nicodemus represents the Jews here who rejected and would not recognize him as a people). Jesus goes onto say that he too must lifted up, that whoever believes (looks upon) in him may have eternal life.

And that's the whole of the gospel in 3 chapters, foreshadowed... and what's the very next verse? What do you know... John 3:16.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

And there is a broad stroke of Jesus, tied up in a little bow.

1. What do you seek?
2. Come and see/Follow me.
3. Jesus turns water to wine (death to life).
4. Jesus battles sin in the temple (the body).
5. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection.
6. Jesus explains how one receives forgiveness/eternal life.
7. Seven, the number of completion, wholeness perfection... Jesus tells us the master plan, the title of this great book that God is writing.

Written: February 7, 2011

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