John 1 – Devotional and Commentary

Devotional Questions:

John 1:1-5, 14

The term “the Word” (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God’s Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; Isa. 55:10–11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1).[1]

  • Reflect on the words describing the true nature of Jesus (“the Word”) in this passage, and the fact that he came and “made his dwelling among us.”

John 1:29

  • Reflect on the title John gives to Jesus—“the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  What does this show about God’s love and human need?  How does this compare with my typical conception and witness about Jesus?

John 1:38-39

  • Consider the fact that the disciples who got introduced to Jesus by John wanted to know where Jesus was dwelling.  What does Jesus’ answer reveal about his heart and about how I can come to know God?
  • What are alternative ways in which people prefer to “know” God?  In what ways am I actively seeking to know God?

John 1:42

  • What does Jesus do when he sees Simon?  Who has the power to name and what does this show about how Jesus views his relationship with Simon?  What can I learn about the fact that Jesus gave Simon a flattering name like Cephas (meaning “Rock”) before he could ever do anything to merit such a name?
  • What kind of name does Jesus want to give me?  What kind of vision would he have for me?  What names have I taken for myself, and who gave me those names?  What is my vision for my life and where did I get it?

Additional Questions:

John 1:19-27

  • John the Baptist responds to the question of his identity with a threefold denial.  What can I learn about the formation of Christian identity from his response?  To what extent do I engage in self-promotion?
  • Consider how John the Baptist viewed Jesus (v. 27).  How would this have affected his view of his own mission as one who prepares the way for the Lord in the desert?  What is my attitude toward the role given me as a Christian to be a herald, like John, preparing people to receive the Christ?

John 1:46

  • What is Nathanael’s objection to Jesus?  What prejudices did Nathanael have to set aside in order to meet Jesus?  What are some prejudices that people have against coming to Jesus?
  • What does Philip’s answer to Nathanael teach me about evangelism?  What does it mean for a person to “come and see” Jesus?  Do I have confidence to invite people to “come and see” Jesus through my life?  If people were to “come and see” my life, what would they conclude about God?

[1] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2019.

Commentary:

vv. 1-18 “Prologue: The Incarnate Word. In the prologue John presents Jesus as the eternal, preexistent, now incarnate Word (vv. 1, 14) and as the one-of-a-kind Son of the Father who is himself God (vv. 1, 18). God’s revelation and redemption in and through Jesus are shown to form the culmination of the history of salvation, which previously included God’s giving of the law through Moses (v. 17), his dwelling among his people in the tabernacle and the temple (v. 14), and the sending of the forerunner, John the Baptist (vv. 6–8, 15). The prologue also introduces many of the major themes developed later in the Gospel, such as Jesus as the life (v. 4), the light (vv. 5–9), and the truth (vv. 14, 16–17); believers as God’s children (vv. 12–13); and the world’s rejection of Jesus (vv. 10–11).”[1]

v. 1 In the beginning was the Word echoes the opening phrase of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John will soon identify this Word as Jesus (v. 14), but here he locates Jesus’ existence in eternity past with God. The term “the Word” (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God’s Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; Isa. 55:10–11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1). John also shows how this concept of “the Word” is superior to a Greek philosophical concept of “Word” (logos) as an impersonal principle of Reason that gave order to the universe. And the Word was with God indicates interpersonal relationship “with” God, but then and the Word was God affirms that this Word was also the same God who created the universe “in the beginning.” Here are the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed.”[2]

v. 4 “What then does John mean by life? 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 (?3:16?). […] Those to whom Jesus gives life will never perish (?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 savior 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. […]  The word John uses for eternal is ai?nios. Clearly whatever else eternal life is, it is not simply life which lasts forever. A life which lasted for ever could be a terrible curse; often the thing for which men long is release from life. In eternal life there must be more than duration of life; there must be a certain quality of life.   Life is not desirable unless it is a certain kind of life. Here we have the clue. Ai?nios is the adjective which is repeatedly used to describe God. In the true sense of the word only God is ai?nios, eternal; therefore eternal life is that life which God lives. What Jesus offers us from God is God’s own life. Eternal life is life which knows something of the serenity and power of the life of God himself. When Jesus came offering men eternal life, he was inviting them to enter into the very life of God.”[3]

“The light which Jesus brings is a revealing light. It is the condemnation of men that they loved the darkness rather than the light; and they did so because their deeds were evil; and they hated the light lest their deeds should be exposed (?3:19?, ?20?). The light which Jesus brings is something which shows things as they are. It strips away the disguises and the concealments; it shows things in all their nakedness; it shows them in their true character and their true values.”[4]

v. 14 “[…] Became flesh does not mean the Word ceased being God; rather, the Word, who was God, also took on humanity (cf. Phil. 2:6–7). This is the most amazing event in all of history: the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person. Dwelt among us means more literally “pitched his tent” (Gk. sk?no?), an allusion to God’s dwelling among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Ex. 25:8–9; 33:7). In the past, God had manifested his presence to his people in the tabernacle and the temple. Now God takes up residence among his people in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:17). Thus, the coming of Christ fulfills the OT symbolism for God’s dwelling with man in the tabernacle and the temple. Later, through the Holy Spirit, Christ will make into a temple both the church (1 Cor. 3:16) and a Christian’s body (1 Cor. 6:19). The references to God’s glory refer back to OT passages narrating the manifestation of the presence and glory of God in theophanies (appearances of God), the tabernacle, or the temple (e.g., Ex. 33:22; Num. 14:10; Deut. 5:22). the only Son from the Father. Jesus is the “Son of God,” not in the sense of being [5]created or born (see John 1:3), but in the sense of being a Son who is exactly like his Father in all attributes, and in the sense of having a Father-Son relationship with God the Father.” 6

v. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you is a solemn affirmation stressing the authoritative nature and importance of Jesus’ pronouncements. The expression is found 25 times in this Gospel. The two references to “you” here are plural. See heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending recalls the story of Jacob in Genesis 28 (see esp. v. 12). Jesus will be a greater way of access to God than the heavenly ladder on which angels traveled between God and Jacob (Gen. 28:12; cf. Heb. 10:19–20), and wherever Jesus is, that place will become the “New Bethel” where God is revealed. Jesus is not merely “a son of man” (an ordinary male human being), but he repeatedly (over 80 times in the Gospels) calls himself the Son of Man, suggesting the greatest, most notable son of man of all time. “The Son of Man” is thus a messianic title that refers back to the mysterious, human-divine figure of “one like a son of man” in Dan. 7:13–14, one who would be given rule over all the nations of the earth forever (cf. Matt. 26:64). The Son of Man will be “lifted up” by being crucified (see note on John 3:14), will provide divine revelation (6:27), and will act with end-time authority (5:27; 9:39).”[7]


[1] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2019.

[2] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2019.

[3] William Barclay, “The Gospel of John,” The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) 50-51.

[4]William Barclay, “The Gospel of John,” The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) 53.

6 ESV Study Bible, Notes for Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2020.

[6] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2022.

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