John 1 - NIV Bible Study Commentary

I. Prologue (1:1 - 14)

This gospel’s introduction to Jesus goes far beyond the other gospels. Jesus is the Word who was with God before creation. As the Word of God, Jesus became flesh and lived among God’s people Israel. Those who believed in him were given the right to be God’s children. Israel had received a revelation of God’s will in the law of Moses, but they had not seen God. He lived in the tabernacle Moses built, but his glory was concealed within the Most Holy Place. Jesus revealed God’s grace and truth by living among his people. In him they saw God’s glory (v.14).

II. The Revelation of Jesus to the World (1:15 - 12:50)
A. The Witness of John the Baptist (1:15 - 3:36)

John the Baptist plays a key role in linking the old with the new, for he was the prophet sent from God to announce the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist also introduces Jesus as the OT Passover Lamb, seen as a sacrifice who “takes away the sin of the world” (1:29).

The author identifies those among God’s people Israel who received the light - the first disciples (1:35 - 51). When they heard John the Baptist identify Jesus as the Lamb of God, they turned and followed him (vv.36 - 37). Jesus said, “Come,” and “they went” (v.39). The simplicity of this first call is no doubt intended to illustrate what Jesus would later teach: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (10:27).

When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, Jesus already knew him: “You are Simon son of John” (1:42). When Jesus said to Philip, “Follow me” (v.43), Philip heard his voice and knew him: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote” (v.45). When Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus already knew him as “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (v.47). He in turn knew Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the king of Israel” (v.49).

At the marriage at Cana (2:1 - 12), Jesus “revealed his glory” (v.11), but only “his disciples believed in him” (v.11). The master of the banquet knew that the new wine was “the best,” but “he did not realize where it had come from” (vv.9 - 10). Since John often allows his characters’ words to say more than they intended (cf 11:49 - 53), these words may be characterizing the blindness of those who rejected Jesus (cf 9:35 - 41).

Jesus’ cleansing the temple (2:13 - 25) presents a more dramatic picture of those in Jerusalem. A central feature of the OT’s picture of the Messiah is the building of God’s temple (2Sa 7:13; Zec 6:12 - 13). In John’s gospel this is extended to include the resurrection. Even the disciples did not understand Jesus’ words until “after he was raised from the dead” (v.22a); then “they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” (v.22b). Thus the words of Jesus must often be understood in light of later events that uncover their real intent.

John moves to an extended discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, “a member of the Jewish ruling council” (3:1), which centers on “heavenly things” (v.12). To see the kingdom of God one must be “born again,” or “born from above” (v.3, cf. NIV note), i.e., be “born of water and the Spirit” (v.5). This discussion clarifies Jesus’ spiritual understanding of God’s people, which was already foretold in Ezekiel 36:24 - 27a leader in Israel such as Nicodemus “should not be surprised” to hear of it (cf. 3:7; v.10). Membership in God’s spiritual kingdom will not be limited to the OT people of God. Physical birth is neither a requirement nor a guarantee. God sent his Son to die for the whole world. The only requirement is faith (vv.16, 18).

In John the Baptist’s final witness to Jesus (vv.22 - 36), the author shows that John was in full accord with Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom. John, who continued to baptize, saw his own ministry fading out as Jesus’ ministry increased. That’s as it should be. Jesus was the Son of God, the bridegroom to whom the bride belonged. In him there is eternal life.

Find out more about this Study Bible: