This is day twenty-five, in our ninety days of reading through the New Testament. We’ve finished the first three gospels, and today we begin the gospel of John, reading John 1 through John 3.
And there is something different about this gospel.
As you read, today, I want to invite you to listen to this song by Gungor. It may help frame these first three chapters today.
John begins with this soaring theological moment, where John brings Jesus to his audience in a much different way, giving Jesus an eternal presence with God. Where Matthew and Luke spend much time giving their readers a hold onto Jesus’ heritage, John isn’t concerned much with that.
Written, probably, by the apostle John sixty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it was probably written to the Christian communities in Asia Minor, the very communities planted by Paul, some forty years before this gospel was penned.
These people would have little use for Jerusalem, for Jewish practices, for geographical positions, but would rather want the substance of truth, that Jesus was an infinite God that did become human, and did dwell among humanity. John may not be concerned with geography and chronology so much, but he does make it a point to say when and where things happened.
Because John is telling a story.
He is telling a story to a people who are influenced greatly by their rich Roman heritage of various beliefs, of the Jewish people in their cities, brought there by Roman edicts, and the Christian belief planted by Paul. They are second generation believers, in need of a substance of truth that moves beyond stories told in house church settings. And they need it from someone who knew it, and saw it, and lived it.
He is actually telling a story to people just like us.
We are heavily influenced by the sway of culture. We are heavily influenced by the religious passion for government. We are tempted to involve ourselves in meaningless debates over entertainment and politics. Our faith is in grave danger of being diluted by so many variants of beliefs, that we, too, need a truth grounded in eternity.
We have little concern for Jewish practices. We have little concern for the geography of Palestine. And we have little concern for the chronology of Jesus’ life.
We just want a picture of the truth.
And the truth in this gospel comes to us in the form of an eternal God who constantly gets involved with life.
We’ve heard, time and time again that John 1:14 is the great verse which grounds this infinite Word. This Word made his “dwelling” among us.
And we’ve heard that the original Greek word for “dwelling” is the word that doesn’t mean “dwelling” at all, but rather means “to tabernacle.”
So John tells us this infinite Word became a tabernacle among humanity. John is making an incredible statement here.
The tabernacle, in the history of the Hebrews, was the tent used to house the ark of the covenant. It moved with the people. It was never grounded in one location, and was never meant to be. But, at the request of the Hebrews, it was replaced by a permanent temple in a permanent city, while their permanent God was replaced by a temporary human king. You can read about that in 1 Samuel 8.
But that was never God’s intention. He is a mobile God. An on-the-move God.
So Jesus is now the grounding of this on-the-move God. And John takes us on a journey with Jesus. Watch this, or you’ll miss it.
Jesus is an intriguing teacher to some of John’s disciples in 1:35-40. Andrew, one of John’s disciples, asked Jesus where he was staying, and if he could come and spend the day with him (1:37).
Something profound happened that afternoon. Andrew left to find his brother, Peter. Both became two of Jesus’ chosen twelve.
In John 2:1-11, Jesus is at a wedding celebration in the town of Cana. Here, Jesus performs his first sign in this gospel, where he transforms water into wine, sparing the host an extreme humiliation during the week-long celebration.
Much is said about how Jesus used the Jewish ceremonial jars to hold the new wine, and how, theologically, Jesus is replacing all of the ancient rituals and customs with something new. John’s Jesus does that without fanfare, and all of that is true.
Very little is said, though, about Jesus’ request for the servants to also draw some wine for the host, in 2:8. The implication we overlook is that the wine was probably drawn, not from those jars, but from the same well that filled the ceremonial jars. The Greek word for “draw” has a natural implication for drawing from a well – not test-tasting from the newly-filled jars.
Jesus didn’t just transform the water in the jars. He transformed the water in the well. This on-the-move-and-among-us God has changed everything about this covenant.
He’s not only filling ceremonial, washing jars, he’s giving them an endless supply of the best wine for the entire party! And until the celebration ends, they can draw this new wine from the same ground well.
Somewhere, beneath the surface of the dirt and bricks of the well, the source of water changed.
This new wine is now never-ending.
Think about that for a while.
But what is even more profound is that Jesus would do this amazing sign for just a few people. Only the hosts and the servants, and maybe Jesus’ mother, would know what just happened. No one else would care at this festive party.
Jesus’ sign is significant for its insignificance. He moved into what appears to be a random party, and refreshes the wine for people who are probably already intoxicated (because the first wine was gone!), and who wouldn’t believe this story, anyway.
Jesus, later in John 2, enters the temple, and overturns the tables and booths of merchants who have turned the temple into a shopping mall. He made a leather whip, and drove the livestock from the temple grounds.
But Jesus said to those selling doves to just leave. He used a violent force to remove the bigger animals. But held that anger in reserve when it came to the doves.
In John 3, Jesus entertains the questions of Nicodemus, who, out of fear, came to Jesus at night (3:2). Jesus is not afraid of our doubts, or our questions, and in our own season of wondering, this on-the-move God still has time for us.
In these first three chapters, Jesus is on the move. He spends an afternoon answering questions. He attends a wedding celebration and refreshes their wine. He enters the temple, drives out the animals, but controls his anger for the doves. He listens to the doubts and questions of a Jewish man who is afraid of this very real, and very raw God.
This is the Jesus in John’s gospel He’s all over the place. He’s in and out of every situation and every environment.
Because you can’t isolate him to one place. You can’t contain him. He’s a tabernacle.
And these are just the first three chapters of this gospel. Thanks for reading with me today.
You can find all of the previous posts as I read and blog my way through the New Testament by clicking here.