Basic Facts from John (Part 1)

Basic Facts from John (Part 1)

Unlike the synoptic (“same view”) gospel records of Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s record of Jesus’ life focuses mainly on His ministry; there is no mention of His birth or infancy, and both Jesus and John the baptizer are presented as adults. John’s inspired account of the gospel is generally considered to have been written many years after Matthew, Mark and Luke, and is thought by many bible scholars to have been intended mainly for those who were already Christians. The late brother Johnny Ramsey often described it as the “picturebook” or “photo album” of the Christ, and there are two basic divisions to the book: Chapters 1-12 cover mainly the 3 ½ years of Jesus’ ministry, while chapters 13-21 cover the last eight days leading up to the crucifixion, and the forty days after the Lord’s resurrection.

The “beginning” described in John 1:1 refers to Genesis 1:1, and Psalm 90:2 is an inspired “commentary” on that time. John is effectively telling Christians that “when the ‘beginning’ began” (i.e., when time first started), Jesus was already present with the Father). “The Word” is a reference to Jesus, and John unequivocally declares both His pre-existence with the Father before time began, and His participation in the creation original creation process. Note that in John 20:28, “doubting” Thomas will unhesitatingly acknowledge Jesus as God in the flesh (cf. also John 1:14). Further, the testimony of John the baptizer in John 1:15 bears witness to the Lord’s eternality by pointing out that He existed before John did, even though John was about six months older than Jesus (in the flesh).

John 1:43-51 presents an interesting encounter between Jesus, Philip and Nathanael. In urging his brother to come and investigate the teaching of Jesus, Philip declares that He is the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:15- 18). Nathanael’s response mirrors the attitude that prevailed among many Jews of that time, that “nothing good can come out of Nazareth” because the town (in the first century) had a poor reputation. (Note also the Pharisees’ allegation against Nicodemus in John 7:52, that “no prophet arises out of Galilee”). Though it may have been common, this opinion was wrong because the prophet Jonah was from Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:28), basically the same location as Nazareth. The charge that “nothing good comes from Nazareth” was proven false long before Jesus was even born!

John 2 records our Lord’s first miracle, the changing of water into “wine” at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee (verses 1-11). We bracket the word wine with quotation marks because the Greek word it translates can represent both fresh grape juice or fermented (i.e., alcoholic) juice. To interpret this event as “proof” that Jesus made an alcoholic beverage – and therefore “approves” of alcoholic beverages – assumes something the bible text does not prove. The only way to distinguish whether or not alcoholic “wine” is what Jesus made is by its description; and “the good wine” indicates that what Jesus made was fresh, not fermented (therefore, nonalcoholic). When we consider that Jesus lived and died under the authority of the law of Moses and the prophets (note the warning against giving an intoxicating drink to another, Habakkuk 2:15), it would have been inconsistent and sinful for the Lord to make any sort of alcoholic beverage, including wine.

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