I’ve been reading John chapter 1 for about 10 days now. I am loving my slow reading of this chapter and am not planning on moving on any time soon. (BTW – to learn the art of slow reading scripture – lectio divina – check out Eugene Peterson’s “Eat This Book” – you can find it in my recommended reading section.)
I wanted to share with you some initial insights of mine from this glorious chapter.
The first thing I notice is the contrast in the chapter between the first half – where John is introducing “the beginnings of all things that have grown to greatness,” as A.B. Bruce puts it in the opening chapter of “The Training of the Twelve.” – and the second half – where John is introducing the first five disciples of Christ.
The first is a proclomation of the greatness of Christ. John establishes is ancient nature, declaring that “He was with God in the beginning.” He goes on to testify that God himself has “made His dwelling among us.” This opening section is also full of powerful proclomations such as “The Word was God” – “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men!” – “The true light… gives light to every man” – “He who comes after me has surpassed me” – “We have seen His glory!” – “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only… has made Him known.”
Throw in all of the Baptizer’s comments on the Messiah, such as, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and you find yourself reading arguably the greatest introduction to a book – ever! If not the greatest, then at least the most glorious!
What then of the second half of the chapter? Well, not so glorious actually. What we read here, is rather subtle. We see a simple meeting (or meetings) between Jesus and his first disciples. The Baptizer has “prepared the way” for these five men – Andrew, Simon (Peter), Philip, Nathanael, one unknown! (speaking of obscure and subtle!) Here we see two men leave their former teacher (John) and go over to the Messiah. Why? Simply based on faith, a testimony from their teacher. John told them that God had showed him who the Messiah would be, by telling him that whomever he saw the Spirit coming down upon and resting, that was the One! He simply told his learners of what he saw, and they immediately left John to go be with the true Teacher.
It is just like God to work this way. To take the all powerful, all knowing, all ancient, all transcendant King of the world, and have him come so gently and subtly into the world. Nathanael inquires, “can anything good come from [Galilee]?” Nathanael, a Gaililean himself, has given into the world’s views of his own people, and wonders out loud, “Could the Savior of the World come from the same opressed people as I come from?” The answer is yes. Like I said, it is just like God to work this way.
Do you think culture noticed such beginnings? Do you think the political powers of the time were overly concerned with this meeting? Do you suppose that, if there would have been news and media back then, that CNN would have been doing a special on what was happening in this small, remote, and insignificant village? I highly doubt it. But then again, it is just like God to work this way.
He takes the insignificant and makes it surpassingly significant. He takes a the routine and changes the world. He doesn’t need to be flashy. He doesn’t do spectacular. He doesn’t care for riches and gold. He isn’t concerned with grand entrances. He simply takes what is and begins to do His work.
But his work produces in us a certain belief. And we proclaim, based only off of what little we have seen of the Master “Rabbi, you really are the Son of God!” (John 1:49) To which he responds, “You believe because of this? Keep your eyes peeled. You will see much greater things than this.”
And knowing that his promises are good – we expect to see greatness yet.