In Him was life and the life was the light of men
Notes to the Leader: The Gospel of John may be the perfect place for a beginning Bible student to start their amazing journey. John died around 100 AD placing him in his 90’s. His gospel was written very late in his life, around 85 AD or later. If we compare this to the other three gospels: Matthew 50 AD, Mark 60-70 AD, and Luke 59-63 AD, we can conclude that John wrote last, after some considerable time had passed between the other gospels.
You may want to consider ending this lesson with the following example. It requires that you are able to completely darken the room your group is in. Prior to darkening the room, give each person a candle. Darken the room. Strike the match. Emphasize that the huge room of darkness was overcome by just a little light. “Light wins, darkness looses.” Such is the message in Chapter 1 of John. Now light your candle. Then light someone next to you. Ask each person to light the candle next to them, to pass it on. The message is that only light can be shared and as it is, it grows in strength, to fully overcome the dark room.
The Gospel of John is quite different from the other three. Some of the differences are:
- No account of the birth of Jesus, of His baptism, of His temptations.
- Nothing about the Last Supper, nothing of Gethsemane, and nothing of the Ascension.
- It has no word of healing people possessed by devils and evil spirits.
- Most surprising is its complete lack of parables.
- John’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is different.
- Most of John’s account of Jesus’ ministry takes place in Jerusalem, not Galilee as in the other gospels.
- John’s account of the length of Jesus’ ministry is different. John states three years while the others imply only one year.
- John places the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry while the other gospels place it at the end.
- John also dates the crucifixion on the day before the Passover while the others date it as on the Passover.
Read John 1:4-5 to your group.
How is the word light used to describe Jesus?
- The light of men, or someone who acts as a beacon.
Read John 1:7 to your group.
How does the phrase through Him add clarity to our relationship with Jesus?
- As a gate or door, we find salvation by finding Christ.
Read John 1:14 to your group.
How does the use of the word Word help define the role of Jesus?
- As the Bible was given to man as God’s own inspired words, we seek the Bible to know God. If Jesus is God’s own Word, Jesus is God, a human Bible, a Living Example of God so mankind can know God.
Why do you think that John’s gospel would be so different than that of the other disciples?
- John wrote last, after some considerable time had passed between the other gospels. His perspective is one of adding clarity to existing gospels, not necessarily one of a historian. John had watched people respond to the words of Jesus but misunderstand their true meaning. John wanted to share his very important perspective. It is from John’s gospel that we can find the real meaning of Christian faith.
Section One: The Word
Have someone in your group read John 1:1-8.
The use of the “WORD” by John to describe Jesus was a masterful choice.
Would you consider a language that was powerful one with a lot of words or a few words?
- Hebrew was a language with power. It was often given its own independent existence. However, it had only 10,000 words. In comparison, Greek had 200,000. A language with a few words is more likely to go to the heart of the matter. To the Jew, their language was charged with energy and power.
Can you think of some old testament examples of how words demonstrated power? Here is some help:
- Read Genesis 1:3,6,11 The word of God had creating power.
- Read Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 23:29; Psalm 33;6; Psalm 107:20; Genesis 27.
- Note: Prior to the coming of Jesus, Hebrew had become a forgotten language. The language of the day was called Aramaic. In order to provide greater understanding to the Jews, the Old Testament was translated into Aramaic (called Targum). In order not to introduce an indifference to God, the translators typically replaced the Hebrew reference to God with the Word of God. They thought that this kept them from humanizing God.
- The Greek word for word is Logos. However, Logos has two meanings: Word and Reason (as in wisdom)
Have someone in your group read Proverbs 8:22-30.
Who is speaking in these verses and what significance can be extrapolated with regard to Reason?
- Reason (wisdom) is speaking. Reason (wisdom) has eternal existence. We define Logos today as the power which puts sense into the world, the power which makes the world an order instead of chaos, the power which set the world going and keeps it going in its perfect order.
Section Two: The World
Have someone in your group read John 1:1-2.
We can find at least three significant points about John’s use of the Word to describe Jesus in this verse. Can you list them?
- Jesus was not created. He was there before creation.
- Jesus was with God. Therefore, know one can know God as well as Jesus does.
- Jesus is God. This is a difficult concept to understand. John did not say that Jesus was identical to God. John was saying that Jesus was so perfectly the same as in mind, in heart, in being that in Him we perfectly see what God is like.
Section Three: The Creator of All
Read John 1:3 to your group.
Note: Here we can find two basic points of Christianity. At this time, John was addressing the concerns and beliefs of a group called Gnostics. This group believed that in the beginning two things existed, matter and God. Matter was impure and God was pure. Therefore, God did not interact with matter.
What are the two points that John is telling us?
- The world was created by God out of nothing. Therefore, there was no pre-existing matter. The world did not begin with an essential flaw. Our belief is that behind everything there is God and God alone.
- This is God’s world. What is wrong with it is not the fault of God, but the fault of mankind. We are not to dislike the world. It is God’s. Each of us should have a sense of value and a sense of responsibility to the world. Always remember that God created each of us with “free will.” While that gave us true freedom, it also created a world filled with imperfections.
Section Four: Life and Light
Read John 1:4 and John 20:31 to your group.
John begins and ends with describing life as in Jesus. He uses the word life more than 35 times and the verb live, more than 15 times.
What then does John mean by life?
- Life is the opposite of death and destruction. Therefore, God sent Jesus so that we may have eternal life rather than death and destruction.
- While Jesus is the bringer of life, God is the giver of life.
- If you lived here on earth as you are now forever, eternally, would this be the life that John is talking about?
- I sure hope not. Life, as John is describing it is to have a quality about it. Life will be more than duration.
How then do we enter that life?
- By believing in Jesus. We must be:
- Convinced that Jesus is really and truly the Son of God; and
- Our belief must be more than intellectual. We must be willing to accept His commandments as absolute and binding, to believe without question that what He says is true.
The next key word used is Light. What is John telling us about light?
- The light Jesus brings is good. It puts an end to chaos.
- The light Jesus brings is a revealing light.
- The light Jesus brings is a guiding light.
Section Five: The Dark
Read John 1:5 to your group. Use your white board or easel to make a list of your group’s ideas.
Describe the elements of darkness as in night time or the dark? How does night time affect our world today?
- Darkness hides. At night we have more crime. We are afraid. It is difficult to find our way. We are more easily injured. Evil hides.
What does John say about darkness and Jesus the light?
- The darkness is hostile to the light. However, the darkness has no power over the light.
- The darkness stands for the natural sphere of all those who hate the good. It is the evil that fears the light (John 3:19-20).
- There will be future scriptural references where darkness will also stand for ignorance. Especially when it is a willful ignorance which refuses the light of Jesus. (John 8:12, 12:35, 12:46)
Have someone in your group read John 13:30.
Does this passage reflect the darkness of night time or ignorance?
- To John, the Christless life was in the dark. The darkness stands for life without Christ, especially for those who willingly turned their backs. We can interpret three more key points from this passage:
- The darkness never understood the light.
- The darkness never overcame the light.
- The darkness has tried to extinguish the light as in a fire or flame. This is the interpretation that best describes our Christian belief. Although generations of people have tried to obscure and extinguish the light of God in Christ, they have not succeeded. In every generation, Christ’s light still shines in spite of the effort of those who try to put out the flame.
Section Six: The Witness
Have someone in your group read John 1:6-8
John had been faced with people that placed John the Baptist in a role of greater importance than his role of prophet. What and who are Jesus’ witnesses?
- Jesus himself.
- Jesus’ works. (John 5:36)
- The Scriptures ( John 5:39).
- The last of the prophets.
- Those who Jesus came in contact with. (this should include each of us)
- The disciples and especially John.
- The Holy Spirit
In what way do you bear witness to Christ?
- This is an open time to discuss the role of the Christian in the world and how others see our actions. You may want to make a list of the group’s comments on your whiteboard or easel.
Bible Truth Being Taught
Jesus is both deity and human. We can learn this through the study of God’s Word.
To understand that every part of Scripture has been given to us so that we may come to have a personal relationship with Christ.