In John we have the divine person of the Lord as life and light. We also have the sending of the Comforter down here in His place. Finally John gives us a brief view of the whole course of the dispensation until the millennial kingdom.
John 1:1-18 presents the person of the Lord Jesus. Though largely shown to be God, the Lord is, from v.14 onwards, always looked at in John as a man living on earth, manifesting the Father.
- in verses 1-5 – abstractedly, as to His nature, and the effect of His appearing
- verses 6-11, John’s testimony to this, and the effect of his coming
- verses 12, 13, the effect and way of grace
- verses 14-18, the Word made flesh;
- verses 19-34, John’s testimony to what He would be as to His work and effectual power for man – Lamb of God, Baptiser with the Holy Ghost, owned here Son of God by the Holy Ghost descending on Him
- verses 35-42, John’s testimony historically gathering to Him (this is the first day of active gathering)
- verse 43 to end, the Lord’s gathering
This embraces God’s dealing with the remnant during the life of Christ’s here, and afterwards, till He is owned by the remnant at the end. This is represented by Nathanael. He is owned as Son of God, King of Israel, but takes a wider title too, that of Son of man, on whom the angels wait.
Note in v. 38-42 that Christ is the divine centre, God is manifest in flesh; and secondly we have the only path through the world when Jesus says, “Follow me”.
- The world is condemned,
- Christ separates His own out of it to Himself, as
- God is revealed
- Heaven is opened on Him, and the angels wait upon Him as Man.
Note, we have our part as Stephen had – heaven opened, and He, the Son of man, there. Note too, that Christ does not have an object to look at, but we have one – He is the object.
Chapter 2 v.1-22 gives the millennial character of the third-day concerning Israel:
- the marriage
- purifying judgment.
In v. 23-25 the Lord does not accept a present reception according to the intelligence of flesh.
However, in chapter 3, a man must be born again. This is true even for the earthly promises made to Israel. But the thoughts of God for man go on to heaven, for the divine Son of man came down from heaven and He speaks of it. God loves the world, and gives us to believe in Him by faith individually so as not to perish. This introduces the cross, the Son of man lifted up like the serpent – the Son of God given. Condemnation hangs on believing or not in the Son of God; for light has come into the world, but men love darkness. This is a great moral truth altogether outside Israel. Jesus has fully revealed heaven as He knows it, and made man, by believing in Him, fit for it. John then bears witness to Christ, in contrast to himself and his testimony, as divine and heavenly: the One to whom His Father has given all. Those who believe in Him have life; those who do not believe, will not see life and wrath abides on them. All this ministry was prior to His entering on His public ministry, for this took place after John had been cast into prison.
Chapter 4: The jealousy of the Jews drives Him from Judea. The woman of Samaria, who is outside and independent of Judaism is brought in. God is present there to give the living water. The Lord humbly asks her for a drink: this blessedly inspires confidence for her to ask for it, He having already given her the desire. Now she has a spiritual spring rising up to eternal life within her. But nature cannot receive spiritual things. God reaches the conscience by the word. This is recognised as of Him, and then Christ is known and owned as Saviour of the world. And though salvation be of the Jews, God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. And the Father (the name now revealed in grace) seeks such to worship Him, meeting a needy soul. This is Jesus’ joy in grace.
In Chapter 5 we find that law, with all its ordinances, can do nothing through the weakness of the flesh. The truth however is, that the Father and the Son are working, not man. The Jews cannot have their sabbath in sin and misery. But as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to Jesus the Son to have life in Himself, and He quickens whom He will; and committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honour Him as they honour the Father. There is no confusion in these ways of honouring Him. He who hears His word, and believes on the Father who sent Him, has everlasting life, and does not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life. There is then a resurrection to life, and another to judgment (see v. 30-47). Jesus is presented as life to the responsible man, witnessed by John Baptist, the Lord’s works, the Father, and the scriptures. But the Jews, who rejected Moses’ writings speaking of Christ, would not receive Him or His works. When the false one comes in his own name, they will receive him.
Chapter 6 gives a picture of the order of God’s ways in Christ. Already Prophet, He would not be King, but goes on high alone to pray. During this time the disciples are toiling without Him against the wind; He rejoins them, and they are at land. This is in connection with the passover, and Christ’s proving Himself the Jehovah of Psalm 132. (Arise, Jehovah, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength) v.8JND. Instead of that now, He is the bread coming down from heaven to give life to the world, and must be received spiritually and inwardly as the One incarnate, but also as dying, as there is no life in any man. Also He, the Son of man was going up to where He was before.
In chapter 7, the Jews (His brethren) do not believe on Him, and He cannot show Himself to the world. This is the feast of tabernacles. He promises the Spirit to those who believe: instead of His visible presence, as rivers of living water, springing up unto eternal life. The Jews (of Judea) and people (Galilee, etc.) are distinguished.
Chapter 8 gives the word rejected; chapter 9 the works.
In chapter 8 Christ is the light of the world and the Light to lead. He deals with conscience in contrast with the difference between gross sins and sinfulness. His word is the absolute expression of Himself. He is from above; unbelieving man is of the devil from beneath, The devil is a liar and a murderer, and abides not in the truth. Jesus is God, and the Jews reject Him.
In chapter 9 He gives eyes to see. This is by incarnation, which in itself gives no spiritual sight. However, by the Spirit and word, He is known as the sent One, there is sight. He is confessed as Prophet, and then through the word received, He is believed on as the Son.
Chapter 10 gives us His care of the sheep. They are put out, but He goes before. He comes in by, and is, the appointed way, giving salvation, liberty, and pasture. He lays down His life for the sheep; He knows them, and they Him, as His Father knew Him, and He His Father. In laying down His life, He becomes the special object and motive for His Father’s love. He has other sheep (Gentiles), and there is to be one flock (not fold), one Shepherd. He goes from His obedient lowliness to being one with His Father. Father and Son are the names of grace.
In chapter 11 He is declared Son of God by resurrection power. He is the Resurrection and the Life. When He is present, the dead live, and the living do not die. But while showing divine power, He is the dependent Son as man. He feels for and with us, but He is always heard.
In chapter 12 He is the Son of David. The time of His glory as Son of man has come. But then He must die. Before this, He is received at Bethany, where the taught remnant enter into His death. This lays the ground for the new thing, while the enmity ripens. His death, as rejected by the hopeless and judicially blinded hostility of Israel, now comes fully before us.
Chapter 13: His departure does not close His service to His disciples. He fits them to be with Him when He cannot stay with them. This is essentially necessary according to His true nature and glory. He came from God, and went to God; the Father had given all things into His hand. His human nature continued in divine purity and perfectness, whereas man was traitorously hostile. He loved His own who were in this world absolutely and He loved them through all, to the end. Having regenerated them by the word, He washes their feet as their servant, and gives them an example in service. He shows His personal love to them, the advantage of habitual nearness to Him to be able to know His mind. After Judas had gone out, He shows that the foundation of the new, but essential and everlasting, relationship with God is laid in the cross, under the title of Son of man. The Son of man is glorified in it, with all the essential attributes of God seen in Him. God is glorified in Him, but does not wait for the kingdom. He glorifies Him in Himself, and does so immediately. He then tells them to love to one another, but warns Peter he could not follow Him now. The path was through death, destruction, and wrath for man, as having only natural life. Note, in the washing: at first one is washed or bathed all over. This cannot be repeated. It is the feet which pick up dirt in the walk; but the believer is fundamentally clean, once and for all
In chapter 14, the Lord first shows that, though absent, He is an object of faith as God is. He was not going to heaven to be at ease, and though they were distressed, He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’. If that had been the end, He would have told them. But He went to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, and would come again and receive them. Then we learn what they had in His presence, and what they would have after His departure. They knew where He went, for He was going to the Father, and they had seen the Father in Him. They knew the way, for in coming to Him they found the Father. He could not stay, but on His going He would ask, and the Father would send, another Comforter to stay and dwell in them. He had as yet been only among them. Now they would know Him. If a man kept His words, His Father would love him, and He, Jesus, would manifest Himself to Him. If he kept His word, His Father and He would come and make their abode with him. He left peace with them, giving them His own peace. Next, he expected in His disciples such love that they should be glad that He went, that is that they should be interested in His happiness, an immense witness of His nearness.
In chapter 15 Christ replaces Israel, the old but not the true vine on the earth; the disciples are branches, clean through the word. The Father purified the fruit-bearing, cutting off the unfruitful branches. They were to abide in Him, and He in them. If a man (not they) did not, he would be cast out and burnt. If they abode in Him, and His words abode in them, they would be endowed with power. Dependence and confidence (Christ’s words) are first; desires and thoughts come next. In bearing fruit they would resemble Him.
Next, they were to abide in His love: this by obedience, and all this that their joy might be full. They were to love one another, as He had loved them. He laid down His life for His friends: they were such (not He their friend – that He is Friend to sinners; but they are His friends) – that they might love one another. The world would hate them, as it had Him. Next, the Comforter would come, and testify of Him. As glorified, The Father would send Him; and they would testify of Christ as having been with Him.
Note that in chapter 14 the Father sends the Comforter. He brings to their remembrance that all He had said to them. Thus their witness was made good. But He would also reveal His heavenly glory, sending the Spirit from the Father.
Chapter 16 gives the Comforter, as present down here and His work in the world and in the church, in contrast with the disciples’ own state in a hostile world and with blinded Judaism. The disciples, absorbed with their loss, did not look to what God was bringing about; yet the Comforter’s presence was worth His leaving. He would demonstrate to the world sin, righteousness, and judgment:
- Sin in rejecting Christ; for His presence proved the rejected one, gone to the Father.
- Righteousness, as He was deservedly God’s righteousness, and the world (disciples and all), who had rejected Him, would never see Him again. The breach was absolute.
- Judgment: the world was convinced of judgment, because its prince, who had led it against Christ, was judged. That was the proof of Christ’s power over him and his wickedness. Satan’s position was a judged one already.
The Comforter would guide the disciples into all the truth. He would show them things to come – Christ’s things, all the Father had. However soon He would see them again (that is, after His resurrection), and they would enter into the consciousness of their relationship with the Father. As yet they would be scattered, and He would be left alone; but He had the Father with Him. They might be of good cheer because He had overcome the world.
In chapter 17 Christ addresses the Father before He departs.
Verses 1-5: He lays the ground of all He has to ask. Having finished the work, He is to be glorified as Son. He establishes the glorious relationship, and our title to enter into it. He has power over all flesh, and gives eternal life to those saints that the Father had given Him. The knowledge of the Father, and of Him as sent, is eternal life.
Verses 6-8 put the disciples in their position. He manifested the Father’s name to them: so the relationship would be founded. They knew Him as having all things from the Father, not Messiah’s Jewish glory from Jehovah. All that the Father had communicated to Him in His position, He had given to them, so that they might enjoy it fully as well as having it.
In verses 9-13 He prays the disciples – those who had been given Him by the Fathe. He does not pray for the world. They are the Father’s (all is mutually possessed), and He, Christ, is glorified in them. The object is that they might have His joy complete in them.
In verses 14-19 they are put into the place of His testimony. The word (not words) was in connection with the place of relationship: not of the world. Christ was not of the world: they were not to be taken out of it, but kept from evil. They were to be morally set apart to the Father by the truth, the Father’s word. They are sent by Christ into the world as He had been sent by the Father. And He set Himself apart to the Father as the heavenly Man. The Holy Spirit might set them apart. It was Christ as well as truth, but still truth.
In verses 20, 21, He prays that those that believe through their word should be one in the Father and Son: that the world may believe.
In verses 22, 23, He has given them the glory, in order that they might be one in the display of that glory, and that the world may know it.
In verses 24-26 He would have them where He is: He who was loved before the world was. They are loved as He was. He had and would declare the Father’s name, that they might enjoy it, He being in them.
Chapter 18: We have to remark the character both of Gethsemane and the cross. It is the Son of God above the temptation, seen out of the suffering. There is no “if it be possible let the cup pass“, no “why hast thou forsaken me?” Those who had been sent to take Him go backward and fall to the ground. He puts Himself forward that the disciples might escape untouched.
In chapter 19, He heals in the garden, but Peter denies Him. In calm superiority, He answers the chief priests and Pilate, who witnessed that He was truth. Yet He submits to him as to power given from above, but Pilate leaves it to the priests to settle the matter. The Jews deny having any king but Caesar. The Jews are treated with slight, as everywhere in this Gospel.
On the cross, knowing that one scripture had yet to be fulfilled, He commends His mother to the beloved disciple, and charges him to be to her as a son. He then gives up His spirit. Of Him not a bone is broken, but He is with the rich in His death.
Chapter 20 gives us a picture of the whole time, from the remnant, through the church period and on to the converted remnant when they see the Lord. Mary Magdalene, who represents the remnant, called as a sheep by her name, is attached personally to the Lord. Then the disciples are now called brethren, in the same relationship to God and the Father as Himself. They are gathered and are told ‘Peace be unto you’ (v.19). They receive the Holy Spirit, and are sent by Christ for remission of sins. Lastly the remnant (Thomas), who did not believe at first, does on seeing. But they who have believed without seeing, are especially blessed. Twice therefore, He had shown Himself.
In Chapter 21 we have the great gathering of the millennial time: the net does not break at all. Christ had some fish on shore already; these had been brought in from the great waters. Peter, restored, has to care for Christ’s sheep, especially the Jewish flock. Thus we have the Peter’s ministry to the Jewish church. John is left to watch in his ministry over the saints and witness of God till Christ comes. This carries us on to the Apocalypse. John’s epistles and the Revelation refer to Christ’s appearing. Paul’s ministry comes in between, and speaks of the hidden mystery, the church and the rapture, before the appearing.
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014
– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible for the original