Lesson 5

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:15 John testified about him. He cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'" 1:16 From his fullness we all received grace upon grace. 1:17 For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only conceived Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

 Today's Lesson

Verse 15 begins another section on the testimony of John the Baptist. Each gospel of the New Testament tells us a little more about the figure of the Baptist. In Mark we read about his place in prophecy, we have a brief description of the prophet and hear his basic message. Matthew gives us more of his message and describes his confrontation with the Pharisees and Sadducees (the two groups who represent the religious power from Jerusalem). Luke includes all that Mark and Matthew report and gives independent teaching of the Baptist for tax collectors and soldiers.


Matthew, Mark, and Luke are sometimes called the Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means "with one eye." The first three gospels see things from the same perspective, through the same eye if you will. The Gospel of John is often written from a completely different perspective. The fourth gospel often includes sayings and events that are not included in the other three. The perspective is shifted. It is a disservice to say that one perspective is better than the other is or for that matter to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to reconcile one to the other.


If two friends of yours, that do not know each other well, were to describe you to someone, would the descriptions be perfectly in synch? Let's say one friend works with you and the other friend sees you only on weekends. Would their perspective be exactly alike? Well, the difference between the Gospel of John and the other three gospels isn't exactly like that, but is does describe some of the differences. The Gospel of John was written at a latter point in time to a different audience in a different social and historical situation. We would expect it to be different and yet the same. And, so it is.


While all of the gospels stress the supremacy of Christ over John the Baptist, only the fourth gospel gives us this saying. "'He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'" John bases the supremacy of Jesus over the Baptist by the pre-existence of the Word. Jesus was "in the beginning," therefore Jesus is superior to John.


Christ is also superior by nature. He is full of grace and truth. From His fullness, His grace is magnified to us. We receive grace upon grace. It has no bounds or end. Indeed, John gives us a comparison. The law came through Moses. Grace and truth come to us through the Son, Jesus Christ. Throughout this book, the law of Moses will be compared with the new covenant of the Son. The writer of this gospel was very aware of Jewish customs and traditions and always contrasts the new with the old.


Verse 18 is also a reference to Moses. It is recorded in Exodus 33 that Moses asked to see the glory of God. He was only allowed to the backside of God, for no man can see God and survive. But, the Son has existed with the Father before all time and He has seen God and declares Him to all who would believe.


In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is the last legitimate spokesman of the older Mosaic covenant. Normally, the older is due more respect and honor than the newer. But, the Baptist declares that "he that comes after me was before me." The Baptist acknowledges the supremacy of the covenant of the Son. The Son exceeds the covenant of Sinai from the perspective of His eternal existence from His divine nature, full of grace and truth.


The prophet from the wilderness proclaims the coming of the Lord. Prepare His way, the King is coming.


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