John 1

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil and I’m one of the pastors here on staff and it’s my pleasure to be able to speak with you today about Jesus.  There’s a lot of ideas out there about Jesus – about who he was and what he did.  And I’m excited today to begin a new series on a book in the bible called the book of John.  And you know what’s great about John?  John was Jesus’ best friend.  That’s who John was – Jesus best friend.

And John – toward the end of his life, sat down and wrote an account of the life of Jesus.  There were four people who wrote about the life of Jesus; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  

And they are the only four books in the bible that detail the life and times of Jesus. And though there are similarities between these books, they are each a little different.  Since this is the first week of a series on a book in the bible, I want to help us understand a little bit about how John is different than the other three gospels.

Matthew is written primarily to a Jewish audience.  That’s why Matthew has so many Old Testament verses all over the beginning of his book.  He wants his Jewish audience to understand that what they are reading is NOT a different story than the Old Testament, but rather its a continuation, indeed it’s a fulfillment of the promises made in the OT that God would one day send a Savior to save the world.

Matthew wants to help the Jewish nation understand something that would have been very difficult for them to understand – that the Messiah –  the promised Savior –  didn’t just come to save the Jewish people, but rather, that Jesus is the savior of the world.

That’s why he carefully weaves stories into his gospel where the Non-Jewish people turn out to be the hero of the story.  And he makes the Jewish person think – why would Jesus commend these Romans, these Canaanites, these Samaritans.  He’s a Jewish Rabbi.

He’s doing that as a way of steering his Jewish readers to come to a startling conclusion that Jesus was the savior of the world, not just Israel.

So he begins, for instance, in the genealogy – Matthew starts with Abraham, because he’s the father of Judaism.  But Matthew ends his Gospel with Jesus declaring to his disciples – go therefore to all nations, and teach them to follow me.

Mark is another kind of gospel all together.  He writes to a non-jewish audience.   Mark is commonly thought to be writing Peter’s story for him.  But Mark is writing like his house is on fire.  Like he is completely ADD or something.  Did you know that Mark doesn’t mention anything  about the birth of Jesus – he’s like, Nobody got time for that!  So he starts with Jesus getting baptized, and now he’s calling disciples and now he’s driving out an evil spirit, and now he’s praying in a solitary space.  All in one chapter 1.

Luke on the other hand, is a doctor.  He’s a researcher.  And he explains why he wrote his gospel in the first couple of verses – I myself have carefully investigated everything…  and decided to write an orderly account… so that you may know the certainty of what you are being taught. 

Luke is very compassionate and has a very soft spot in his heart for the outcasts – none more than the poor, and women.  Luke includes more stories about Jesus’ interaction with poor people and with women than any other gospel writer.  If the Jews were shocked by Matthews gospel showing how Jesus cared for non-jews, then Luke socked his readers by showing how much attention Jesus lavished upon people that the rest of society had very little time for in the first century Roman world.

The Gospel we are studying over the next few weeks is John’s gospel. Probably written last, John’s account is very different than the other ones, as if John wanted to cover new ground.

John tells us exactly what he is trying to accomplish.  Luke told us why he wrote in the first couple of verse, John saves his purpose for the last verse…  where he writes in John 20:31 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

He is writing to convince us to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with our lives.

Now the last two weeks we’ve been pretty heavy on practical tips of living a more simple life.  Tips and tricks and all that.  Today we are going after some theology.

Let’s jump in at John 1:1  And really we aren’t going much further than this one verse today.  And you are thinking, one verse?  This is going to be a long series!  It’s not – but this one verse is so profound it deserves all of our time today.

In the beginning was the Word,

In order for us to really be able to understand the Bible it helps if we put ourselves in the position of the people who read it for the first time, 2000 years ago.  And there were really only two kinds of people.  There were Jewish readers and there were non-jewish people – we call it the Greek world, even though it was run by the Romans – society was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.  In fact all of the New Testament was written in Greek.

So – if you were a Jewish person reading John’s book for the first time, and you read, “In the beginning was the word” – you would say to yourself – oh, this is a Jewish book.  Because he is starting his book the same way that Genesis – the first book of the bible starts.  In the beginning, God Created the heavens and the earth.

And how did God create the heavens and the earth?  If you read Genesis 1 you will see that God spoke the words into existence.  And so you read the first sentence of John and say, makes perfect sense to me.  So far so good.

Now interestingly, if you were a non-jewish person, influenced by greek philosophy – you would read the exact same sentence – in the beginning was the Word – and you would say to yourself – Oh, John is writing to me.  I understand exactly what he is saying.  He is speaking about the Word.  In the greek it’s Logos,

The greek thinker was very familiar with the word Logo’s.   But to the greek thinker the Logo’s was something of a force.  It was something like the rationale for life.  The Logo’s was something like the force in the Star wars movie – it brought meaning and purpose to life itself.  But it wasn’t personal.  It was impersonal force.  And philosophers of the day spent time debating what the Logo’s exactly was in the universe.

John reels both parties in by starting his book with words that would capture there attention.  It’s like he’s whispering to each to scootch closer I got something to tell you, it’s just for you can you hear me?  And then he takes both of their heads and smashing them into each other.

Because the next thing John says would send both parties into a tailspin.

In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God,

    and the Word was God.

John grabs the Greek thinker’s attention by announcing that the Logo’s of the Universe is not an impersonal force.  That the meaning and purpose of life, is not a philosophy but a person.  The meaning of life, true meaning and true purpose in life is found in one man, living breathing human being – Jesus himself.

John grabs ahold of the Jewish person by saying – that word of God you read about in Genesis 1 – well it’s a person!  His name is Jesus and he happened to be my best friend.

What is John doing?  He’s telling his readers that I’m about to tell you about a man that is unlike any man you’ve ever heard about before.  I’m about to tell you about a man – living, breathing, in the flesh – embodiment of all the doctrine any of you ever held dear.

John announces as explosively as he can that you are about to read about a person unlike anyone you’ve ever heard about.  He was my best friend, and he wants to be your best friend too.

John drops a bombshell on everyone who read this.  So where will he go from there?

Is John going to start at the beginning Jesus ministry?  Like Mark?  No.  Earlier than that.

Is he going to start at the beginning of Jesus’ life, like Luke?  No.  Earlier than that!

Will John start at the beginning of the nation of Israel, like Matthew, no? Earlier than that.

Will he begin at the beginning of the creation of the earth?  Like Genesis? No – remarkably, John begins his story before even the creation of the universe!

John takes us of The beginning of time itself – before anything was created.    And guess who is already there?  Jesus!  (I told you he was something special!)

He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us.

You know what’s happening here?  I’ll tell you – he’s giving us a glimpse behind the scenes – what God was like before creation, before mankind.  Before he became flesh.  He’s giving us a behind the scenes look at the very nature and essence of God.

Some of you know that I am rooting for the New England Patriots tonight in the Super-bowl.  Now before you boo me let me explain why.  We lived in Foxboro, the home of the Patriots.  We were married in Foxboro.  Two of our children were born in n Foxboro – the home of the Patriots.

And when we moved there they were terrible.  But the reason we started to root for the Patriots was because we got to know some of the players.  I even had a chance to do a chapel service on a game day for the New England Patriots.  After the chapel I had breakfast with the head coach of the New England Patriots, a guy named Dick MacPherson.  And as we chatted – I couldn’t help but think – shouldn’t you be getting ready for the NY Jets?

See we had behind the scenes access, I saw things that most football fans would never get the chance to see.  And what John is doing for us is giving us that kind of glimpse – behind the scenes into the nature and essence of God.

And what we learn is amazing, and mind blowing, and perhaps most of all, beautiful!

When we peer behind the scenes before creation itself – we learn three stunning truths.

Truth number 1.  Love is a foundational element in the universe.  What do I mean?

Well, John forces us to come to terms with the nature of the Godhead itself.  He introduces two of the three persons of the Trinity.  The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is three persons in one.  John introduces the multi-personhood of God.  He forces us to figure out how Jesus can be with God and also Be God.  And later he will introduce us to the Holy Spirit.

Now, one may ask, is there an easy way to explain the Trinity?  Not really.  It’s difficult for us to understand how three can be one, and one three.  And we have only imperfect illustrations of this on earth.  The three leaf clover is one but with three clovers? You have water steam and ice three but one substance.

Trying to deliver a straightforward explanation of the Trinity is not easy to do.  But lots of things aren’t easy to explain.  Supposedly physicists tells us that there must be like 11 dimensions, even though we can only sense three or four if time is a dimension.  And we read that and go okay – people have deduced that there are things in the universe beyond our complete understanding.  And similarly, we deduce from reading what Jesus taught that the same is true with God.

What I’d say is that not only is the Trinity the right doctrine, it’s the doctrine we need.  Because if it’s true, as John declares, that Jesus was with God and was God, and that the Holy Spirit is there as well, then the implications are profoundly good and beautiful.

How?  What it means is that God didn’t create mankind because he was lonely or bored.   The Trinity teaches us that God was already in a loving relationship before he began creating.

So why did God create mankind?  To widen the circle where love exists and thrives and blesses.  He created mankind to bless us by inviting us into their divine dance, and whosoever will, may come.

The Trinity makes sense out of love.  It explains why love is so powerful.  It’s because love existed before mankind.   Love is a fundamental element in the universe. Love is foundational to the very existence of the universe.

And deep down, all of us want love to mean something.  We all want love to matter.  To make sense.  See, if all humanity is, is the accidental collision of space debris, if all we are is particles, atoms, molecules…  if that’s the fundamental reality of the universe, then what is love?  What do we do with love?

If you ever want to get depressed, then read about the evolution of love, where love itself is reduced, as it must be if there is no God, to chemicals and neurological activities designed to get us to procreate for the sustainability of the species.

I wonder what a valentines day card looks like for the evolutionist.  Hey baby, when I see you the dopamine in my brain kicks in due to my primevel neuro transmitters that accidentally got smashed together in the primordial soup – baby my synapses in the neural vortex are on fire when I see you!  Hey baby, be my dopamine valentine.

I know that – maybe there’s someone here and you think that I’m being unfair to you – I’m not trying to be disrespectful – all I’m saying is that if you want to reduce life to evolution then you’ve got to own all of it.  And I’ve got to make sense out of the Trinity – and you have to make sense out of love.

And if you are right, then love is reduced to something like hunger and thirst intended to keep the species alive.

But if John is right then love existed before the big bang.   Love becomes a fundamental element of the universe.   It makes sense of our thirst to secure it.

John talks about love more than any other gospel writer – in fact more than all the other gospel writers combined.  And in short order, John is going to tell us exactly where we can secure a love that will never fail us…   16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John pulls the curtain back and lets us see God before time and what we find is a God who embodies loving relationships.  Who created the world out of the love of his being.

Loving relationships are a fundamental force in the universe.

Bit that’s not all.

Truth Number 2:  Jesus understands life itself. 

God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.

Imagine you are sitting in a coffee bar with a group o people who have gathered together to discuss poetry.  You’re wearing your beret and sipping your fair trade coffee, surrounded by other beatniks and hipsters like yourself and there’s a lively discussion going on all around the circle regarding a particular poem.  One person says it means this certain thing – another chimes in with a second opinion that seems to be the exact opposite of the first, and of course there’s a third theory waiting in the wings – and it’s good and respectful and also lively because you want to understand it’s meaning.

Now imagine the author of the poem walks in to buy a cup of coffee.  And you see her and you run over and grab her by the arm and the poet says, oh, you’re reading that poem?  Yeah I wrote that 20 years ago – this what was happening in my life at the time and this is exactly what I meant by those words – let me explain it to you.

Who is going to say, “I don’t think so?  Let me explain why you’re wrong…”

Here’s John – and he tells us that Jesus – the one you are about to read about – he’s not just a good teacher or a prophet or a founder of a religion.  He’s the author of life.

The Gospels record that on a number of occasions the religious leaders challenged the authority of Jesus – For instance in Luke 20:2 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”

By what authority do you tell us about what God is like?  Who gives you the right to teach us about living?  John tells us – he has the right because he is the author.  And if that’s true, and John is writing to convince us of that truth – then which one of us is going to stand up and say to him.  Yeah, I don’t think so?

Which brings us to the third stunning truth of John 1.

Truth number 3:  Jesus understands YOUR life.

Because not only has God lived life, he didn’t shield himself from any of the pain that often accompanies life lived in a sin sick world.  And he knows everything about life including how difficult it can be.

John is saying something that no other religion would dare say – that God understands what you are going through.

Hebrews 2:

17Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us…

 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

In Jesus, we discover a God willing to cut a hole in the roof of the world and lowered himself into our world to teach us not at the risk of his life, but knowing it would cost him his life, in order that He might be able to help us in out times of difficulty.

Jesus never shielded himself from the harsh realities of life.  Which means this.  And let’s close with this thought…

Are you lonely?  Jesus was lonely at times.  Are you grieving today?  Jesus grieved.  Are you hungry?  Homeless?  Tortured>  Are you experiencing injustice of some kind?  Jesus was treated unjustly.  He understands your life.

Are you broke?  Jesus was broke.  Are you going through a time of rejection?  Jesus was rejected – even for a time by his own brothers and sisters.  Are you feeling betrayed today?  Jesus was betrayed by his closest friends.

Are you facing death?  So did he.

Why?  Because the Love of God existed before even time itself. God’s a loving, compassionate and gracious God and he invites us into his community of love.

How does one enter into a loving relationship with such a selfless God?  Reach out to him.  Begin to speak to him.  He can hear you.  He can hear your inner thoughts.  Invite the author of life to show you how to live the life he created for you to have.

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