“Many years ago, a doting groom penned a love letter to his bride. Stationed at a California military base thousands of miles away from his wife, James Bracy's link to the lovely woman waiting for him to come home were their love letters.
But this letter didn't get delivered. Somehow it was lost, lodged between two walls in Fort Ord's mailroom in San Francisco. The letter was lost in the shadows, with its romantic affections of a youthful marriage, sealed with a kiss.
A half century later, James and Sallie Bracy had just finished celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and were relaxing in the living room when ‘Once in a While,’ their song, began to play on the radio. Sallie remembered affectionately the 1950s song and how she used to get calls and letters from the man who owned her heart. They joked together knowing there would be no letter or phone call this time because James was at her side.
Meanwhile, a construction crew was dismantling the old post office at Fort Ord, and they discovered a long-forgotten letter from a young army corporal. The crew turned the letter over to Bob Spadoni, the postmaster in nearby Monterey. Spadoni began the process of delivering that letter, tracking down the Bracys through post office records and phone books.
Just a few days after hearing their song, the letter, dated January 28, 1955, was delivered to Sallie Bracy. The letter sent her heart aflutter, tears welled, and she again became a love-struck 22-year-old. ‘It meant a lot to me then,’ said Sallie. ‘It means even more now.’
Many years ago God wrote his love letter to us. It's waiting to be delivered, to be opened at just the right time. It meant a lot then, and it means even more now.”
Drew Zahn, assistant editor, Leadership Journal; source: "After 46 years lost in post office, love letter finally arrives," Jefferson City News Tribune (4-25-01)
Separated over the summer
Judy and I met in college our freshman year
I lived in Alabama and she lived in Ohio, so when summer hit, we knew we were going to be apart
That first summer we wrote letters to each
I can’t remember if we started it the first summer or the second summer apart
In addition to writing letters we also made cassette tape recordings
We would talk about all kinds of things and of course express our love for each other
After listening to each other’s recording, we would start our message right after the ending of the previous message
We still have those recordings stored somewhere
We also have the letters we sent to each other
Those are precious letters and memories for us
Judy and I have both understood and accepted God’s love letter to us
We know the truths of the Gospel and have opened our lives to allow Jesus to come in
We love to read and reread God’s Word – we also love to study His Word
Perhaps you have love letters stored away some where
Maybe it’s not love letters, but certain items that you cherish because they came from your spouse when you were dating
Our prayer is that you cherish God’s Word at least with the same measure, but hopefully even more than those items from your spouse
We hope that your desire is to read and study God’s Word (His love letter to you)
When people ask me where they should begin to read the Bible, I inevitably point them to the Gospel of John. The reason I do this is because it gives a great overview of Jesus and who He was and is. John does something that none of the other Gospel writers do. He throws down an important theological truth that His readers need to embrace in order to understand the rest of his gospel. John wants everyone to know and understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – God and Jesus are One! (Jesus is God!)
GOD (John 1:1-5)
There seems to be a lot of discussion about who the author is, but most believe it was John the apostle of Jesus Christ
He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James
Together, James and John were known as the “Sons of Thunder”
John was writing to both new Christians and non-Christians
He wrote to Jews and Gentiles
This is important, because the other Gospel writers seemed to be writing to specific groups
“Matthew wrote with his fellow Jews in mind . . . Mark wrote for the busy Romans . . . Luke wrote his Gospel for the Greeks.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 284]
John was writing after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but before his exile to Patmos
Structure of the Gospel of John
Prologue (John 1:1-18)
The Book of Signs (John 1-12)
John the Baptist (1:19-51)
The Institutions of Judaism (2:1-4:54)
The Festivals of Judaism (5:1-10:39)
Lazarus & Jesus’ Anointing (11:1-12:8)
Jesus’ Final Plea in Jerusalem (12:9-50)
The Book of Glory (John 13-20)
Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (13:31-16:33)
Jesus’ Final Prayer (17)
The Passion Story (18-20)
Epilogue (John 21)
John does us a favor and tells us exactly why he wrote his Gospel
John 20:30-31, Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Theme for the Gospel of John is BELIEVE!
The word “believe” is found 58 times in John’s Gospel (NIV translation)
The thing that John wants us to believe is that God and Jesus are One! That Jesus is God!
That belief sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel and the Bible as a whole
My prayer is that through the study of John, we will come to understand and believe, without a shadow of doubt, that Jesus is God!
John immediately begins to establish that truth as he opens his Gospel message
Who is Jesus? (vv. 1-3)
PRINCIPLE/TRUTH – Jesus is eternal
In the beginning
When you hear the words, “in the beginning,” what comes to mind?
The very first verse of the Bible in Genesis 1:1 usually comes to mind
Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
It’s not by chance that John is connecting his Gospel to creation
“Each of the four Gospels begins, appropriately enough, with a reference to some kind of beginning. Mark’s heading is ‘Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (Mk 1:1). Matthew opens with ‘an account of the origin of Jesus Christ’ (Mt 1:1). Luke acknowledges the traditions of ‘those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word’ (Lk 1:2). John’s ‘beginning’ (archē) is the earliest of all, for the vocabulary of John’s preamble is decisively shaped by the opening verses of Genesis.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 46]
I like how D. A. Carson puts it in the words of John, “Mark has told you about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; I want to show you that the starting point of the gospel can be traced farther back than that, before the beginning of the entire universe.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 114]
From this we understand and know that Jesus is eternal – He has always been and will always be
The Word is Jesus
Notice that each time “Word” is used it is capitalized
That’s a reference to a person, which is Jesus Christ
Was the Word
This speaks of Jesus’ preexistence
Rev. 22:13, I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Some religions of the world try to marginalize and minimize the truth that Jesus is eternal, by saying that He was the first created being, a good man, a wise rabbi, or another prophet from God
What that does is strip Jesus of His divinity and deity, therefore He cannot be our Savior
This opens the door to universalism (all roads lead to heaven, we all worship the same God, everyone will eventually be saved) and syncretism (combining different forms of belief or practice, taking the “best practices or beliefs” of every religion and molding it into one)
John is laying the foundation for the truth that Jesus is God, and removing any doubt that Jesus is anything but eternal
So, it stands to reason that if Jesus was around at the beginning, He was either with God or is God
What we see next is John insisting on both and not one or the other
PRINCIPLE/TRUTH – Jesus is God
We continue then with the concept of Jesus being the Word
Word was with God
John takes it a step further by saying that Jesus was with God
A literal translation of the Greek would be, the Word was toward God
It is the idea of active face-to-face relationship [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 27 and Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 9]
It is not something passive
They are working together as companions in the creative process
Another understanding of the Greek word for “with” is accompaniment
We’re familiar with that word when it comes to music
The person playing the piano while someone else is singing is called an accompanist (coming alongside, working together, in an active relationship with the singer)
John explains that Jesus was in an active relationship with God at the very beginning of time, but we also know, from Scripture, that Jesus is God
Word was God
Some religions of the world misuse the original Greek to try to say that it should be translated as, the Word was a god
I don’t want us to get bogged down with the nuisances of ancient Greek
Just understand that those who have translated it as, the Word was God, have done so correctly
God and Jesus are One! (Jesus is God!)
“Jesus shares his nature and being with God – ‘the Word was God.’ He is of the same character and quality as God (v. 1). Everything that can be said about God can be said about Jesus Christ.” [Carter, Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 11]
We see then this simple statement in verse 2 that Jesus was with God in the beginning
It’s really a restatement of what John has just said
Jesus is God and therefore He is eternal and preexistent
Kenneth Gangel shares this story – “During the years I pastored my first church, my wife spent some time each week tutoring a young girl who had fallen behind in her reading at school. Since Linda was from a Christian family, part of the reading centered in Bible story books. One day Linda asked a penetrating question about the pictures she found in those books: ‘How do I tell the difference between Jesus and God? They both look alike to me.’ The artists, of course, had included all pictures of Jesus since God the Father is Spirit and cannot be shown by anything but symbols such as light or sound. But Linda had learned that Jesus was God, so she kept looking for pictures of both of them throughout her books. A natural mistake, and one which reinforces John’s point throughout this book and especially the early verses of this first chapter.” [Gangel, 8]
Linda understood that God and Jesus are One! (Jesus is God!)
We see a third principle then as John continues to explain who Jesus is
PRINCIPLE/TRUTH – Jesus is Creator
“Divine being gives way to divine action, starting with the creation of the world.” [Michaels, 51]
First, John states this truth in a positive way
The “him” refers back to the “Word,” meaning Jesus
What John is saying is that through the preexistent Jesus, all things were made
He then strengthens this truth by restating it in a negative way
Then he restates the truth in a negative way
When John says that without Jesus nothing was made, we know he’s not referring to Himself and God, because they have always been
He is referring to the universe and everything in our world
All we have to do is look at the Genesis account of creation to see all that God and Jesus created in this world
It includes the water, sky, land, vegetation, animals, and human beings
They continue their creative activities as new human beings are born
There is a change in the verb tense from the beginning of verse 3 to the end of verse 3
We see the verb tense change from were made to was made
D. A. Carson says this signals a change “from the act of creation to the state of creation.” [Carson, 118]
Wiersbe clarifies the transition to the state of creation by sharing that, “was made,” is in the perfect tense, which identifies it as a completed action [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 1, 284]
The initial creation of the world is a completed action
We see other Biblical writers expressing Jesus’ involvement in creation
Colossians 1:16-17, For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Hebrews 1:1-2, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
Revelation 3:14, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”
We’ve discovered the truths of who Jesus is (eternal, God, and creator), now John shares the truth of why He came
Why Jesus came? (vv. 4-5)
“What are the essentials for human life? There are at least four: light (if the sun went out, everything would die), air, water, and food.” [Wiersbe, 285]
Scripture shows us that Jesus is all four of those
John 8:12, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Through the Holy Spirit we have the “breath of life” and the Water of life
John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 20:22, And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 4:10, 13-14, Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” . . . Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
The opposite of life is death
When someone dies there is a separation that takes place – a separating of the soul from the body
“If physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, then spiritual death is a separation of the soul from God.” [Carter/Wredberg, 12]
This is what Paul means when he says, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)
What we earn or deserve for our sinful nature is to be eternally separated from God
This is serious, because we are all born with a “want-to” to sin (Rom. 3:23) – no one is exempt from being born a sinner
Those who live apart from Jesus Christ are spiritually dead
Ephesians 2:1-3, As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
If we die while living apart from Jesus Christ, then our eternal home will be hell – eternal separation from God
That’s not the will of God for humanity
He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
His desire is that everyone repents of their sins and turns to Him for salvation
2 Peter 3:8-10, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Matthew 18:14, In the same way our Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
God’s plan to deal with our sin
God sent Jesus from heaven to earth to be the perfect sacrifice for sin (Rom. 5:8)
Jesus willingly died on the cross to take our punishment for sin
This was all foretold by the prophets of old as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
While all of us will experience the separation of our soul from our body (unless Jesus returns before we die), none of us has to experience the separation of our soul from God
How can we experience spiritual life?
Jesus explained it to Martha after Lazarus’s death
John 11:25, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
You need to ask yourself that question today
Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Do you believe that Jesus offers you eternal life?
Do you believe that, through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross, you will not experience the separation of your soul from God?
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and receive God’s gift of eternal life.
The life that Jesus offers us is what gives us hope
Prior to Jesus’ arrival on earth we see the prophet Isaiah’s words, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)
Darkness and light are not opposites, rather darkness is simply the absence of light
As we saw in John 8:12, Jesus is the Light of the world
John uses light as another way to explain salvation
“Light” is in the present tense
It means that it’s a continual action
It can be translated as, And the light keeps on shining in the darkness . . .
This brings continued hope for us as followers of Jesus
It’s not too late for our family and friends, because Jesus light is continuing to shine in their darkness
He has not given up on them, but continues to offer salvation to anyone who believes that He is the resurrection and the life
The verb translated “understood” can also be translated as “overcome”
Burge explains the double meaning this way, “to grasp with the mind and so to comprehend; and to grasp with the hand and so to overcome or destroy.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 56]
John is saying that the darkness could not comprehend or overcome the light
While “light” was in the present tense meaning a continual action, “overcome” is in a tense that means a completed action
“The darkness has done everything is could: it schemed and plotted, but it ran out of ideas.” [Carter/Wredberg, 14]
2 Timothy 1:9b-10, This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Embrace the truth
John explains a foundational theological truth that we need to embrace in order to understand the rest of his Gospel
God and Jesus are One! (Jesus is God!)
We have seen today that Jesus is eternal – He was with God at the beginning
We have also learned that Jesus is God
Finally, we saw that Jesus is also creator
My Next Step Today Is To: Embrace the truth that God and Jesus are One!
Believe in Jesus
We also learned why Jesus came to earth
It was to drive out the darkness of sin that Satan had covered the earth with
He came to bring us life and light
Our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ is to share the truth about God and Jesus being One and the hope found in Jesus as Life and Light
That is our mission as the church: Pursue, Grow, and Multiple Disciples for Jesus Christ
“An atheist and a Christian were engaged in an intense public debate. On the blackboard behind the podium the atheist printed in large capital letters, ‘GOD IS NOWHERE.’ When the Christian rose to offer his rebuttal, he rubbed out the W at the beginning of where and added that letter to the preceding word no. Then the statement read, ‘GOD IS NOW HERE.’”
Vernon Grounds, Radical Commitment. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 7.