Of the four Gospels, the Gospel of John is unique. While distinct from one another, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke share much. John’s broad sweep and finite detail give us valuable insight into Jesus. It begins in eternity past with the same words as Genesis, “In the beginning.” And yet also includes fine detail such as Jesus’ nighttime discussion with Nicodemus. While the Gospel is punctuated with Christ’s miracles, John provides more of Jesus’ teachings than the other Gospels.
History tells us that the Gospel of John was written by the disciple of Jesus, John the son of Zebedee. Late in the Gospel John reveals his purpose for writing. “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30–31, NASB)
Contrary sometimes to the chapter headings added later, John organized his Gospel in days. It is his way of saying, “we’re turning a page here.” Our study will also be based on those days. But “day” also has another meaning for John. His use of “day” is not so much to mark the passing of time but to say something along the lines of – “Here is another way Jesus lights our life.” Each day is another way in which light conquers the darkness. This is made clear in John’s prelude which begins in eternity past and introduces John the Baptist.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:1–13, NASB95)
There is, of course, much in this prelude. John reveals that Jesus pre-existed with God before creation as The Word. Not only pre-existed but was intimately involved with every aspect of creation. And similar to the creation account, John begins with light. But John’s light is different in that it means more than just the physical properties of light but the illumination from God on the darkness of the human soul.
In John’s prelude, there are two kinds, those who shrink and hide from the light and those who willingly run to the light. Those who receive Christ’s light and believe in His name are granted the right to become children of God. Not because of who they are, their heritage, their place in life but because God has shone His light and they welcomed it.
You could say that light is life. Our everyday existence is predicated on light. The food we eat begins with light and the ability of plants to convert light into growth. Whether we eat a garden salad or a hamburger it is all sourced in light. We are solar-powered whether we know it or not. Similarly, God’s light shines on all although all do not accept it. But as we accept God’s light in our hearts, a journey begins, a new life that is born again from above and not “the will of the flesh.”
Light and darkness. Day and night. Detail and shadow. These are the brushes John uses to write the Gospel bearing his name. Sometimes, as in the prelude, this is obvious. In later passages, it will be more hidden yet still present. The question is this. When we see the light, will we run towards it or hide from it? That will be our question as we continue our journey through John’s Gospel.