In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God… . Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
I met my husband on a blind date. I had actually seen him before, but I didn’t know him at all. When a friend approached me about going to a party with him, I naturally asked her to tell me more about him. In a sense, she gave me snapshots of who he is, not in a visual sense but through her words. The apostle John does something very similar in his gospel; he provides some snapshots of Jesus, some word pictures, for us so that we can get to know Him.
I invite you to walk with Jesus along with the apostle John as He does ministry in early first century Israel. Picture yourself right there as He teaches and performs great signs for the people. Get to know Him afresh and fall in love with Him all over again!
The apostle began his book with an introductory section, often called the Prologue. It’s as if he wanted to be sure we didn’t miss his main point about Jesus so he began with it. John also used the Prologue to introduce many of the themes that continue throughout the book; you may think of the Prologue as a summary of John’s message. As you begin your first day of study, ask God to draw you closer to Jesus as you focus on Him not only today but throughout the next eleven weeks.
Read John 1:1-18.
1. John identified Jesus as “the Word.” Focus on 1:1-3. Write down exactly what John says about the Word in these verses. Just make a list of everything you learn about Jesus in these three verses. Spend a few minutes meditating on the greatness of Jesus, simply from what John says in these few verses.
Our memory verse Precious Word from God for this week includes verse 1. At the end of the study you will have some great verses in your memory banks! And take it from me; memorize as much scripture as you can as early as you can—later you lose your mind!
Diamonds in the Word: Those of you who enjoy looking at the entire book in advance and building a book chart can begin work on that today as your optional work for the week. To do so, you need to read the entire book, but quickly! You will be looking for the obvious theme in each chapter rather than looking for details; we’ll see those as we study week by week. If you are unfamiliar with a book chart but would like to try it, basically find the theme of each chapter and then a theme for the book. The theme is really the most emphasized, repeated idea. You are looking for the big picture and thinking through how the book fits together. Many people find it helpful to write the themes in few words, making them more like short titles. You may want to draw it out on a chart, but that is not necessary.
You may be wondering why John called Jesus the Word. The Greek word used here is logos. According to F. F. Bruce, “Word” does not convey the complete thought involved in the Greek. It literally is “a means of communication, the expression of what is in one’s mind.”1 There is more to the meaning of logos than that, however. Bruce goes on to explain: “The true background to John’s thought and language is found … in Hebrew revelation. The ‘word of God’ in the Old Testament denotes God in action, especially in creation, revelation, and deliverance.”2
We want to look at some of that Old Testament background. Remember that those to whom John was writing would have been familiar with these passages.
2. Read Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26. What repeated phrase relates to the idea of Jesus’ being the “word” of God? What do you learn from these verses about the importance and power of God’s word?
3. Read these verses and write down how they relate to the verses in Gen. 1.
a. Ps. 33:6
b. Heb. 11:3
Over and over in the Old Testament, the word of the LORD “came to” the prophets who then spoke His word to the people and called upon them to “hear the word of the Lord,” meaning not only to listen but also to obey.
4. Read Heb. 1:1-2. If the nation of Israel was to listen and obey God’s word sent through the prophets, how important is it for us to hear and obey Jesus? Why?
5. Sharing question: What one specific action can you take to more carefully and more frequently listen to Jesus, God’s Word in the flesh? What can you do to be more disciplined in taking time to listen, maybe through this study? What can you do to better focus on His words? How can you listen well so that you take what He says to heart rather than simply hearing? If you are clueless, ask God for direction and listen for His answer.
6. Responding to God: Write out a prayer, asking God to give you the grace to follow through with your plans to better listen and obey. Ask Him to give you the desire to hear Jesus day-by-day and moment-by-moment as you walk with Him.
Review John 1:1-18, the Prologue of this gospel.
7. Focus now on 1:4-5. What does John say about Jesus in these verses that he didn’t say in the first three verses?
8. How does 1:3 relate to 1:4a?3 In other words, what is the relationship between the description of Jesus in 1:3 and the description of Him that begins 1:4? (Don’t make this hard!)
9. Read 1 John 1:5-7. How does the contrast of darkness and light in both 1 John and the gospel of John help you better understand Jesus?
10. How does it feel to know that Jesus is the light who came into the darkness for you? What emotions does that truth stir?
11. Sharing question: Consider your day so far. Has it involved more darkness or light? Why or how?
12. Responding to God: Ask God to shine His light on you today. Ask Him to speak to you and draw you close to Himself that you might better hear His voice. Pray Ps. 139:23. You may want to draw a picture of the light shining in your life.
Review John 1:1-18. Focus on 1:6-13.
13. The John mentioned in v. 6 is not the author of the book but John the Baptist. What was God’s purpose for him, according to vv. 7-8?
14. What is the contrast between the people mentioned in v. 11 and those in v. 12-13?
15. What does it take to receive Jesus, according to v. 12?
Read John 20:30-31.
16. These verses state John’s purpose in writing this book. Everything he says throughout the book is designed to accomplish this purpose. Why does John say that he wrote these things? What response does he hope the reader will have?
If you have not yet believed in Jesus, I want to invite you to continue with us through this study so that you can consider that step in your life.
17. Sharing question: Where are you on the journey of faith? How did you get where you are? Christians come to faith in a variety of ways, but it is a journey for each person. Share with your group where you are—have you already believed or are you seeking to know God and moving along the path? If you are uncomfortable sharing this with your group, seek out your small group leader and tell her where you are so that she can pray for God to lead you on your journey.
18. Responding to God: Write out a prayer thanking God for bringing you to this place on your journey.
Review John 1:1-18, focusing on vv. 14-18.
19. We read yesterday that John the Baptist testified of Jesus. Write down his words concerning Jesus. What was his point?
20. How does John the Baptist’s testimony in 1:15 support what the author already said in 1:1-14?
21. What have we received according to 1:16? If you have more than one translation of the Bible available, look up this verse in at least two versions.4
There are several possibilities for understanding what 1:16 says that Jesus has done for us. The NET Bible note says, “… It is this idea of favor given to one who has already received favor which lies behind 1:16, and this seems very probable as a good explanation of the meaning of the phrase.”5
22. What do you learn about how to know God in 1:18?
23. Sharing question: How do you see people searching for God in other ways? How have you helped others know God without preaching to them?
24. Responding to God: Thank Jesus for coming to earth and revealing God. Write down a prayer or poem of thanks.
Review the purpose statement in John 20:30-31.
25. In the purpose statement, the author mentions that Jesus performed many signs. Think of signs that you regularly see, such as road signs, etc. What is their purpose?
26. John 20:30 says “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples.” Go back and read the previous verses to discover the sign to which he is referring. How is the event in John 20 a sign?
27. Let’s take a quick look at the signs that John recorded to help accomplish his purpose in the book. Write down what each sign was. As you read them, write down any thoughts that you have about how each sign signifies something important about Jesus. We’ll obviously look at them more closely later.
a. Jn. 2:1-11
b. Jn. 4:46-54
c. Jn. 5:1-9
d. Jn. 6:1-14
e. Jn. 6:16-21
f. Jn. 9:1-11
g. Jn. 11:1-44
h. Jn. 20 (look back at the previous question to answer this one) and compare with Jn. 2:18-22. (Some scholars call this a sign, and others don’t. The scripture doesn’t use that term for it, but we will include it.)
28. Sharing question: How would you have felt if you had walked with Jesus as He performed these signs? Which one stands out to you most?
28. Responding to God: Ask God to help you see Jesus’ glory, as John described in 1:14. Ask Him to give you the same awe and amazement that you would have felt if you were the recipient of the miracle involved.
It’s easy to see God’ majesty and grandeur when I look at snow capped mountains or the vast ocean. But since I don’t live near a beach or ski resort, I look for God’s grandeur in more subtle places—by really stopping to observe and consider God’s handiwork up close and personal (where He can bombard my senses).
Usually, I look for God’s beauty just walking around the neighborhood with my dog. Sometimes I trace the veins in a leaf and think how fearfully and wonderfully God has made all things. Sometimes I feel God’s embrace in the breeze and know that His power working towards me is as limitless and mysterious as the wind. I love to listen to the chorus of birds and insects, especially at dusk or nighttime; then I hear God’s lullaby to me as He sings of His constant love and care. Of course, there are flowers to smell and leaves to crush that release their own fragrance; these remind me of the sweet smelling sacrifice of Christ and how I am to be a sweet aroma of Christ to others. Then, there’s the occasional taste—a rosemary leaf, honeysuckle nectar, even a blade of grass that witness to God’s diversity, His creativity. Sometimes it’s just the blueness of the sky, the drifting clouds, a certain sunset or the constant stars that all speak of God’s magnificence. Basically, I find that if I just get outside and away from the TV, Ipod, etc., worship is imminent.
As I read God’s word, I usually experience something in nature that reinforces what He is already telling me. Creation draws me to who God is; then it’s easy to respond with awe, wonder, thanksgiving and trust as I yield myself and cares to Him. More often than not I find God just like Elijah did—not in the whirlwind or the fire, but in the still small voice.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking at your surroundings in the lushness of a tropical forest in Hawaii or at the flat barren plains of West Texas; landscapes are beautiful. I love landscapes and am fascinated by clouds. Years and years ago, I was taking photos of landscapes and clouds long before fancy digital cameras and computer photo programs.
If you look at your surroundings closely, you will always be able to find God’s glory in His handiwork. I am reminded of the lyrics to Nichol Mullins’ version of the song Redeemer – “who taught the sun how to shine in the morning. Who taught the oceans you can only come this far. And who told the moon where to hide til evening…” Well, who indeed but our loving Redeemer who bought us back from sin and death with His own precious blood? The very One who created the beauty around us is the One who controls it as well. All that power, yet He loved us enough to Redeem us to Himself.
And did you know that God commanded the clouds and opened the doors of Heaven? (Psalm 78:23-25) Then He rained down provisions in abundance from Heaven for the children of Israel until they were full and satisfied. That is what He did for them, and He can surely do so for His children today. What are your needs? What are your desires? Look to the Heavens and watch as God moves the clouds and know that He is gloriously intervening in someone’s life in that very moment. See Him in His creation!
In my lifetime there have been unmet desires – things I wanted to do, but never accomplished. One of those is to learn to paint – and I’m not talking walls! I mean really paint – like an artist – the beauty of God’s creation in landscapes and clouds. I have never had an art class in my life and so far, my left brain has overpowered my right brain. In fact, I had not even held a paintbrush until a few months ago. But praise God, He controls my entire brain!
After a particularly difficult year, I attended a women’s evening session at our church where Sheila Walsh was the speaker. She talked about dreams. As I listened, I realized that somewhere along the way of life, my dreams and desires had gotten lost. As I stood in line to have Sheila sign her book, I became so emotional, I had to quickly leave. It was a humiliating moment for me, but one of God’s finest because the moment of realization He gave was the beginning of healing.
The next morning as I prayed and read the Bible, I asked the Lord to remind me of those things in my life that were healthy for me, but had gotten lost along the way – things that would glorify Him and satisfy the desires of my heart. Wow! What an amazing day He gave me! A few weeks before, I had bought a canvas, brushes and paints. (Talk about faith!) And so, on this day, I set up everything and prepared to make a mess. The praise CD was playing and I was praying, “Lord, show me how…” and I began to paint.
What transpired over the next 24 hours was miraculous indeed! It was the most amazing experience. I was filled with complete peace as I painted and sang praise music to the Lord. Yes, I had a photo in a book to go by and even instructions, but I wasn’t prepared for what God did that day. I really painted a landscape!! Hours flew by, the music played and the paint flowed. There is no doubt in my mind that God fulfilled the desires of my heart and brought peace to a wounded spirit that day by His Spirit. It was as if His Spirit rested on my hand guiding every stroke. God used me as His paintbrush and His glory was revealed in His creation through me. I am so blessed by His power and presence I am speechless.
And so, as you see the glory of God in His creation all around you – in the clouds, the oceans, the trees and even the desert – you can know these things about our Redeemer:
· His precious Son as the gift of life (John 3:16)
· The Desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4) and
· His provisions in abundance (Psalm 78:23-25)
He made the heavens and the earth. He made you and will continue to work through you as you put your trust in Him. You are one of God’s greatest assets!
As I look back at what He has done in my life, I am so thankful. And I keep the painting above my desk so that as I am working, I am inspired in knowing once again that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!
1 F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), 29.
3 An “a” refers to the first part of the verse; “b” would mean the second part, etc.
4 You can always go to an online resource which includes several translations, such as bible.org.