Nov 29 2020 - Advent through the Gospel of John - pt 1
5th December 2020
Lord, thank You for the service done for this church and how appreciated it is. You will reward those, and You are blessed by those who are serving. You look down with joy. When we serve, we are most like You – You served us to the point of death on the cross and give us life. Speak to our hearts.
The gospel of John is both simple and clear.
If you are old enough to read, or to have someone to read it to you – you can understand the gospel. On the other hand, it is probably one of the most deep and complicated books in the Bible.
- Literary Context
- Grammatical Context
- Historical/Cultural Context
We also need to understand the genre – whether it is poetry or a psalm or history – each requires a different approach.
Grammatical context – looks at the grammar, word meaning, original language. The most important resource we can use? Multiple translations. The greatest scholars will read multiple translations. Obviously not for your quiet time, but when you are really studying – open 3-4 translations and see how things are said. This doesn’t mean that one is better than another. But there may be something in the verse that is difficult to understand.
Bible translators work really hard to give the best meaning. It is hard to do! It is not simple – and there are differences of opinion on how things should be translated.
The 3rd context – Historical and cultural – really affects the gospel of John – written around the 70s or 80s of the first century – so there is this gap in our understanding, because we didn’t live back then – so this context helps us to bridge the gap.
The Gospel of John talks about the Pharisees and religious leaders – they play an important role here and come up all the time. If our understanding of what the Pharisees are is not correct, it distorts our view of the gospel. Who are these people and why is Jesus interacting with them in this way?
Another example, the Gospel of John is organized around the Jewish Festivals. Jesus ties them into the great plan of God. It is helpful and simple to use these contexts.
You can jump into the gospel of John and learn tremendous things and be blessed because this is how God works – but as you study it deeper, you can pull back layers of meaning – and that is my desire for you.
3 Levels of Meaning
- In the Text
- Behind the Text
- In Front of the Text
These 3 levels of meaning are like layers of understanding. You might think that sounds weird. Let me tell you how you already believe this.
My dad read through all of the psalms in 15 days – 10/day – He said – I’ve read this psalm so many times in my life and I can’t believe the things I’ve never seen before. This shows how deep the Bible actually goes – and these levels will help us.
The meaning in the text – the author, John, is writing about specific historical events – and – what he is basically doing, talking about what happened, what Jesus did, said, mean – and how did the people understand and react to Him?
Of course – we all do that – look at the woman at the well – he is in Samaria talking to a Samaritan woman discussing true worship – a theological discussion on worship – and a practical discussion on marriage! Because she has been married 5 times.
Then there is the level behind the text.
John wrote his gospel, about historic events and what they meant – and written at a specific time after those events – to specific people with specific needs and questions – so he wrote the stories in such a way as to meet those specific needs.
So what we have from that –
Remember the television series M*A*S*H – it was about the Korean war – and is all social commentary about the Vietnam war and the culture of America in the 60s and 70s!
This is how John works – it is very specific to those people – and there are 2 concerns of those people. The Jews have turned against the brothers and sisters who are not Jewish – kicking them out of the synagogues, so John highlights how the Jewish leaders were standing against the work of God. What they are going through is what we are going through.
The other question – Who is Jesus? They didn’t have the gospel of John to explain it all!
Even though this was written a long time ago, the Bible is relevant to our needs today.
Here is the best way to think about this.
Pick a number between 1 and 10! You have a choice! You know what? There are a bunch of meanings in that passage, but it can never be 11. It can’t be 12 or 13 – but between 1 and 10 – there are a number of meanings!
John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John will compare and contrast Jesus and Moses’ law.
First priority – Identify WHO Jesus is. He makes it clear that Jesus IS God. No one has ever seen God.
He brings up Moses – remember – God, show me Your glory – “You cannot see My face or you will die” – so God stuffs him in a rock and God passes by – and Moses can only see His backside – but John is saying – God is found in Jesus –
Our understanding of God must conform to the portraits of Jesus found in the four gospels. When our understanding of God does NOT match this – then our understanding is incorrect.
Hebrews 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being,
Old Testament – Long ago, various ways God spoke to us – BUT – wait a minute! Something has changed dramatically in the coming of JESUS!
We see exactly – in the OT, it was CLOUDY – fuzzy – there was a fog over it – until Jesus came.
Tony has a friend who is struggling with violence and genocide in the Old Testament. Some have told me they can’t read certain sections of the Old Testament. I’ll be doing a Zoom study on it in January.
If we are reading something – and it does not fit JESUS, there is a really good chance we are not understanding what we are reading. It has to fit Jesus, because He is the exact imprint of God’s being. We must understand the Old Testament through the life of Christ. All scholars and pastors will tell you that – the Bible must be seen through Jesus. The entire OT is about Him. So we must read it through Him -and then we will find Him.
3 purposes for John writing –
- To know God
- As we know God, in Jesus, we will grow to love God.
So when I give you all these things about reading in context and understanding the layers of meaning – because if you want to love God, you need to know Him more deeply. That is how it works! We don’t know Him more – just by proclaiming it! Yes, we have to love people at times because we are called to love, but hopefully we love more as we know more.
- As we know God and love God – we are transformed into His image, spiritually – We become like HIM!
1 John 3 – NASB –
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
When Jesus appears, we will be like Him. When He appears, we will be transformed to be like HIM! What we have been working on for years will be DONE! Why? Because we will see Him as He is – we will know Him fully – and see Him fully as He is – and that will transform us to His image. It is so important for us to have a deeper and deeper knowledge of Him.
The areas we want to be transformed in – we will be transformed in.
Adam and Eve wanted to know what they could do to be like God. That was a mistake. We are like that too. But we forget that we have to do what we have to do – to see Him for who He really is – and when we do that – we are purified.
We, with unveiled face, … look in a mirror and we see Jesus – and see what He is like – but then something weird happens – and the whole thing reverses – Jesus becomes Himself and we become the mirror as we come to know Him – we reflect His image to this world. And that is where God has called us – that’s how I want to challenge us as we do this study.
You can know God more intimately by knowing Jesus.
Lord, help us to see You – as the center of everything that we do. Our service to you is not the center or the focus – you are the center. Our worship of You is not the center – YOU are the focus. May our eyes be fixed on You to know You for who You are –
I hope you continue to have a fantastic thanksgiving weekend!
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.