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Homework answers / question archive / Gospel of John ASSIGNMENT 7 This assignment covers John 16-18

Gospel of John ASSIGNMENT 7 This assignment covers John 16-18


Gospel of John ASSIGNMENT 7 This assignment covers John 16-18. 1. What specific forms of persecution did Jesus predict of His disciples? 16:1-2. 2. Read the following passages and comment on their relevance to verses 1-2 (Acts 7:58; 9:1-2; 22:20; 26: 10; Philippians 3:6; I Timothy 1:13). 3. What is the fundamental reason that some would persecute Christ's followers? 16:3. 4. Even though Jesus would soon leave His disciples, what special promise did He give them? 16:5-7. 5. What new element in the Paraclete's mission does Jesus reveal? 16:8-11. 6. Although the Paraclete is advocate and comforter for believers, what will his position be in relation to unbelievers? 16:8. Bruce, p. 318. 7. In what way would the Paraclete be a token of judgment upon “the ruler of this world?” 16:11. Bruce, p. 319. 8. Explain the role of the Paraclete as revealer of “truth.” 9. Does this mean “all truth?” Does that role pertain to the special disciples (Apostles) only, or to all believers? 16:13-15. Bruce, p. 320. 10. As a matter of review, list the five functions of the Spirit. Bruce, p. 321. 11. Study verses 16-19. What was Jesus saying? Bruce, pp. 321f. 12. Explain v. 20. When would the world rejoice, and when would the disciples sorrow “be turned into joy?” Bruce, p. 322. 13. What illustration does Jesus use to show that the disciples' time of sorrow will later turn to joy? 16:21f. (cf. 20:20). 14. What bearing does verse 26 have on Christ’s role as Mediator between his followers and God? Bruce, p. 324. 15. What did the disciples mean by saying that Jesus had no need to be asked questions? 16:29-30. Bruce, p. 325. 16. What is “the world” and how would Jesus overcome it? 16:33. Bruce, p. 326. 17. What is the most appropriate title for the prayer by Jesus in Chapter 17? Why? Bruce, p. 328. 18. What “hour” has finally come? 17:1. 19. What is necessary for one to have eternal life? 17:3. Bruce, p. 329. 20. While in the flesh, how had Jesus glorified the Father? 17:4. 21. What request shows that the Word (logos) was eternally with the Father? 17:5. 22. How had the selected disciples proved themselves? 17:6. Bruce, p. 331. 23. How could Jesus speak with confidence of his weak disciples “in the perfect tense?” 17:10. Bruce, p. 331. 24. What is the meaning of Jesus’ prayer “Holy Father, keep them in thy name?” 17:11. Bruce, p. 332. 25. Who is “the son of perdition” of verse 12, and to what scripture does Jesus allude? Bruce, pp. 287, 332. 26. Do you think Jesus intended for his followers to remove themselves from the world and live as monks or hermits? 17:15. Read I Peter 2:9-15. Bruce, p. 333. 27. Discuss the meaning of the word “sanctify” in verse 17. Consult a Bible Dictionary or Greek Lexicon. See Acts 9:13 and I Corinthians 1:1-2). 28. Discuss the concept of unity among believers for which Jesus prayed. 17:20f. Bruce, p. 335. 29. What does Jesus pray for his disciples relative to his glory? 17:24. 30. Identify Kidron (or Kedron). 18:1. 31. Why does the writer state “Judas also, who betrayed him, knew the place?” 18:2. 32. Summarize the account of Judas, the soldiers, and the officers arresting Jesus. 18:3-13. Bruce, p. 340. 33. What caused the soldiers and officers to fall backward as Jesus identified himself? 18:5-6. Bruce, p. 341. 34. In light of 17:12, explain verse 9. Bruce, p. 342. 35. Of what well-meant but inappropriate act was Peter now guilty? 18:10. 36. Why would the Evangelist, unlike the Synoptists, mention the servant's name whose ear was severed? 18:10. Bruce, p. 342. 37. What was the principal reason for Jesus' rebuke of Peter for wielding the sword? 18:11. 38. Give the relationship of Annas and Caiaphas. 18:13. Bruce, p. 343. 39. Why was Jesus first taken to Annas for questioning? 18:13. Bruce, p. 343. 40. Was Jesus tried before Annas and Caiaphas during the day or at night? 18:28 (cf. Luke 22:66). Bruce, p. 345. 41. How did Jesus answer Annas when asked concerning his teaching? 18:19-21. 42. What reason did a temple officer give for striking Jesus? 18:22. 43. Does Peter's threefold denial of Jesus mean that he completely lost his faith? 18:25-27 (cf. 13:38; I Peter 1:3). 44. What does Bruce say about the absence of details concerning Jesus' appearance before Caiaphas? 18:28. Bruce, p. 348-9. 45. Why would entering the Roman praetorium constitute defilement for the Jews? 18:28. Bruce, p. 349. 46. Define Pilate's official position. 18:29. Bruce, p. 349. 47. What two things are suggested by the Jews' answer to Pilate “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death?” 18:31. Bruce, pp. 350f. 48. According to the Evangelist, why was it necessary for the Roman authorities to give the sentence of death to Jesus? 18: 31f. (cf. Leviticus 24:16). Bruce, p. 351. 49. What claim by Jesus could be interpreted that he was equally "king of the Jews" and "the Son of God"? Bruce, p. 352. 50. What does Jesus' answer to Pilate, as found in verse 36, show as to the nature of His kingdom (kingship)? Bruce, p. 353. 51. Did Pilate understand that Jesus was not claiming to be an earthly (or political) king? 18:37-38. Bruce, p. 354 (cf. footnote 26, p. 357). 52. What was Pilate's official verdict concerning the charges made against Jesus? 18:38. 53. Pilate reminds the Jews of what custom the Roman authorities adhered to at each Passover? What was the result? 18:39-40. THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES REVISED EDITION THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Volume 1 THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Volume 1 (Chapters 1 to 7) REVISED EDITION Translated with an Introduction and Interpretation by WILLIAM BARCLAY THE WESTMINSTER PRESS PHILADELPHIA Revised Edition Copyright (c) 1975 William Barclay First published by The Saint Andrew Press Edinburgh, Scotland First Edition, July, 1955 Second Edition, November, 1956 Published by The Westminster Press (R) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Bible. N.T. John. English. Barclay. 1975. The Gospel of John. (The Daily study Bible series. -- Rev. ed.) 1. Bible. N.T. John - Commentaries. I. Barclay, William, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, ed. II. Title. III. Series. BS2613 1975 226'.5'077 74-30031 ISBN 0-664-21304-9 (v. 1) ISBN 0-664-24104-2 (v. 1) pbk. GENERAL INTRODUCTION The Daily Study Bible series has always had one aim--to convey the results of scholarship to the ordinary reader. A. S. Peake delighted in the saying that he was a "theological middleman", and I would be happy if the same could be said of me in regard to these volumes. And yet the primary aim of the series has never been academic. It could be summed up in the famous words of Richard of Chichester's prayer--to enable men and women "to know Jesus Christ more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly " It is all of twenty years since the first volume of The Daily Study Bible was published. The series was the brain-child of the late Rev. Andrew McCosh, M.A., S.T.M., the then Secretary and Manager of the Committee on Publications of the Church of Scotland, and of the late Rev. R. G. Macdonald, O.B.E., M.A., D.D., its Convener. It is a great joy to me to know that all through the years The Daily Study Bible has been used at home and abroad, by minister, by missionary, by student and by layman, and that it has been translated into many different languages. Now, after so many printings, it has become necessary to renew the printer's type and the opportunity has been taken to restyle the books, to correct some errors in the text and to remove some references which have become outdated. At the same time, the Biblical quotations within the text have been changed to use the Revised Standard Version, but my own original translation of the New Testament passages has been retained at the beginning of each daily section. There is one debt which I would be sadly lacking in courtesy if I did not acknowledge. The work of revision and correction has been done entirely by the Rev. James Martin, M.A., B.D., Minister of High Carntyne Church, Glasgow. Had it not been for him this task would never have been undertaken, and it is impossible for me to thank him enough for the selfless toil he has put into the revision of these books. It is my prayer that God may continue to use The Daily Study Bible to enable men better to understand His word. Glasgow WILLIAM BARCLAY CONTENTS General Introduction Introduction to John The Word (Jn. 1:1-18) The Word Became Flesh The Eternal Word (Jn. 1:1-2) The Creator of All Things (Jn. 1:3) Life and Light (Jn. 1:4) The Hostile Dark (Jn. 1:5) The Witness to Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:6-8) The Light of Every Man (Jn. 1:9) Unrecognized (Jn. 1:10-11) Children of God (Jn. 1:12-13) The Word Became Flesh (Jn. 1:14) The Inexhaustible Fullness (Jn. 1:15-17) The Revelation of God (Jn. 1:18) The Witness of John (Jn. 1:19-28) The Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29-31) The Coming of the Spirit (Jn. 1:32-34) The First Disciples (Jn. 1:35-39) Sharing the Glory (Jn. 1:40-42) The Surrender of Nathanael (Jn. 1:43-51) The New Exhilaration (Jn. 2:1-11) The Anger of Jesus (Jn. 2:12-16) The New Temple (Jn. 2:17-22) The Searcher of the Hearts of Men (Jn. 2:23-25) The Man Who Came by Night (Jn. 3:1-6) Born Again (Jn. 3:1-6) The Duty to Know and the Right to Speak (Jn. 3:7-13) The Uplifted Christ (Jn. 3:14-15) The Love of God (Jn. 3:16) Love and Judgment (Jn. 3:17-21) A Man Without Envy (Jn. 3:22-30) The One from Heaven (Jn. 3:31-36) Breaking Down the Barriers (Jn. 4:1-9) The Living Water (Jn. 4:10-15) Facing the Truth (Jn. 4:15-21) The True Worship (Jn. 4:22-26) Sharing the Wonder (Jn. 4:27-30) The Most Satisfying Food (Jn. 4:31-34) The Sower, the Harvest and the Reapers (Jn. 4:35-38) The Saviour of the World (Jn. 4:39-42) The Unanswerable Argument (Jn. 4:43-45) A Courtier's Faith (Jn. 4:46-54) Man's Helplessness and Christ's Power (Jn. 5:1-9) The Inner Meaning (Jn. 5:1-9) Healing and Hatred (Jn. 5:10-18) The Tremendous Claims (Jn. 5:19-29) The Father and the Son (Jn. 5:19-20) Life, Judgment, and Honour (Jn. 5:21-23) Acceptance Means Life (Jn. 5:24) Death and Life (Jn. 5:25-29) The Only True Judgment (Jn. 5:30) Witness to Christ (Jn. 5:31-36) The Witness of God (Jn. 5:37-43) The Ultimate Condemnation (Jn. 5:44-47) The Loaves and Fishes (Jn. 6:1-13) The Meaning of a Miracle (Jn. 6:1-13) The Response of the Mob (Jn. 6:14-15) A Very Present Help in Time of Trouble (Jn. 6:16-21) The Mistaken Search (Jn. 6:22-27) The Only True Work (Jn. 6:28-29) The Demand of a Sign (Jn. 6:30-34) The Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35-40) The Failure of the Jews (Jn. 6:41-51) His Body and His Blood (Jn. 6:51-59) The All-Important Spirit (Jn. 6:59-65) Attitudes to Christ (Jn. 6:66-71) Not Man's Time but God's (Jn. 7:1-9) Reactions to Jesus (Jn. 7:10-13) Verdicts on Jesus (Jn. 7:10-13) The Ultimate Authority (Jn. 7:15-18) A Wise Argument (Jn. 7:19-24) The Claim of Christ (Jn. 7:14,25-30) Searching--In Time (Jn. 7:31-36) The Fountain of Living Water (Jn. 7:37-44) Unwilling Administration and Timid Defence (Jn. 7:45-52) Further Reading BsINTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN THE GOSPEL OF THE EAGLE'S EYE For many Christian people the Gospel according to St. John is the most precious book in the New Testament. It is the book on which above all they feed their minds and nourish their hearts, and in which they rest their souls. Very often on stained glass windows and the like the gospel writers are represented in symbol by the figures of the four beasts whom the writer of the Revelation saw around the throne (Rev.4:7). The emblems are variously distributed among the gospel writers, but a common allocation is that the man stands for Mark, which is the plainest, the most straightforward and the most human of the gospels; the lion stands for Matthew, for he specially saw Jesus as the Messiah and the Lion of the tribe of Judah; the ox stands for Luke, because it is the animal of service and sacrifice, and Luke saw Jesus as the great servant of men and the universal sacrifice for all mankind; the eagle stands for John, because it alone of all living creatures can look straight into the sun and not be dazzled, and John has the most penetrating gaze of all the New Testament writers into the eternal mysteries and the eternal truths and the very mind of God. Many people find themselves closer to God and to Jesus Christ in John than in any other book in the world. THE GOSPEL THAT IS DIFFERENT But we have only to read the Fourth Gospel in the most cursory way to see that it is quite different from the other three. It omits so many things that they include. The Fourth Gospel has no account of the Birth of Jesus, of his baptism, of his temptations; it tells us nothing of the Last Supper, nothing of Gethsemane, and nothing of the Ascension. It has no word of the healing of any people possessed by devils and evil spirits. And, perhaps most surprising of all, it has none of the parable stories Jesus told which are so priceless a part of the other three gospels. In these other three gospels Jesus speaks either in these wonderful stories or in short, epigrammatic, vivid sentences which stick in the memory. But in the Fourth Gospel the speeches of Jesus are often a whole chapter long; and are often involved, argumentative pronouncements quite unlike the pithy, unforgettable sayings of the other three. Even more surprising, the account in the Fourth Gospel of the facts of the life and ministry of Jesus is often different from that in the other three. (i) John has a different account of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. In the other three gospels it is quite definitely stated that Jesus did not emerge as a preacher until after John the Baptist had been imprisoned. "Now after John was arrested Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God" (Mk.1:14; Lk.3:18,20; Matt.4:12). But in John there is a quite considerable period during which the ministry of Jesus over-lapped with the activity of John the Baptist (Jn. 3:22-30; Jn. 4:1-2). (ii) John has a different account of the scene of Jesus' ministry. In the other three gospels the main scene of the ministry is Galilee and Jesus does not reach Jerusalem untill the last week of his life. In John the main scene of the ministry is Jerusalem and Judaea, with only occasional withdrawals to Galilee (Jn. 2:1-13; Jn. 4:35-5:1; Jn. 6:1-7:14). In John, Jesus is in Jerusalem for a Passover which occurred at the same time as the cleansing of the Temple, as John tells the story (Jn. 2:13); he is in Jerusalem at the time of an unnamed feast (Jn. 5:1); he is there for the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:2,10); he is there at the Feast of Dedication in the winter-time (Jn. 10:22). In fact according to the Fourth Gospel Jesus never left Jerusalem after that feast; after Jn. 10 he is in Jerusalem all the time, which would mean a stay of months, from the winter-time of the Feast of the Dedication to the spring-time of the Passover at which he was crucified. In point of fact in this particular matter John is surely right. The other gospels show us Jesus mourning over Jerusalem as the last week came on. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matt.23:37; Lk.13:34). It is clear that Jesus could not have said that unless he had paid repeated visits to Jerusalem and made repeated appeals to it. It was impossible for him to say that on a first visit. In this John is unquestionably right. It was in fact this difference of scene which provided Eusebius with one of the earliest explanations of the difference between the Fourth Gospel and the other three. He said that in his day (about A.D. 300) many people who were scholars held the following view. Matthew at first preached to the Hebrew people. The day came when he had to leave them and to go to other nations. Before he went he set down his story of the life of Jesus in Hebrew, "and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence." After Mark and Luke had published their gospels, John was still preaching the story of Jesus orally. "Finally he proceeded to write for the following reason. The three gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his hands too, they say that he fully accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry.... They therefore say that John, being asked to do it for this reason, gave in his gospel an account of the period which had been omitted by the earlier evangelists, and of the deeds done by the Saviour during that period; that is, of the deeds done before the imprisonment of John the Baptist.... John therefore records the deeds of Christ which were performed before the Baptist was cast into prison, but the other three evangelists mention the events which happened after that time.... The Gospel according to John contains the first acts of Christ, while the others give an account of the latter part of his life." (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History 5: 24.) So then according to Eusebius there is no contradiction at all between the Fourth Gospel and the other three; the difference is due to the fact that the Fourth Gospel is describing a ministry in Jerusalem, at least in its earlier chapters, which preceded the ministry in Galilee, and which took place while John the Baptist was still at liberty. It may well be that this explanation of Eusebius is at least in part correct. (iii) John has a different account of the duration of Jesus' ministry. The other three gospels, on the face of it, imply that it lasted only one year. Within the ministry there is only one Passover Feast. In John there are three Passovers, one at the Cleansing of the Temple (Jn. 2:13); one near the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Jn. 6:4); and the final Passover at which Jesus went to the Cross. According to John the ministry of Jesus would take a minimum of two years, and probably a period nearer three years, to cover its events. Again John is unquestionably right. If we read the other three gospels closely and carefully we can see that he is right. When the disciples plucked the ears of corn (Mk.2:23) it must have been spring-time. When the five thousand were fed, they sat down on the green grass (Mk.6:39); therefore it was spring-time again, and there must have been a year between the two events. There follows the tour through Tyre and Sidon, and the Transfiguration. At the Transfiguration Peter wished to build three booths and to stay there. It is most natural to think that it was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths and that that is why Peter made the suggestion (Mk.9:5). That would make the date early in October. There follows the space between that and the last Passover in April. Therefore, behind the narrative of the other three gospels lies the fact that Jesus' ministry actually did last for at least three years, as John represents it. (iv) It sometimes even happens that John differs in matters of fact from the other three. There are two outstanding examples. First, John puts the Cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus' ministry (Jn. 2:13-22), the others put it at the end (Mk.11:15-17; Matt.21:12-13; Lk.19:45-46). Second, when we come to study the narratives in detail, we will see that John dates the crucifixion of Jesus on the day before the Passover, while the other gospels date it on the day of the Passover. We can never shut our eyes to the obvious differences between John and the other gospels. JOHN'S SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE One thing is certain--if John differs from the other three gospels, it is not because of ignorance and lack of information. The plain fact is that, if he omits much that they tell us, he also tells us much that they do not mention. John alone tells of the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee (Jn. 2:1-11); of the coming of Nicodemus to Jesus (Jn. 3:1-15); of the woman of Samaria (Jn. 4); of the raising of Lazarus (Jn. 11); of the way in which Jesus washed his disciples' feet (Jn. 13:1-17); of Jesus' wonderful teaching about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which is scattered through Jn. 14 Jn. 15 Jn. 16 and Jn. 17. It is only in John that some of the disciples really come alive. It is in John alone that Thomas speaks (Jn. 11:16; Jn. 14:5; Jn. 20:24-29); that Andrew becomes a real personality (Jn. 1:40-41; Jn. 6:8-9; Jn. 12:22); that we get a glimpse of the character of Philip (Jn. 6:5-7; Jn. 14:8-9); that we hear the carping protest of Judas at the anointing at Bethany (Jn. 12:4-5). And the strange thing is that these little extra touches are intensely revealing. John's pictures of Thomas and Andrew and Philip are like little cameos or vignettes in which the character of each man is etched in a way we cannot forget. Further, again and again John has little extra details which read like the memories of one who was there. The loaves which the lad brought to Jesus were barley loaves (Jn. 6:9); when Jesus came to the disciples as they crossed the lake in the storm they had rowed between three and four miles (Jn. 6:19); there were six stone waterpots at Cana of Galilee (Jn. 2:6); it is only John who tells of the four soldiers gambling for the seamless robe as Jesus died (Jn. 19:23); he knows the exact weight of the myrrh and aloes which were used to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Jn. 19:39); he remembers how the perfume of the ointment filled the house at the anointing at Bethany (Jn. 12:3). Many of these things are such apparently unimportant details that they are inexplicable unless they are the memories of a man who was there. However much John may differ from the other three gospels, that difference is not to be explained by ignorance but rather by the fact that he had more knowledge or better sources or a more vivid memory than the others. Further evidence of the specialised information of the writer of the Fourth Gospel is his detailed knowledge of Palestine and of Jerusalem. He knows how long it took to build the Temple (Jn. 2:20); that the Jews and the Samaritans had a permanent quarrel (Jn. 4:9); the low Jewish view of women (Jn. 4:9); the way in which the Jews regard the Sabbath (Jn. 5:10; Jn. 7:21-23; Jn. 9:14). His knowledge of the geography of Palestine is intimate. He knows of two Bethanys, one of which is beyond Jordan (Jn. 1:28; Jn. 12:1); he knows that Bethsaida was the home of some of the disciples (Jn. 1:44; Jn. 12:21); that Cana is in Galilee (Jn. 2:1; Jn. 4:46; Jn. 21:2); that Sychar is near Shechem (Jn. 4:5). He has what one might call a street by street knowledge of Jerusalem. He knows the sheep-gate and the pool near it (Jn. 5:2); the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7); Solomon's Porch (Jn. 10:23); the brook Kidron (Jn. 18:1); the pavement which is called Gabbatha (Jn. 19:13); Golgotha, which is like a skull (Jn. 19:17). It must be remembered that Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 and that John did not write until A.D. 100 or thereby; and yet from his memory he knows Jerusalem like the back of his hand. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH JOHN WROTE We have seen that there are very real differences between the Fourth and the other three gospels; and we have seen that, whatever the reason, it was not lack of knowledge on John's part. We must now go on to ask, What was the aim with which John wrote? If we can discover this we will discover why he selected and treated his facts as he did. The Fourth Gospel was written in Ephesus about the year A.D. 100. By that time two special features had emerged in the situation of the Christian church. First, Christianity had gone out into the Gentile world. By that time the Christian church was no longer predominantly Jewish; it was in fact overwhelmingly gentile. The vast majority of its members now came, not from a Jewish, but an Hellenistic background. That being so, Christianity had to be restated. It was not that the truth of Christianity had changed; but the terms and the categories in which it found expression had to be changed. Take but one instance. A Greek might take up the Gospel according to St. Matthew. No sooner had he opened it than he was confronted with a long genealogy. Genealogies were familiar enough to the Jew but quite unintelligible to the Greek. He would read on. He would be confronted with a Jesus who was the Son of David, a king of whom the Greeks had never heard, and the symbol of a racial and nationalist ambition which was nothing to the Greek. He would be faced with the picture of Jesus as Mesisiah, a term of which the Greek had never heard. Must the Greek who wished to become a Christian be compelled to reorganize his whole thinking into Jewish categories? Must he learn a good deal about Jewish history and Jewish apocalyptic literature (which told about the coming of the Messiah) before he could become a Christian? As E. J. Goodspeed phrased it: "Was there no way in which he might be introduced directly to the values of Christian salvation without being for ever routed, we might even say, detoured, through Judaism?" The Greek was one of the world's great thinkers. Had he to abandon all his own great intellectual heritage in order to think entirely in Jewish terms and categories of thought? John faced that problem fairly and squarely. And he found one of the greatest solutions which ever entered the mind of man. Later on, in the commentary, we shall deal much more fully with John's great solution. At the moment we touch on it briefly. The Greeks had two great conceptions. (a) They had the conception of the Logos. In Greek logos (GSN3056) means two things-it means word and it means reason. The Jew was entirely familiar with the all-powerful word of God. "God said, Let there be light; and there was light" (Gen.1:3). The Greek was entirely familiar with the thought of reason. He looked at this world; he saw a magnificent and dependable order. Night and day came with unfailing regularity; the year kept its seasons in unvarying course; the stars and the planets moved in their unaltering path; nature had her unvarying laws. What produced this order? The Greek answered unhesitatingly, The Logos (GSN3056), the mind of God, is responsible for the majestic order of the world. He went on, What is it that gives man power to think, to reason and to know? Again he answered unhesitatingly, The Logos (GSN3056), the mind of God, dwelling within a man makes him a thinking rational being. John seized on this. It was in this way that he thought of Jesus. He said to the Greeks, "All your lives you have been fascinated by this great, guiding, controlling mind of God. The mind of God has come to earth in the man Jesus. Look at him and you see what the mind and thought of God are like." John had discovered a new category in which the Greek might think of Jesus, a category in which Jesus was presented as nothing less than God acting in the form of a man. (b) They had the conception of two worlds. The Greek always conceived of two worlds. The one was the world in which we live. It was a wonderful world in its way but a world of shadows and copies and unrealities. The other was the real world, in which the great realities, of which our earthly things are only poor, pale copies, stand for ever. To the Greek the unseen world was the real one; the seen world was only shadowy unreality. Plato systematized this way of thinking in his doctrine of forms or ideas. He held that in the unseen world there was the perfect pattern of everything, and the things of this world were shadowy copies of these eternal patterns. To put it simply, Plato held that somewhere there was a perfect pattern of a table of which all earthly tables are inadequate copies; somewhere there was the perfect pattern of the good and the beautiful of which all earthly goodness and earthly beauty are imperfect copies. And the great reality, the supreme idea, the pattern of all pattems and the form of all forms was God. The great problem was how to get into this world of reality, how to get out of our shadows into the eternal truths. John declares that that is what Jesus enables us to do. He is reality come to earth. The Greek word for real in this sense is alethinos (GSN0228); it is very closely connected with the word alethes (GSN0227), which means true, and aletheia (GSN0225), which means "the truth." The King James and Revised Standard Versions translate alethinos (GSN0228) true; they would be far better to translate it "real." Jesus is the real light (Jn. 1:9); Jesus is the real bread (Jn. 6:32); Jesus is the real vine (Jn. 15:1); to Jesus belongs the real judgment (Jn. 8:16). Jesus alone has reality in our world of shadows and imperfections. Something follows from that. Every action that Jesus did was, therefore, not only an act in time but a window which allows us to see into reality. That is what John means when he talks of Jesus' miracles as signs (semeia - GSN4592). The wonderful works of Jesus were not simply wonderful; they were windows opening onto the reality which is God. This explains why John tells the miracle stories in a quite different way from the other three gospel writers. There are two differences. (a) In the Fourth Gospel we miss the note of compassion which is in the miracle stories of the others. In the others Jesus is moved with compassion for the leper (Mk.1:41); his sympathy goes out to Jairus (Mk.5:22); he is sorry for the father of the epileptic boy (Mk.9:14); when he raises to life the son of the widow of Nain, Luke says with an infinite tenderness, "He gave him to his mother" (Lk.7:15). But in John the miracles are not so much deeds of compassion as deeds which demonstrate the glory of Christ. After the miracle at Cana of Galilee, John comments: "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory" (Jn. 2:11). The raising of Lazarus happens "for the glory of God" (Jn. 11:4). The blind man's blindness existed to allow a demonstration of the glory of the works of God (Jn. 9:3). To John it was not that there was no love and compassion in the miracles; but in every one of them he saw the glory of the reality of God breaking into time and into human affairs. (b) Often the miracles of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel are accompanied by a long discourse. The feeding of the five thousand is followed by the long discourse on the bread of life (Jn. 6); the healing of the blind man springs from the saying that Jesus is the light of the world (Jn. 9); the raising of Lazarus leads up to the saying that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11). To John the miracles were not simply single events in time; they were insights into what God is always doing and what Jesus always is; they were windows into the reality of God. Jesus did not merely once feed five thousand people; that was an illustration that he is for ever the real bread of life. Jesus did not merely once open the eyes of a blind man; he is for ever the light of the world. Jesus did not merely once raise Lazarus from the dead; he is for ever and for all men the resurrection and the life. To John a miracle was never an isolated act; it was always a window into the reality of what Jesus always was and always is and always did and always does. It was with this in mind that that great scholar Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 230) arrived at one of the most famous and true of all verdicts about the origin and aim of the Fourth Gospel. It was his view that the gospels containing the genealogies had been written first--that is, Luke and Matthew; that then Mark at the request of many who had heard Peter preach composed his gospel, which embodied the preaching material of Peter; and that then "last of all, John, perceiving that what had reference to the bodily things of Jesus' ministry had been sufficiently related, and encouraged by his friends, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a spiritual gospel" (quoted in Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History 6 : 14). What Clement meant was that John was not so much interested in the mere facts as in the meaning of the facts, that it was not facts he was after but truth. John did not see the events of Jesus' life simply as events in time; he saw them as windows looking into eternity, and he pressed towards the spiritual meaning of the events and the words of Jesus' life in a way that the other three gospels did not attempt. That is still one of the truest verdicts on the Fourth Gospel ever reached. John did write, not an historical, but a spiritual gospel. So then, first of all, John presented Jesus as the mind of God in a person come to earth, and as the one person who possesses reality instead of shadows and able to lead men out of the shadows into the real world of which Plato and the great Greeks had dreamed. The Christianity which had once been clothed in Jewish categories had taken to itself the greatness of the thought of the Greeks. THE RISE OF THE HERESIES The second of the great facts confronting the church when the Fourth Gospel was written was the rise of heresy. It was now seventy years since Jesus had been crucified. By this time the church was an organisation and an institution. Theologies and creeds were being thought out and stated; and inevitably the thoughts of some people went down mistaken ways and heresies resulted. A heresy is seldom a complete untruth; it usually results when one facet of the truth is unduly emphasised. We can see at least two of the heresies which the writer of the Fourth Gospel sought to combat. (a) There were certain Christians, especially Jewish Christians, who gave too high a place to John the Baptist. There was something about him which had an inevitable appeal to the Jews. He walked in the prophetic succession and talked with the prophetic voice. We know that in later times there was an accepted sect of John the Baptist within the orthodox Jewish faith. In Ac.19:1-7 we come upon a little group of twelve men on the fringe of the Christian church who had never gotten beyond the baptism of John. Over and over again the Fourth Gospel quietly, but definitely, relegates John to his proper place. Over and over again John himself denies that he has ever claimed or possessed the highest place, and without qualification yields that place to Jesus. We have already seen that in the other gospels the ministry of Jesus did not begin until John the Baptist had been put into prison, but that in the Fourth Gospel their ministries overlap. The writer of the Fourth Gospel may well have used that arrangement to show John and Jesus in actual meeting and to show that John used these meetings to admit, and to urge others to admit, the supremacy of Jesus. It is carefully pointed out that John is not that light (Jn. 1:8). He is shown as quite definitely disclaiming all Messianic aspirations (Jn. 1:20ff; Jn. 3:28; Jn. 4:1; Jn. 10:41). It is not even permissible to think of him as the highest witness (Jn. 5:36). There is no criticism at all of John the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel; but there is a rebuke to those who would give him a place which ought to belong to Jesus and to Jesus alone. (b) A certain type of heresy which was very widely spread in the days when the Fourth Gospel was written is called by the general name of Gnosticism. Without some understanding of it much of John's greatness and much of his aim will be missed. The basic doctrine of Gnosticism was that matter is essentially evil and spirit is essentially good. The Gnostics went on to argue that on that basis God himself cannot touch matter and therefore did not create the world. What he did was to put out a series of emanations. Each of these emanations was further from him, until at last there was one so distant from him that it could touch matter. That emanation was the creator of the world. By itself that idea is bad enough, but it was made worse by an addition. The Gnostics held that each emanation knew less and less about God, until there was a stage when the emanations were not only ignorant of God but actually hostile to him. So they finally came to the conclusion that the creator god was not only different from the real God, but was also quite ignorant of and actively hostile to him. Cerinthus, one of the leaders of the Gnostics, said that "the world was created, not by God, but by a certain power far separate from him, and far distant from that Power who is over the universe, and ignorant of the God who is over all." The Gnostics believed that God had nothing to do with the creating of the world. That is why John begins his gospel with the ringing statement: "All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (Jn. 1:3). That is why John insists that "God so loved the world" (Jn. 3:16). In face of the Gnostics who so mistakenly spiritualized God into a being who could not possibly have anything to do with the world, John presented the Christian doctrine of the God who made the world and whose presence fills the world that he has made. The beliefs of the Gnostics impinged on their ideas of Jesus. (a) Some of the Gnostics held that Jesus was one of the emanations which had proceeded from God. They held that he was not in any real sense divine; that he was only a kind of demigod who was more or less distant from the real God; that he was simply one of a chain of lesser beings between God and the world. (b) Some of the Gnostics held that Jesus had no real body. A body is matter and God could not touch matter; therefore Jesus was a kind of phantom without real flesh and blood. They held, for instance, that when he stepped on the ground he left no footprint, for his body had neither weight nor substance. They could never have said: "The Word became flesh" (Jn. 1:14). Augustine tells how he had read much in the work of the philosophers of his day; he had found much that was very like what was in the New Testament, but, he said: "`The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us' I did not read there." That is why John in his First Letter insists that Jesus came in the flesh, and declares that any one who denies that fact is moved by the spirit of antichrist (1Jn. 4:3). This particular heresy is known as Docetism. Docetism comes from the Greek word dokein (GSN1380) which means to seem ; and the heresy is so called because it held that Jesus only seemed to be a man. (c) Some Gnostics held a variation of that heresy. They held that Jesus was a man into whom the Spirit of God came at his baptism; that Spirit remained with him throughout his life until the end; but since the Spirit of God could never suffer and die, it left him before he was crucified. They gave Jesus' cry on the Cross as : "My power, my power, why hast thou forsaken me?" And in their books they told of people talking on the Mount of Olives to a form which looked exactly like Jesus while the man Jesus died on the Cross. So then the Gnostic heresies issued in one of two beliefs. They believed either that Jesus was not really divine but simply one of a series of emanations from God, or that he was not in any sense human but a kind of phantom in the shape of a man. The Gnostic beliefs at one and the same time destroyed the real godhead and the real manhood of Jesus. THE HUMANITY OF JESUS The fact that John is out to correct both these Gnostic tendencies explains a curious paradoxical double emphasis in his gospel. On the one hand, there is no gospel which so uncompromisingly stresses the real humanity of Jesus. Jesus was angry with those who bought and sold in the Temple courts (Jn. 2:15); he was physically tired as he sat by the well which was near Sychar in Samaria (Jn. 4:6); his disciples offered him food in the way in which they would offer it to any hungry man (Jn. 4:31); he had sympathy with those who were hungry and with those who were afraid (Jn. 6:5,20); he knew grief and he wept tears as any mourner might do (Jn. 11:33,35,38); in the agony of the Cross the cry of his parched lips was: "I thirst" (Jn. 19:28). The Fourth Gospel shows us a Jesus who was no shadowy, docetic figure; it shows us one who knew the weariness of an exhausted body and the wounds of a distressed mind and heart. It is the truly human Jesus whom the Fourth Gospel sets before us. THE DEITY OF JESUS On the other hand, there is no gospel which sets before us such a view of the deity of Jesus. (a) John stresses the preexistence of Jesus. "Before Abraham was," said Jesus, "I am" (Jn. 8:58). He talks of the glory which he had with the Father before the world was made (Jn. 17:5). Again and again he speaks of his coming down from heaven (Jn. 6:33-38). John saw in Jesus one who had always been, even before the world began. (b) The Fourth Gospel stresses more than any of the others the omniscience of Jesus. It is John's view that apparently miraculously Jesus knew the past record of the woman of Samaria (Jn. 4:16-17); apparently without anyone telling him he knew how long the man beside the healing pool had been ill (Jn. 5:6); before he asked it, he knew the answer to the question he put to Philip (Jn. 6:6); he knew that Judas would betray him (Jn. 6:61-64); he knew of the death of Lazarus before anyone told him of it (Jn. 11:14). John saw in Jesus one who had a special and miraculous knowledge independent of anything which any man might tell him. He needed to ask no questions because he knew all the answers. (c) The Fourth Gospel stresses the fact, as John saw it, that Jesus always acted entirely on his own initiative and uninfluenced by anyone else. It was not his mother's request which moved him to the miracle at Cana of Galilee; it was his own personal decision (Jn. 2:4); the urging of his brothers had nothing to do with the visit which he paid to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:10); no man took his life from him--no man could; he laid it down purely voluntarily (Jn. 10:18; Jn. 19:11). As John saw it, Jesus had a divine independence from all human influence. He was self-determined. To meet the Gnostics and their strange beliefs John presents us with a Jesus who was undeniably human and who yet was undeniably divine. THE AUTHOR OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL We have seen that the aim of the writer of the Fourth Gospel was to present the Christian faith in such a way that it would commend itself to the Greek world to which Christianity had gone out, and also to combat the heresies and mistaken ideas which had arisen within the church. We go on to ask, Who is that writer? Tradition answers unanimously that the author was John the apostle. We shall see that beyond doubt the authority of John lies behind the gospel, although it may well be that its actual form and penmanship did not come from his hand. Let us, then, collect what we know about him. He was the younger son of Zebedee, who possessed a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee and was well enough off to be able to employ hired servants to help him with his work (Mk.1:19-20). His mother was Salome, and it seems likely that she was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Matt.27:56; Mk.16:1). With his brother James he obeyed the call of Jesus (Mk.1:20). It would seem that James and John were in partnership with Peter in the fishing trade (Lk.5:7-10). He was one of the inner circle of the disciples, for the lists of the disciples always begin with the names of Peter, James and John, and there were certain great occasions when Jesus took these three specially with him (Mk.3:17; Mk.5:37; Mk.9:2; Mk.14:33). In character he was clearly a turbulent and ambitious man. Jesus gave to him and to his brother the name Boanerges, which the gospel writers take to mean Sons of Thunder. John and his brother James were completely exclusive and intolerant (Mk.9:38; Lk.9:49). So violent was their temper that they were prepared to blast a Samaritan village out of existence because it would not give them hospitality when they were on their journey to Jerusalem (Lk.9:54). Either they or their mother Salome had the ambition that when Jesus came into his kingdom, they might be his principal ministers of state (Mk.10:35; Matt.20:20). In the other three gospels John appears as a leader of the apostolic band, one of the inner circle, and yet a turbulent ambitious and intolerant character. In the Book of Acts John always appears as the companion of Peter, and he himself never speaks at all. His name is still one of the three names at the head of the apostolic list (Acts 1:13). He is with Peter when the lame man is healed at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Ac.3:1ff). With Peter he is brought before the Sanhedrin and faces the Jewish leaders with a courage and a boldness that astonished them (Ac.4:1-13). With Peter he goes from Jerusalem to Samaria to survey the work done by Philip (Ac.8:14). In Paul's letters he appears only once. In Galatians 2:9 he is named as one of the pillars of the church along with Peter and James, and with them is depicted as giving his approval to the work of Paul. John was a strange mixture. He was one of the leaders of the Twelve; he was one of the inner circle of Jesus' closest friends; at the same time he was a man of temper and ambition and intolerance, and yet of courage. We may follow John into the stories told of him in the early church. Eusebius tells us that he was banished to Patmos in the reign of Domitian (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History 3 : 23). In the same passage Eusebius tells a characteristic story about John, a story which he received from Clement of Alexandria. John became a kind of bishop of Asia Minor and was visiting one of his churches near Ephesus. In the congregation he saw a tall and exceptionally fine-looking young man. He turned to the elder in charge of the congregation and said to him: "I commit that young man into your charge and into your care, and I call this congregation to witness that I do so." The elder took the young man into his own house and cared for him and instructed him, and the day came when he was baptized and received into the church. But very soon afterwards he fell in with evil friends and embarked on such a career of crime that he ended up by becoming the leader of a band of murdering and pillaging brigands. Some time afterwards John returned to the congregation. He said to the elder: "Restore to me the trust which I and the Lord committed to you and to the church of which you are in charge." At first the elder did not understand of what John was speaking. "I mean," said John, "that I am asking you for the soul of the young man whom I entrusted to you." "Alas!" said the elder, "he is dead." "Dead?" said John. "He is dead to God," said the elder. "He fell from grace; he was forced to flee from the city for his crimes and now he is a brigand in the mountains." Straightway John went to the mountains. Deliberately he allowed himself to be captured by the robber band. They brought him before the young man who was now the chief of the band and, in his shame, the young man tried to run away from him. John, though an old man, pursued him. "My son," he cried, "are you running away from your father? I am feeble and far advanced in age; have pity on me, my son; fear not; there is yet hope of salvation for you. I will stand for you before the Lord Christ. If need be I will gladly die for you as he died for me. Stop, stay, believe! It is Christ who has sent me to you." The appeal broke the heart of the young man. He stopped, threw away his weapons, and wept. Together he and John came down the mountainside and he was brought back into the church and into the Christian way. There we see the love and the courage of John still in operation. Eusebius (3 : 28) tells another story of John which he got from the works of Irenaeus. We have seen that one of the leaders of the Gnostic heresy was a man called Cerinthus. "The apostle John once entered a bath to bathe; but, when he learned that Cerinthus was within, he sprang from his place and rushed out of the door, for he could not bear to remain under the same roof with him. He advised those who were with him to do the same. `Let us flee,' he said, `lest the bath fall, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."' There we have another glimpse of the temper of John. Boanerges was not quite dead. Cassian tells another famous story about John. One day he was found playing with a tame partridge. A narrower and more rigid brother rebuked him for thus wasting his time, and John answered: "The bow that is always bent will soon cease to shoot straight." It is Jerome who tells the story of the last words of John. When he was dying, his disciples asked him if he had any last message to leave them. "Little children," he said, "love one another." Again and again he repeated it; and they asked him if that was all he had to say. "It is enough," he said, "for it is the Lord's command." Such then is our information about John; and he emerges a figure of fiery temper, of wide ambition, of undoubted courage, and, in the end, of gentle love. THE BELOVED DISCIPLE If we have been following our references closely we will have noticed one thing. All our information about John comes from the first three gospels. It is the astonishing fact that the Fourth Gospel never mentions the apostle John from beginning to end. But it does mention two other people. First, it speaks of the disciple whom Jesus loved. There are four mentions of him. He was leaning on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper (Jn. 13:23-25); it is into his care that Jesus committed Mary as he died upon his Cross (Jn. 19:25-27); it was Peter and he whom Mary Magdalene met on her return from the empty tomb on the first Easter morning (Jn. 20:2); he was present at the last resurrection appearance of Jesus by the lake-side (Jn. 21:20). Second, the Fourth Gospel has a kind of character whom we might call the witness. As the Fourth Gospel tells of the spear thrust into the side of Jesus and the issue of the water and the blood, there comes the comment: "He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth--that you also may believe" (Jn. 19:35). At the end of the gospel comes the statement that it was the beloved disciple who testified of these things "and we know that his testimony is true" (Jn. 21:24). Here we are faced with rather a strange thing. In the Fourth Gospel John is never mentioned, but the beloved disciple is and in addition there is a witness of some kind to the whole story. It has never really been doubted in tradition that the beloved disciple is John. A few have tried to identify him with Lazarus, for Jesus is said to have loved Lazarus (Jn. 11:3,5), or with the Rich Young Ruler, of whom it is said that Jesus, looking on him, loved him (Mk.10:21). But although the gospel never says so in so many words, tradition has always identified the beloved disciple with John, and there is no real need to doubt the identification. But a very real point arises--suppose John himself actually did the writing of the gospel, would he really be likely to speak of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? Would he really be likely to pick himself out like this, and, as it were, to say: "I was his favourite; he loved me best of all"? It is surely very unlikely that John would confer such a title on himself. If it was conferred by others, it is a lovely title; if it was conferred by himself, it comes perilously near to an almost incredible self-conceit. Is there any way then that the gospel can be John's own eye-witness story, and yet at the same time have been actually written down by someone else? THE PRODUCTION OF THE CHURCH In our search for the truth we begin by noting one of the outstanding and unique features of the Fourth Gospel. The most remarkable thing about it is the long speeches of Jesus. Often they are whole chapters long, and are entirely unlike the way in which Jesus is portrayed as speaking in the other three gospels. The Fourth Gospel, as we have seen, was written about the year A.D. 100, that is, about seventy years after the crucifixion. Is it possible after these seventy years to look on these speeches as word for word reports of what Jesus said? Or can we explain them in some way that is perhaps even greater than that? We must begin by holding in our minds the fact of the speeches and the question which they inevitably raise. And we have something to add to that. It so happens that in the writings of the early church we have a whole series of accounts of the way in which the Fourth Gospel came to be written. The earliest is that of Irenaeus who was bishop of Lyons about A.D. 177; and Irenaeus was himself a pupil of Polycarp, who in turn had actually been a pupil of John. There is therefore a direct link between Irenaeus and John. Irenaeus writes: "John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leant upon his breast, himself also published the gospel in Ephesus, when he was living in Asia." The suggestive thing there is that Irenaeus does not merely say that John wrote the gospel; he says that John published (exedoke) it in Ephesus. The word that Irenaeus uses makes it sound, not like the private publication of some personal memoir, but like the public issue of some almost official document. The next account is that of Clement who was head of the great school of Alexandria about A.D. 230. He writes: "Last of all, John perceiving that the bodily facts had been made plain in the gospel, being urged by his friends, composed a spiritual gospel." The important thing here is the phrase being urged by his friends. It begins to become clear that the Fourth Gospel is far more than one man's personal production and that there is a group, a community, a church behind it. On the same lines, a tenth-century manuscript called the Codex Toletanus, which prefaces the New Testament books with short descriptions, prefaces the Fourth Gospel thus: The apostle John, whom the Lord Jesus loved most, last of all wrote this gospel, at the request of the bishops of Asia, against Cerinthus and other heretics." Again we have the idea that behind the Fourth Gospel there is the authority of a group and of a church. We now turn to a very important document, known as the Muratorian Canon. It is so called after a scholar Muratori who discovered it. It is the first list of New Testament books which the church ever issued and was compiled in Rome about A.D. 170. Not only does it list the New Testament books, it also gives short accounts of the origin and nature and contents of each of them. Its account of the way in which the Fourth Gospel came to be written is extremely important and illuminating. "At the request of his fellow-disciples and of his bishops, John, one of the disciples, said: `Fast with me for three days from this time and whatsoever shall be revealed to each of us, whether it be favourable to my writing or not, let us relate it to one another.' On the same night it was revealed to Andrew that John should relate all things, aided by the revision of all." We cannot accept all that statement, because it is not possible that Andrew, the apostle, was in Ephesus in A.D. 100; but the point is that it is stated as clearly as possible that, while the authority and the mind and the memory behind the Fourth Gospel are that of John, it is clearly and definitely the product, not of one man, but of a group and a community. Now we can see something of what happened. About the year A.D. 100 there was a group of men in Ephesus whose leader was John. They revered him as a saint and they loved him as a father. He must have been almost a hundred years old. Before he died, they thought most wisely that it would be a great thing if the aged apostle set down his memories of the years when he had been with Jesus. But in the end they did far more than that. We can think of them sitting down and reliving the old days. One would say: "Do you remember how Jesus said ... ?" And John would say: "Yes, and now we know that he meant..." In other words this group was not only writing down what Jesus said; that would have been a mere feat of memory. They were writing down what Jesus meant; that was the guidance of the Holy Spirit. John had thought about every word that Jesus had said; and he had thought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who was so real to him. W. M. Macgregor has a sermon entitled: "What Jesus becomes to a man who has known him long." That is a perfect description of the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel. A. H. N. Green Armytage puts the thing perfectly in his book John who saw. Mark, he says, suits the missionary with his clear-cut account of the facts of Jesus' life; Matthew suits the teacher with his systematic account of the teaching of Jesus; Luke suits the parish minister or priest with his wide sympathy and his picture of Jesus as the friend of all; but John is the gospel of the contemplative. He goes on to speak of the apparent contrast between Mark and John. "The two gospels are in a sense the same gospel. Only, where Mark saw things plainly, bluntly, literally, John saw them subtly, profoundly, spiritually. We might say that John lit Mark's pages by the lantern of a lifetime's meditation." Wordsworth defined poetry as "Emotion recollected in tranquillity ". That is a perfect description of the Fourth Gospel. That is why John is unquestionably the greatest of all the gospels. Its aim is, not to give us what Jesus said like a newspaper report, but to give us what Jesus meant. In it the Risen Christ still speaks. John is not so much The Gospel according to St. John; it is rather The Gospel according to the Holy Spirit. It was not John of Ephesus who wrote the Fourth Gospel; it was the Holy Spirit who wrote it through John. THE PENMAN OF THE GOSPEL We have one question still to ask. We can be quite sure that the mind and the memory behind the Fourth Gospel is that of John the apostle; but we have also seen that behind it is a witness who was the writer, in the sense that he was the actual penman. Can we find out who he was? We know from what the early church writers tell us that there were actually two Johns in Ephesus at the same time. There was John the apostle, but there was another John, who was known as John the elder. Papias, who loved to collect all that he could find about the history of the New Testament and the story of Jesus, gives us some very interesting information. He was Bishop of Hierapolis, which is quite near Ephesus, and his dates are from about A.D. 70 to about A.D. 145. That is to say, he was actually a contemporary of John. He writes how he tried to find out "what Andrew said or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord; and what things Aristion and the elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say." In Ephesus there was the apostle John, and the elder John; and the elder John was so well-loved a figure that he was actually known as The Elder. He clearly had a unique place in the church. Both Eusebius and Dionysius the Great tell us that even to their own days in Ephesus there were two famous tombs, the one of John the apostle, and the other of John the elder. Now let us turn to the two little letters, Second John and Third John. The letters come from the same hand as the gospel, and how do they begin? The second letter begins: "The elder unto the elect lady and her children" (2Jn. 1). The third letter begins: "The elder unto the beloved Gaius" (3Jn. 1). Here we have our solution. The actual penman of the letters was John the elder; the mind and memory behind them was the aged John the apostle, the master whom John the elder always described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." THE PRECIOUS GOSPEL The more we know about the Fourth Gospel the more precious it becomes. For seventy years John had thought of Jesus. Day by day the Holy Spirit had opened out to him the meaning of what Jesus said. So when John was near the century of life and his days were numbered, he and his friends sat down to remember. John the elder held the pen to write for his master, John the apostle; and the last of the apostles set down, not only what he had heard Jesus say, but also what he now knew Jesus had meant. He remembered how Jesus had said: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (Jn. 16:12-13). There were many things which seventy years ago he had not understood; there were many things which in these seventy years the Spirit of Truth had revealed to him. These things John set down even as the eternal glory was dawning upon him. When we read this gospel let us remember that we are reading the gospel which of all the gospels is most the work of the Holy Spirit, speaking to us of the things which Jesus meant, speaking through the mind and memory of John the apostle and by the pen of John the elder. Behind this gospel is the whole church at Ephesus, the whole company of the saints, the last of the apostles, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ himself. JOHN THE WORD Jn. 1:1-18 When the world had its beginning, the Word was already there; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. This Word was in the beginning with God. He was the agent through whom all things were made; and there is not a single thing which exists in this world which came into being without him. In him was life and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, because the darkness has never been able to conquer it. There emerged a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, in order to bear witness to the light, that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; his function was to bear witness to the light. He was the real light, who, in his coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and, although the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him. It was into his own home that he came, and yet his own people did not receive him. To all those who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God. These were born, not of blood, nor of any human impulse, nor of any man's will, but their birth was of God. So the Word became a person, and took up his abode in our being, full of grace and truth; and we beheld his glory, glory such as an only son receives from his father. John was his witness, for he cried: "This is he of whom I said to you, he who comes after me has been advanced before me, because he was before me. On his fullness we all of us have drawn, and we have received grace upon grace, because it was the law which was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is the unique one, he who is God, he who is in the bosom of the Father, who has told us all about God." We shall go on to study this passage in short sections and in detail; but, before we do so, we must try to understand what John was seeking to say when he described Jesus as the Word. THE WORD BECAME FLESH The first chapter of the Fourth Gospel is one of the greatest adventures of religious thought ever achieved by the mind of man. It was not long before the Christian church was confronted with a very basic problem. It had begun in Judaism. In the beginning all its members had been Jews. By human descent Jesus was a Jew, and, to all intents and purposes, except for brief visits to the districts of Tyre and Sidon, and to the Decapolis, he was never outside Palestine. Christianity began amongst the Jews; and therefore inevitably it spoke in the Jewish language and used Jewish categories of thought. But although it was cradled in Judaism it very soon went out into the wider world. Within thirty years of Jesus' death it had travelled all over Asia Minor and Greece and had arrived in Rome. By A.D. 60 there must have been a hundred thousand Greeks in the church for every Jew who was a Christian. Jewish ideas were completely strange to the Greeks. To take but one outstanding example, the Greeks had never heard of the Messiah. The very centre of Jewish expectation, the coming of the Messiah, was an idea that was quite alien to the Greeks. The very category in which the Jewish Christians conceived and presented Jesus meant nothing to them. Here then was the problem--how was Christianity to be presented to the Greek world? Lecky, the historian, once said that the progress and spread of any idea depends, not only on its strength and force but on the predisposition to receive it of the age to which it is presented. The task of the Christian church was to create in the Greek world a predisposition to receive the Christian message. As E. J. Goodspeed put it, the question was, "Must a Greek who was interested in Christianity be routed through Jewish Messianic ideas and through Jewish ways of thinking, or could some new approach be found which would speak out of his background to his mind and heart?" The problem was how to present Christianity in such a way that a Greek would understand. Round about the year A.D. 100 there was a man in Ephesus who was fascinated by that problem. His name was John. He lived in a Greek city. He dealt with Greeks to whom Jewish ideas were strange and unintelligible and even uncouth. How could he find a way to present Christianity to these Greeks in a way that they would welcome and understand? Suddenly the solution flashed upon him. In both Greek and Jewish thought there existed the conception of the word. Here was something which could be worked out to meet the double world of Greek Jew. Here was something which belonged to the heritage of both races and that both could understand. Let us then begin by looking at the two backgrounds of the conception of the word. THE JEWISH BACKGROUND In the Jewish background four strands contributed something to the idea of the word. (i) To the Jew a word was far more than a mere sound; it was something which had an independent existence and which actually did things. As Professor John Paterson has put it: "The spoken word to the Hebrew was fearfully alive.... It was a unit of energy charged with power. It flies like a bullet to its billet." For that very reason the Hebrew was sparing of words. Hebrew speech has fewer than 10,000; Greek speech has 200,000. A modern poet tells how once the doer of an heroic deed was unable to tell it to his fellow-tribesmen for lack of words. Whereupon there arose a man "afflicted with the necessary magic of words," and he told the story in terms so vivid and so moving that "the words became alive and walked up and down in the hearts of his hearers." The words of the poet became a power. History has many an example of that kind of thing. When John Knox preached in the days of the Reformation in Scotland it was said that the voice of that one man put more courage into the hearts of his hearers than ten thousand trumpets braying in their ears. His words did things to people. In the days of the French Revolution Rouget de Lisle wrote the Marseillaise and that song sent men marching to revolution. The words did things. In the days of the Second World War, when Britain was bereft alike of allies and of weapons, the words of the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, as he broadcast to the nation, did things to people. It was even more so in the East, and still is. To the eastern people a word is not merely a sound; it is a power which does things. Once when Sir George Adam Smith was travelling in the desert in the East, a group of Moslems gave his party the customary greeting: "Peace be upon you." At the moment they failed to notice that he was a Christian. When they discovered that they had spoken a blessing to an infidel, they hurried back to ask for the blessing back again. The word was like a thing which could be sent out to do things and which could be brought back again. Will Carleton, the poet, expresses something like that: "Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds; You can't do that way when you're flying words: `Careful with fire,' is good advice we know, `Careful with words,' is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, But God himself can't kill them when they're said." We can well understand how to the eastern peoples words had an independent, powerfilled existence. (ii) Of that general idea of the power of words, the Old Testament is full. Once Isaac had been deceived into blessing Jacob instead of Esau, nothing he could do could take that word of blessing back again (Gen.27). The word had gone out and had begun to act and nothing could stop it. In particular we see the word of God in action in the Creation story. At every stage of it we read: "And God said..." (Gen.1:3,6,11). The word of God is the creating power. Again and again we get this idea of the creative, acting, dynamic word of God. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" (Ps.33:6). "He sent forth his word and healed them" (Ps.107:20). "He sent forth his commands to the earth; his word runs swiftly" (Ps.147:15). "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isa.55:11). "Is not my word like fire, and, says the Lord, like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jer.23:29). "Thou spakest from the beginning of creation, even the first day, and saidst thus: ` Let heaven and earth be made.' And thy word was a perfect work" (2Esdr.6:38). The writer of the Book of Wisdom addresses God as the one, "who hast made an things with thy word" (Wis.9:1). Everywhere in the Old Testament there is this idea of the powerful, creative word. Even men's words have a kind of dynamic activity; how much more must it be so with God? (iii) There came into Hebrew religious life something which greatly accentuated the development of this idea of the word of God. For a hundred years and more before the coming of Jesus Hebrew was a forgotten language. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew but the Jews no longer knew the language. The scholars knew it, but not the ordinary people. They spoke a development of Hebrew called Aramaic which is to Hebrew somewhat as modern English is to Anglo-Saxon. Since that was so the Scriptures of the Old Testament had to be translated into this language that the people could understand, and these translations were called the Targums. In the synagogue the scriptures were read in the original Hebrew, but then they were translated into Aramaic and Targums were used as translations. The Targums were produced in a time when men were fascinated by the transcendence of God and could think of nothing but the distance and the difference of God. Because of that the men who made the Targums were very much afraid of attributing human thoughts and feelings and actions to God. To put it in technical language, they made every effort to avoid anthropomorphism in speaking of him. Now the Old Testament regularly speaks of God in a human way; and wherever they met a thing like that the Targums substituted the word of God for the name of God. Let us see how this custom worked. In Exo.19:17 we read that "Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God." The Targums thought that was too human a way to speak of God, so they said that Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the word of God. In Exo.31:13 we read that God said to the people that the Sabbath "is a sign between me and you throughout your generations." That was far too human a way to speak for the Targums, and so they said that the Sabbath is a sign "between my word and you." Deut.9:3 says that God is a consuming fire, but the Targums translated it that the word of God is a consuming fire. Isa.48:13 has a great picture of creation: "My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens." That was much too human a picture of God for the Targums and they made God say: "By my word I have founded the earth; and by my strength I have hung up the heavens." Even so wonderful a passage as Deut.33:27 which speaks of God's "everlasting arms" was changed, and became: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and by his word the world was created." In the Jonathan Targum the phrase the word of God occurs no fewer than about 320 times. It is quite true that it is simply a periphrasis for the name of God; but the fact remains that the word of God became one of the commonest forms of Jewish expression. It was a phrase which any devout Jew would recognize because he heard it so often in the synagogue when scripture was read. Every Jew was used to speaking of the Memra, the word of God. (iv) At this stage we must look more fully at something we already began to look at in the introduction. The Greek term for word is Logos (GSN3056); but Logos (GSN3056) does not only mean word; it also means reason. For John, and for all the great thinkers who made use of this idea, these two meanings were always closely intertwined. Whenever they used Logos (GSN3056) the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. The Jews had a type of literature called The Wisdom Literature which was the concentrated wisdom of sages. It is not usually speculative and philosophical, but practical wisdom for the living and management of life. In the Old Testament the great example of Wisdom Literature is the Book of Proverbs. In this book there are certain passages which give a mysterious life-giving and eternal power to Wisdom (Sophia). In these passages Wisdom has been, as it were, personified, and is thought of as the eternal agent and co-worker of God. There are three main passages. The first is Prov.3:13-26. Out of that passage we may specially note: "She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy. The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew" (Prov.3:18-20). We remember that Logos (GSN3056) means Word and also means Reason. We have already seen how the Jews thought of the powerful and creative word of God. Here we see the other side beginning to emerge. Wisdom is God's agent in enlightenment and in creation; and Wisdom and Reason are very much the same thing. We have seen how important Logos (GSN3056) was in the sense of Word; now we see it beginning to be important in the sense of Wisdom or Reason. The second important passage is Prov.4:5-13. In it we may notice: "Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life." The Word is the light of men and Wisdom is the light of men. The two ideas are amalgamating with each other rapidly now. The most important passage of all is in Prov.8:1-9; Prov.2. In it we may specially note: "The Lord created me (Wisdom is speaking) at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth; before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above; when he established the fountains of the deep; when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command; when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always" (Prov.8:22-30). When we read that passage there is echo after echo of what John says of the word in the Jn. 1. Wisdom had that eternal existence, that light-giving function, that creative power which John attributed to the word, the Logos (GSN3056), with which he identified Jesus Christ. The development of this idea of wisdom did not stop here. Between the Old and the New Testament, men went on producing this kind of writing called Wisdom Literature. It had so much concentrated wisdom in it and drew so much from the experience of wise men that it was a priceless guide for life. In particular two very great books were written, which are included in the Apocrypha and which it will do any man's soul good to read. (a) The first is called The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, or, as it is better known, Ecclesiasticus. It too makes much of this great conception of the creative and eternal wisdom of God. "The sand of the sea, and the drops of the rain, And the days of eternity who shall number? The height of the heaven and the breadth of the earth And the deep and wisdom, who shall search them out? Wisdom hath been created before all things, And the understanding of prudence from everlasting" (Sir.1:1-10). "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, And covered the earth as a mist. I dwelt in high places, And my throne is in the pillar of the cloud. Alone I compassed the circuit of the heaven, And walked in the depth of the abyss" (Sir.24:3-5). "He created me from the beginning of the world, And to the end I shall not fail" (Sir.24:9). Here again we find wisdom as the eternal, creative power which was at God's side in the days of creation and the beginning of time. (b) Ecclesiasticus was written in Palestine about the year 100 B.C.; and at almost the same time an equally great book was written in Alexandria in Egypt, called The Wisdom of Solomon. In it there is the greatest of all pictures of wisdom. Wisdom is the treasure which men use to become the friends of God (Wis.7:14). Wisdom is the artificer of all things (Wis.7:22). She is the breath of the power of God and a pure effluence flowing from the Almighty (Wis.7:25). She can do all things and makes all things new (Wis.7:27). But the writer does more than talk about wisdom; he equates wisdom and the word. To him the two ideas are the same. He can talk of the wisdom of God and the word of God in the same sentence and with the same meaning. When he prays to God, his address is: O God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things with thy word, and ordained man through thy wisdom (Wis.9:2). He can speak of the word almost as John was to speak: "For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven but it stood upon the earth (Wis.18:14-16). To the writer of the Book of Wisdom, wisdom was God's eternal, creative, illuminating power; wisdom and the word were one and the same. It was wisdom and the word who were God's instruments and agents in creation and who ever bring the will of God to the mind and heart of man. So when John was searching for a way in which he could commend Christianity he found in his own faith and in the record of his own people the idea of the word, the ordinary word which is in itself not merely a sound, but a dynamic thing, the word of God by which God created the world, the word of the Targums which expressed the very idea of the action of God, the wisdom of the Wisdom Literature which was the eternal creative and illuminating power of God. So John said: "If you wish to see that word of God, if you wish to see the creative power of God, if you wish to see that word which brought the world into existence and which gives light and life to every man, look at Jesus Christ. In him the word of God came among you." THE GREEK BACKGROUND We began by seeing that John's problem was not that of presenting Christianity to the Jewish world, but of presenting it to the Greek world. How then did this idea of the word fit into Greek thought? It was already there waiting to be used. In Greek thought the idea of the word began away back about 560 B.C., and, strangely enough, in Ephesus where the Fourth Gospel was written. In 560 B.C. there was an Ephesian philosopher called Heraclitus whose basic idea was that everything is in a state of flux. Everything was changing from day to day and from moment to moment. His famous illustration was that it was impossible to step twice into the same river. You step into a river; you step out; you step in again; but you do not step into the same river, for the water has flowed on and it is a different river. To Heraclitus everything was like that, everything was in a constantly changing state of flux. But if that be so, why was life not complete chaos? How can there be any sense in a world where there was constant flux and change? The answer of Heraclitus was: all this change and flux was not haphazard; it was controlled and ordered, following a continuous pattern all the time; and that which controlled the pattern was the Logos (GSN3056), the word, the reason of God. To Heraclitus, the Logos (GSN3056) was the principle of order under which the universe continued to exist. Heraclitus went further. He held that not only was there a pattern in the physical world; there was also a pattern in the world of events. He held that nothing moved with aimless feet; in all life and in all the events of life there was a purpose, a plan and a design. And what was it that controlled events? Once again, the answer was Logos (GSN3056). Heraclitus took the matter even nearer home. What was it that in us individually told us the difference between right and wrong? What made us able to think and to reason? What enabled us to choose aright and to recognize the truth when we saw it? Once again Heraclitus gave the same answer. What gave a man reason and knowledge of the truth and the ability to judge between right and wrong was the Logos (GSN3056) of God dwelling within him. Heraclitus held that in the world of nature and events "all things happen according to the Logos (GSN3056)," and that in the individual man "the Logos (GSN3056) is the judge of truth." The Logos (GSN3056) was nothing less than the mind of God controlling the world and every man in it. Once the Greeks had discovered this idea they never let it go. It fascinated them, especially the Stoics. The Stoics were always left in wondering amazement at the order of the world. Order always implies a mind. The Stoics asked: "What keeps the stars in their courses? What makes the tides ebb and flow? What makes day and night come in unalterable order? What brings the seasons round at their appointed times?" And they answered; "All things are controlled by the Logos (GSN3056) of God." The Logos (GSN3056) is the power which puts sense into the world, the power which makes the world an order instead of a chaos, the power which set the world going and keeps it going in its perfect order. "The Logos (GSN3056)," said the Stoics, "pervades all things." There is still another name in the Greek world at which we must look. In Alexandria there was a Jew called Philo who had made it the business of his life to study the wisdom of two worlds, the Jewish and the Greek. No man ever knew the Jewish scriptures as he knew them; and no Jew ever knew the greatness of Greek thought as he knew it. He too knew and used and loved this idea of the Logos (GSN3056), the word, the reason of God. He held that the Logos (GSN3056) was the oldest thing in the world and the instrument through which God had made the world. He said that the Logos (GSN3056) was the thought of God stamped upon the universe; he talked about the Logos (GSN3056) by which God made the world and all things; he said that God, the pilot of the universe, held the Logos (GSN3056) as a tiller and with it steered all things. He said that man's mind was stamped also with the Logos (GSN3056), that the Logos (GSN3056) was what gave a man reason, the power to think and the power to know. He said that the Logos (GSN3056) was the intermediary between the world and God and that the Logos (GSN3056) was the priest who set the soul before God. Greek thought knew all about the Logos (GSN3056); it saw in the Logos (GSN3056) the creating and guiding and directing power of God, the power which made the universe and kept it going. So John came to the Greeks and said: "For centuries you have been thinking and writing and dreaming about the Logos (GSN3056), the power which made the world, the power which keeps the order of the world, the power by which men think and reason and know, the power by which men come into contact with God. Jesus is that Logos (GSN3056) come down to earth." "The word," said John, "became flesh." We could put it another way--"The Mind of God became a person." BOTH JEW AND GREEK Slowly the Jews and Greeks had thought their way to the conception of the Logos (GSN3056), the Mind of God which made the world and makes sense of it. So John went out to Jews and Greeks to tell them that in Jesus Christ this creating, illuminating, controlling, sustaining mind of God had come to earth. He came to tell them that men need no longer guess and grope; all that they had to do was to look at Jesus and see the Mind of God. THE ETERNAL WORD Jn. 1:1-2 When the world had its beginning, the word was already there; and the word was with God; and the word was God. This word was in the beginning with God. The beginning of John's gospel is of such importance and of such depth of meaning that we must study it almost verse by verse. It is John's great thought that Jesus is none other than God's creative and life-giving and light-giving word, that Jesus is the power of God which created the world and the reason of God which sustains the world come to earth in human and bodily form. Here at the beginning John says three things about the word; which is to say that he says three things about Jesus. (i) The word was already there at the very beginning things. John's thought is going back to the first verse of the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen.1:1). What John is saying is this--the word is not one of the created things; the word was there before creation. the word is not part of the world which came into being in time; the word is part of eternity and was there with God before time and the world began. John was thinking of what is known as the preexistence of Christ. In many ways this idea of preexistence is very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to grasp. But it does mean one very simple, very practical, and very tremendous thing. If the word was with God before time began, if God's word is part of the eternal scheme of things, it means that God was always like Jesus. Sometimes we tend to think of God as stern and avenging; and we tend to think that something Jesus did changed God's anger into love and altered his attitude to men. The New Testament knows nothing of that idea. The whole New Testament tells us, this passage of John especially, that God has always been like Jesus. What Jesus did was to open a window in time that we might see the eternal and unchanging love of God. We may well ask, "What then about some of the things that we read in the Old Testament? What about the passages which speak about commandments of God to wipe out whole cities and to destroy men, women and children? What of the anger and the destructiveness and the jealousy of God that we sometimes read of in the older parts of Scripture?" The answer is this--it is not God who has changed; it is men's knowledge of him that has changed. Men wrote these things because they did not know any better; that was the stage which their knowledge of God had reached. When a child is learning any subject, he has to learn it stage by stage. He does not begin with full knowledge; he begins with what he can grasp and goes on to more and more. When he begins music appreciation, he does not start with a Bach Prelude and Fugue; he starts with something much more simple; and goes through stage after stage until his knowledge grows. It was that way with men and God. They could only grasp and understand God's nature and his ways in part. It was only when Jesus came that they saw fully and completely what God has always been like. It is told that a little girl was once confronted with some of the more bloodthirsty and savage parts of the Old Testament. Her comment was: "But that happened before God became a Christian!" If we may so put it with all reverence, when John says that the word was always there, he is saying that God was always a Christian. He is telling us that God was and is and ever shall be like Jesus; but men could never know and realize that until Jesus came. (ii) John goes on to say that the word was with God What does he mean by that? He means that always there has been the closest connection between the word and God. Let us put that in another and a simpler way--there has always been the most intimate connection between Jesus and God. That means no one can tell us what God is like, what God's will is for us, what God's love and heart and mind are like, as Jesus can. Let us take a simple human analogy. If we want to know what someone really thinks and feels about something, and if we are unable to approach the person ourselves, we do not go to someone who is merely an acquaintance of that person, to someone who has known him only a short time; we go to someone whom we know to be an intimate friend of many years' standing. We know that he will really be able to interpret the mind and the heart of the other person to us. It is something like that that John is saying about Jesus. He is saying that Jesus has always been with God. Let us use every human language because it is the only language we can use. John is saying that Jesus is so intimate with God that God has no secrets from him; and that, therefore, Jesus is the one person in all the universe who can reveal to us what God is like and how God feels towards us. (iii) Finally John says that the word was God This is a difficult saying for us to understand, and it is difficult because Greek, in which John wrote, had a different way of saying things from the way in which English speaks. When Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is theos (GSN2316) and the definite article is ho (GSN3588). When Greek speaks about God it does not simply say theos (GSN2316); it says ho theos (GSN2316). Now when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun that noun becomes much more like an adjective. John did not say that the word was ho (GSN3588) theos (GSN2316); that would have been to say that the word was identical with God. He said that the word was theos (GSN2316)--without the definite article--which means that the word was, we might say, of the very same character and quality and essence and being as God. When John said the word was God he was not saying that Jesus was identical with God; he was saying that Jesus was so perfectly the same as God in mind, in heart, in being that in him we perfectly see what God is like. So right at the beginning of his gospel John lays it down that in Jesus, and in him alone, there is perfectly revealed to men all that God always was and always will be, and all that he feels towards and desires for men. THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS Jn. 1:3 He was the agent through whom all things were made; and there is not a single thing which exists in this world which came into being without him. It may seem strange to us that John so stresses the way in which the world was created; and it may seem strange that he so definitely connects Jesus with the work of creation. But he had to do this because of a certain tendency in the thought of his day. In the time of John there was a kind of heresy called Gnosticism. Its characteristic was that it was an intellectual and philosophical approach to Christianity. To the Gnostics the simple beliefs of the ordinary Christian were not enough. They tried to construct a philosophic system out of Christianity. They were troubled about the existence of sin and evil and sorrow and suffering in this world, so they worked out a theory to explain it. The theory was this. In the beginning two things existed--the one was God and the other was matter. Matter was always there and was the raw material out of which the world was made. The Gnostics held that this original matter was flawed and imperfect. We might put it that the world got off to a bad start. It was made of material which had the seeds of corruption in it. The Gnostics went further. God, they said, is pure spirit, and pure spirit can never touch matter at an, still less matter which is imperfect. Therefore it was not possible for God to carry out the work of creation himself So he put out from himself a series of emanations. Each emanation was further and further away from God and as the emanations got further and further away from him, they knew less and less about him. About halfway down the series there was an emanation which knew nothing at all about God. Beyond that stage the emanations began to be not only ignorant of but actually hostile to God. Finally in the series there was an emanation which was so distant from God that it was totally ignorant of him and totally hostile to him--and that emanation was the power which created the world, because it was so distant from God that it was possible for it to touch this flawed and evil matter. The creator god was utterly divorced from and utterly at enmity with the real God. The Gnostics took one step further. They identified the creator god with the God of the Old Testament; and they held that the God of the Old Testament was quite different from, quite ignorant of and quite hostile to the God and Father of Jesus Christ. In the time of John this kind of belief was widespread. Men believed that the world was evil and that an evil God had created it. It is to combat this teaching that John here lays down two basic Christian truths. In point of fact the connection of Jesus with creation is repeatedly laid down in the New Testament, just because of this background of thought which divorced God from the world in which we live. In Col.1:16 Paul writes: "For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth ... all things were created through him and for him." In 1Cor.8:6 he writes of the Lord Jesus Christ "through whom are all things." The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the one who was the Son, "through whom also God created the world" (Heb.1:2). John and the other New Testament writers who spoke like this were stressing two great truths. (i) Christianity has always believed in what is called creation out of nothing. We do not believe that in his creation of the world God had to work with alien and evil matter. We do not believe that the world began with an essential flaw in it. We do not believe that the world began with God and something else. It is our belief that behind everything there is God and God alone. (ii) Christianity has always believed that this is God's world. So far from being so detached from the world that he could have nothing to do with it, God is intimately involved in it. The Gnostics tried to put the blame for the evil of the world on the shoulders of its creator. Christianity believes that what is wrong with the world is due to man's sin. But even though sin has injured the world and kept it from being what it might have been, we can never despise the world, because it is essentially God's. If we believe this it gives us a new sense of the value of the world and a new sense of responsibility to it. There is a story of a child from the back streets of a great city who was taken for a day in the country. When she saw the bluebells in the woods, she asked: "Do you think God would mind if I picked some of his flowers?" This is God's world; because of that nothing is out of his control; and because of that we must use all things in the awareness that they belong to God. The Christian does not belittle the world by thinking that it was created by an ignorant and a hostile god; he glorifies it by remembering that everywhere God is behind it and in it. He believes that the Christ who re-creates the world was the co-worker of God when the world was first created, and that, in the act of redemption, God is seeking to win back that which was always his own. LIFE AND LIGHT Jn. 1:4 In him was life and the life was the light of men. In a great piece of music the composer often begins by stating the themes which he is going to elaborate in the course of the work. That is what John does here. Life and light are two of the great basic words on which the Fourth Gospel is built up. They are two of the main themes which it is the aim of the gospel to develop and to expound. Let us look at them in detail. The Fourth Gospel begins and ends with life. At the very beginning we read that in Jesus was life; and at the very end we read that John's aim in writing the gospel was that men might "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (Jn. 20:31). The word is continually on the lips of Jesus. It is his wistful regret that men will not come to him that they might have life (Jn. 5:40). It is his claim that he came that men might have life and that they might have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10). He claims that he gives men life and that they will never perish because no one will snatch them out of his hand (Jn. 10:28). He claims that he is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). In the gospel the word "life" (zoe, GSN2222) occurs more than thirty-five times and the verb "to live" or "to have life" (zao, GSN2198) more than fifteen times. What then does John mean by "life"? (i) Quite simply, he means that life is the opposite of destruction, condemnation and death. God sent his Son that the man who believes should not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). The man who hears and believes has eternal life and will not come into judgment (Jn. 5:24). There is a contrast between the resurrection to life and the resurrection to judgment (Jn. 5:29). Those to whom Jesus gives life will never perish (Jn. 10:28). There is in Jesus that which gives a man security in this life and in the life to come. Until we accept Jesus and take him as our saviour and enthrone him as our king we cannot be said to live at all. The man who lives a Christless life exists, but he does not know what life is. Jesus is the one person who can make life worth living, and in whose company death is only--the prelude to fuller life. (ii) But John is quite sure that, although Jesus is the bringer of this life, the giver of life is God. Again and again John uses the phrase the living God, as indeed the whole Bible does. It is the will of the Father who sent Jesus that everyone who sees him and believes on him should have life (Jn. 6:40). Jesus is the giver of life because the Father has set his own seal of approval upon him (Jn. 6:27). He gives life to as many as God has given him (Jn. 17:2). At the back of it all there is God. It is as if God was saying: "I created men that they should have real life; through their sin they have ceased to live and only exist; I have sent them my Son to enable them to know what real life is." (iii) We must ask what this life is. Again and again the Fourth Gospel uses the phrase eternal life. We shall discuss the full meaning of that phrase later. At present we note this. The word John uses for eternal is aionios (GSN0166). Clearly whatever else eternal life i...

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