Monday, August 22, 2016

Major themes of Jesus in John 1-3

John 3:27-29 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full."

Introduction: the themes of Jesus we find in John chs 1-3
As one considers the first three chapters of John's Gospel, it becomes quickly apparent that the coming of the Son of God altered reality and understanding. Today's post wants to briefly explore the major themes developed by John in the first three chapters of His gospel.

1. The Journey of Deity in partaking of true humanity - John 1:1-18
 John 1:1-18 present the Son coming into this world to reveal Himself as the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. The self-imposed voluntary humiliation of the Son's stooping down to partake in our frail humanity is details in other New Testament passages such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 10:5-6. As John unfolds the identity of "the Word made flesh" in John 1:19-3:36, we see several Old Testament themes re-introduced and tied together in Jesus. In John 1:19-51 we see several names of Jesus that reveal Him as truly Divine and truly human (namely "Lamb of God" in 1:29; "Messiah" or "Christ" in 1:41; "King of Israel" in 1:49 and "Son of Man" in 1:51). This journey of the Son's "enmanning" or "incarnation" occupies the "prologue" of John 1:1-18.

2. Lamb of God - John 1:19-51
Here we find various titles expressed by John the Baptist and would-be followers of Jesus. John the Baptist begins this sequence of titles by expressing Jesus as "The Lamb of God". In subsequent follow-up conversations that we find between Jesus and his would-be followers, we see such titles as "Messiah" (John 1:41); "King of Israel" (John 1:49) and "Son of Man" (John 1:51). These three titles work in differing ways to communicate the true Deity and true humanity of Jesus. As the Lamb of God, His mission was to come to die as man for the sins of the people while being God who would ever be the source of their salvation. 

3. The Mediator of the New Covenant - John 2:1-11
The unfolding of Jesus' significance goes on in John 2:1-11, whereby in His first sign or miracle of changing water into wine, He introduces Himself as the Mediator of the inbreaking New Covenant age. This particular identification of Jesus connects the reader to how Jesus' coming alters history and understanding of everything from designating the ending of the Old Testament era to the fulfillment of so many prophecies and promises (see Isaiah 12; Ezekiel 36:25-26; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-31). The miracle of the wedding at Cana forms a cycle in John which Gerald Borchert in the New American Commentary series describes as "The Cana Cycle":

"The five segments of the Gospel and two transitional statements (2:12, 23–25) that compose the Cana Cycle move the reader’s attention from Cana (2:1–11) and Capernaum (2:12) through Jerusalem (2:13–24) to an unclear Jewish/Judean(?) context (3:1–36), then to Samaria (4:1–42) and back to Cana in Galilee (4:43–54). The focus of this Cana Cycle provides the reader with a perspective on the widening influence of Jesus’ ministry reminiscent of the dominical (i.e a command given by Jesus) commission given the disciples in the postresurrection encounter."

4. Jesus as the New Temple and High Priest - John 2:13-25 
The cleansing of the Temple in John 2:13-25 weaves in another set of themes, namely Jesus as the New Temple and the True High priest who cleanses His temple. Both of these themes are so closely related as to really occupy one two-fold theme.  It appears that Jesus conversation with Nicodemas in John 3:1-21 continues on the two fold theme of temple/priest and the cleansing thereof from John 2:13-25. Ellicott's commentary for English Readers notes this connection: 

"Our division of chapters breaks the connection, and the omission of the conjunction leads us to think of the visit of Nicodemus as quite distinct from what has gone before; whereas it really rises out of it."

Jesus was communicating the old temple system to be obsolete, with Him being the true temple and true High priest - albeit the externals of faith. In John 3:1-21, Jesus' actions lead to the true and only way spiritual cleansing can occur - namely by the New Birth. When one explores the Biblical theme of the Divine Wedding as used by God to portray His redemptive purposes in the Bible, rich themes emerge.  

5. Jesus as the Bridegroom that came for His Bride (i.e His people) - John 3:22-35
Since the Wedding at Cana miracle is set in the context of a wedding, we find Jesus communicating himself as the groom who had come to state and demonstrate his intentions toward the redemption of His people, who are portrayed throughout the Old Testament as "the bride of Yahweh". Consequently, this wedding theme is reinforced in a testimony of John the Baptist in John 3:22-36. In every unfolding episode of the introductory themes we find in John's first three chapters, we find a brief exposition, some sort of sign and then responses of various people to whatever identity of Jesus is being revealed.

The significance of the growth of Jesus' ministry certainly had gained the attention of the people of that time. As all of these themes are introduced and then woven together by John, we find a beautiful tapestry that introduces us the Person of the Son of God. The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes:

"For a short time the ministry of John the Baptist overlapped Jesus’ ministry. Thus the Judean countryside must have been alive with the teaching of both these great preachers of repentance and God’s kingdom. Both John and Jesus had disciples, large crowds followed both of them, and both baptized." 

The same commentary later on adds:
"Both groups were baptizing and thus two “reform” movements were popular. This was before John was put in prison (3:24). This statement reveals how the Fourth Gospel supplements the Synoptics. It implies that readers knew about John’s imprisonment from reading the other Gospels (Matt. 14:1–12; Mark 6:14–29; Luke 3:19–20) or from common church tradition."

Closing remarks:
The point of today's post was to explore the major themes of the first three chapters of John with respect to the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. In our exploration we noted four major themes:

1. The Journey of true Deity partaking in true humanity - John 1:1-18

2. The Lamb of God - John 1:19-51

3. Mediator of the New Covenant. John 2:1-12

4. The New Temple and High Priest. John 2:13-25

5. The Bridegroom who comes for His bride (His people). John 3:1-36

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