The Living Expression
1In the beginning # 1:1 Most scholars consider the first eighteen verses of John to be the words of an ancient hymn or poem that was cherished by first-century believers in Christ. the Living Expression # 1:1 The Greek is logos, which has a rich and varied background in both Greek philosophy and Judaism. The Greeks equated logos with the highest principle of cosmic order. God’s logos in the Old Testament conveys his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and redemption. In the New Testament we have this new unique view of God given to us by John, which signifies the presence of God himself in the flesh. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” Though the Greek term logos may be rendered “word,” it would be wrong to think it indicates primarily a lexical unit in a sentence. Logos is more accurately understood as a form of self-revealing or “message.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Message, the creative Word, and the Living Expression of God made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in incarnated flesh. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has perfectly expressed himself in Christ. Jesus is God’s Story. was already there.
And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God. # 1:1 The Living Expression (Christ) fully possesses every attribute of deity held by God the Father (Col. 1:15–20). The Living Expression existed eternally as a separate individual but essentially the same, as one with the Father.
2They were together—face-to-face, # 1:2 The Greek word used here and the Hebraic concept conveyed is that of being before God’s face. There is no Hebrew word for “presence” (i.e., the “presence” of God), only the word “face.” in the very beginning. # 1:2 Both Gen. 1:1 and John 1:1–2 speak of the beginning. In Genesis Moses spoke of the beginning of time, but John speaks of eternity past, a beginning before time existed. The Living Expression is Christ who existed eternally as part of the Trinity. He has no beginning, being one with the Father.
3And through his creative inspiration
this Living Expression made all things, # 1:3 Or “all things happened because of him and nothing happened apart from him.” The Aramaic is “everything was in his hand” (of power). See Ps. 33:6; Isa. 44:24.
for nothing has existence apart from him!
4A fountain of life was in him, # 1:4 See Ps. 36:9. The Aramaic reads “In him were lives” (plural)—not only multiple human lives, but also spiritual life, eternal life, and life in every form. John used the word life (zoe) thirty-seven times in his gospel.
for his life is light for all humanity. # 1:4 Jesus Christ brings the light of eternal life and the full revelation of God (Heb. 1:2–3). The Gospel of John is easily divided into three sections: life (chs. 1–7), light (chs. 8–12), and love (chs. 13–21).
5And this Light never fails to shine through darkness—
Light that darkness could not overcome! # 1:5 The Greek has a double meaning here. (1) Darkness could not diminish this Light, nor could it comprehend it. (2) The darkness can also be a metaphor for the sons of darkness.
6Suddenly a man appeared who was sent from God,
a messenger named John. # 1:6 This is John, the Baptizer. See Mal. 3:1.
7For he came as a witness, to point the way to the Light of Life,
and to help everyone believe.
8John was not that Light but he came to show who is.
For he was merely a messenger to speak the truth about the Light.
9For the perfect Light of Truth # 1:9 Or “the True [Genuine, Perfect] Light.” was coming into the world
and shine upon everyone. # 1:9 Or “to enlighten everyone.”
10He entered into the world he created,
yet the world was unaware. # 1:10 Or “the world [of humanity] didn’t perceive it.”
11He came to the people he created # 1:11 Or “to his own” (things or people). —
to those who should have received him,
but they did not recognize him.
12But those who embraced him and took hold of his name # 1:12 Or “those who are putting faith into his name.” To “lay hold of his name” means to believe everything he represents and put into practice what he taught in the power of his name.
he gave authority to become
the children of God!
13He was not born by the joining of human parents # 1:13 Or “not from streams of blood” (i.e., the blood of a father and mother). Although many translations connect this verse with the children of God (v. 12), the old Latin translation as well as two church fathers, Irenaeus and Tertullian, argue that it is John’s reference to the virgin birth of Christ (also v. 14).
or from natural means, # 1:13 Or “from the natural realm.” or by a man’s desire,
but he was born of God. # 1:13 Or “born out from God.” The Living Expression (message) is now “humanized” (and become the messenger). However, the vast majority of translations and expositors see here not Jesus’ virgin birth, but the new birth of those who became “children of God” in v. 12. Both are clearly presented in the Scriptures.
14And so the Living Expression
became a man # 1:14 Or “became visible.” and lived among us! # 1:14 Or “live within us.” This is the fulfillment of Isa. 7:14. The “God with us” is Jesus Christ our Immanuel. He is among us in that he is in human form, and is still in human form within the Trinity eternally. The Greek and Aramaic can be translated “he pitched his tent among us.” John’s wording takes us back into the book of Exodus where: (1) God came down and lived in the tent (tabernacle) in the wilderness (Ex. 25:8). (2) God revealed his glory in the pillar of fire and cloud (Ex. 40:38). (3) God identified himself as the One and Only (“I am Yahweh your God . . . You may have no gods other than me,” [Ex. 20:2; Deut. 6:4]). (4) God proclaimed his wrap-around love (Ex. 34:6).
We gazed upon his glory, # 1:14 The Aramaic is “We gazed upon his preciousness.” John gazed upon Jesus’ unveiled glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8).
the glory of the One and Only # 1:14 The Aramaic is “Unique and Beloved Son.” The Greek word, monogenes, means “of a single [mono] kind [genes].” This word is also used for Isaac in Heb. 11:17 as Abraham’s uniquely precious son, but not his only one.
who came from the Father overflowing
with tender mercy # 1:14 The Aramaic word, taybootha, means “loving kindness or goodness.” The Greek word is charis, which can also be translated, “grace, favor, sweetness, pleasure or delight.” This translation has combined all those concepts in the words tender mercy. Truly, Jesus Christ is full of everything that our hearts crave. and truth!
15John announced the truth about him
when he taught the people,
“He’s the One!
He’s the One I’ve been telling you would come after me,
even though he ranks far above me,
because he existed before I was even born.” # 1:15 This reveals the eternal nature of Jesus Christ, for John was older than Jesus. The Aramaic can be translated “He is preferred before me, for he has priority over me.”
16And from the overflow of his fullness
we received # 1:16 Or “out of his fullness we are fulfilled” (Aramaic). That is, every believer receives from the fullness of Christ a divine completeness. We are given from him whatever each requires for the perfection of his character and for the fulfillment of his life’s purpose. See Eph 1:23; Col 1:19; 2:9. grace heaped upon more grace! # 1:16 Or “one gracious gift after another.”
17Moses gave us the Law, but Jesus, the Anointed One,
unveils truth wrapped in tender mercy. # 1:17 Moses was the lawgiver, Jesus is the grace-giver. In the first miracle of Moses, he turned water into blood, resulting in death. In the first miracle of grace, Jesus turned water into wine, resulting in life and celebration.
18No one ever before gazed upon the full splendor of God
except his uniquely beloved Son,
who is cherished by the Father # 1:18 Or “from the lap of the Father.” This is an idiom for the place of closest intimacy.
and held close to his heart.
Now that he has come to us, he has unfolded # 1:18 Or “He has led the way into the knowledge of God.” The Greek word, exēgēomai, can mean either “to lead the way” or “to explain.”
the full explanation of who God truly is!
The Ministry of John the Baptizer
19Now this was John’s testimony when some of the Jewish leaders # 1:19 Or simply, “Jews,” a metonymy for “Jewish leaders.” Obviously, not all Jews opposed John’s ministry. Some estimate that John and his disciples baptized as many as one million people. It is possible that John was a part of the Essene community of devout Jews. sent an entourage of priests and temple servants # 1:19 Or “Levites.” from Jerusalem to interrogate him. “Who are you?” they asked him.
20John answered them directly, saying, “I am not the Messiah!”
21“Then who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” John replied.
So they pressed him further, “Are you the prophet Moses said was coming, the one we’re expecting?” # 1:21 See Deut. 18:15. In Acts 3:22 Jesus is identified as that “Prophet.”
“No,” he replied.
22“Then who are you?” they demanded. “We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something about yourself—anything!”
23John answered them, “I am an urgent, thunderous voice crying out in the desert—clear the way and prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord Yahweh!” # 1:23 As translated from the Aramaic. See Isa. 40:3. The Aramaic is clear that the preparations are for the Lord Yahweh, signifying the deity of Jesus Christ. The Greek is “Make straight the way for the Lord [kurios].”
24Then some members of the religious sect known as the Pharisees # 1:24 Or “separated ones.” They were the religious leaders of the day who considered themselves separated from sin and closer to God than other people. questioned John, 25“Why do you baptize the people if you are neither the Messiah, Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26-27John answered them, “I baptize the people in this river, but the One who will take my place is to be more honored than I, # 1:26–27 As translated from the Aramaic. but even when he stands among you, you will not recognize or embrace him! I am not worthy enough to stoop down in front of him and untie his sandals!” 28All these events took place at Bethany, # 1:28 This was a different Bethany than the one near Jerusalem, commonly referred to in the Gospels. Some Greek manuscripts have the location as “Bethabara,” however, the Aramaic is clearly Bethany. where John was baptizing at the place of the crossing of the Jordan River. # 1:28 As translated from the Aramaic. This place of crossing is likely where the children of Israel crossed into the promised land when the Jordan River parted and they passed through on dry land. See Josh. 3. This place is a powerful reminder of crossing over into a new day, a new era for Israel. God chose this place for John to baptize.
The Lamb of God
29The very next day, John saw Jesus coming to him to be baptized, and John cried out, “Look! There he is—God’s Lamb! # 1:29 Jesus was publicly washed as the Lamb of God and proven to be without flaw or blemish, ready to become the sacrifice for all the world. Although he will become the Lion of the tribe of Judah in resurrection power, John points to him as the meek Lamb, a willing sacrifice for our sins. He takes away # 1:29 Or “lift off” (the burden). The Greek word used here is often used for “lifting up and away” an anchor from off the ocean floor. the sin of the entire world! # 1:29 The Aramaic is “the sins of the universe.” To take away our sins is a figure of speech that means “he will break sin’s grip from humanity, taking away both its guilt and power from those who believe.” 30I told you that a Mighty One # 1:30 As translated from the Aramaic. would come who is far greater than I am, because he existed long before I was born! 31My baptism was for the preparation of his appearing to Israel, even though I didn’t recognize him.”
32Then, as he baptized Jesus, he proclaimed these words: “I see the Spirit of God appear like a dove descending from the heavenly realm and landing upon him—and it remained on him! # 1:32 Jesus, the Lamb, took away our sins, and the Holy Spirit, the Dove, brings to man the life of God. Jesus didn’t come to start a movement but to bring the fullness of life to us. This “Dove” points to the dove that Noah released from the ark. It found no place to rest in a fallen world. The final time Noah released the dove it flew and never returned. It flew throughout history over Abraham and the patriarchs, over the prophets and kings, finding no place to rest, until at last, there was a heavenly man who carried the life of heaven—upon him the dove (Holy Spirit) rested and remained. There was nothing that could offend heaven in the life of our Lord Jesus. 33Before this I didn’t know who he was. But the one who sent me to baptize with water had told me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on someone. He will be the One I have sent to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ # 1:33 Or “the Spirit of Holiness.” 34Now I have seen this happen and I can tell you for sure that this man is the Son of God.” # 1:34 Some Greek manuscripts have “the Chosen One of God.” The Aramaic is clearly “the Son of Elohim.”
Jesus’ First Followers
35-36The next day, Jesus walked right past where John and two of his disciples were standing. John, gazing upon Jesus, pointed to him and prophesied, “Look! There’s God’s sacrificial # 1:35–36 To the Western gentile in the twenty-first century, the phrase “Lamb of God” evokes a fluffy pet. To John and his disciples, lambs were for sacrifice. Lamb!” 37And as soon as John’s two disciples heard this, they immediately left John and began to follow a short distance behind Jesus.
38Jesus turned around and saw they were following him and asked, “What do you want?” # 1:38 This is the first recorded saying of Jesus in the Gospels. It is a question that every follower of Jesus should be asked: “What do you want in following me?” Do we want something only for ourselves? A ministry? Answers to prayer? Or do we simply want to be with him? Their answer, “Where are you staying?” shows that they were seeking only him. The first question God asked Adam and Eve was, “Where are you?” The first words of the God-man were, “What do you want?” They responded, “Rabbi (which means, Master Teacher # 1:38 The parenthetical words are added by the author, John. Rabbi is an honorific term that means more than teacher. The Aramaic word is best translated “Master,” or “Master Teacher.” ), where are you staying?” # 1:38 Or “Where do you abide?” This is the same word used in ch. 15:4 where it refers to life-union, to be joined to Jesus as the living vine. Jesus wants everyone to come and discover where he “abides” in life-union with his Father. See Song. 1:7.
39Jesus answered, “Come and discover for yourselves.” So they went with him and saw where he was staying, and since it was late in the afternoon, they spent the rest of the day with Jesus.
40-41One of the two disciples who heard John’s words and began to follow Jesus was a man named Andrew. # 1:40–41 Andrew means “brave.” He first found his brother, Simon Peter, and told him, “We have found the Anointed One!” # 1:40–41 Or “Messiah.” The word messiah is taken from the Hebrew verb, “to anoint with oil.” In the Old Testament, both priests (Lev. 21:10) and kings (1 Sam. 15:1) were anointed. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Anointed One (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38) to deliver, to save, and to reconcile us back to God. (Which is translated, the Christ.) 42Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. When he gazed upon Andrew’s brother, he prophesied to him, “You are Simon and your father’s name is John. # 1:42 The Aramaic can also be translated “You are Simon, son of the dove.” Simon means “one who hears.” But from now on, everyone will call you Cephas” (which means, Peter the Rock). # 1:42 The Aramaic word is keefa, which means “rock.” It is anglicized as “Peter.” This parenthetical statement is not found in the Aramaic, but only in Greek manuscripts. It appears that the Greek text is admitting it is a translation from the Aramaic.
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43The next day, Jesus decided to go to Galilee, where he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Come and follow me.” 44(Now Philip, Andrew, and Peter had all grown up together in the village of Bethsaida.) # 1:44 Bethsaida means “place of fishing,” and was a village on Lake Galilee. 45Philip went to look for his friend, Nathanael, # 1:45 Nathanael means “gift of God.” Most scholars agree that he is the same one as the Bartholomew mentioned as one of Jesus’ apostles. Almost every time Philip’s name is listed as an apostle, it is followed by Bartholomew. and told him, “We’ve found him! We’ve found the One we’ve been waiting for! It’s Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth! He’s the One whom Moses and the prophets prophesied would come!”
46Nathanael sneered, “Nazareth! What good thing could ever come from Nazareth?” # 1:46 Jesus and his disciples were Galileans and spoke the northern dialect of Aramaic. Galileans were considered somewhat backward. Isaiah called that region “the land of the gentile peoples, those surrounded with great darkness.” Yet this was the region where the Messiah’s light would shine forth. See Isa. 9:1–2; Matt. 4:15–16. Philip answered, “Come and let’s find out!”
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said, “Here comes a true son of Israel—an honest man with no hidden motive!”
48Nathanael was stunned and said, “But you’ve never met me—how do you know anything about me?”
Jesus answered, “Nathanael, right before Philip came to you, I saw you sitting under the shade of a fig tree.” # 1:48 Although we can only speculate what Nathanael was doing while sitting under the fig tree, it mattered very personally to him. Perhaps, he was confessing to God his love for him and his desire to be pure and holy. Or perhaps, he was meditating on the Scriptures that speak of the coming Messiah. A fig tree is often a biblical metaphor of God’s purpose and destiny coming to fruitfulness, especially as it relates to establishing God’s kingdom on the earth. See Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10. Some scholars speculate that the phrase “I saw you under the fig tree” could be an Aramaic idiom for “I knew you since you were in the cradle.” Some Jewish scholars see the term “under the fig tree” as an ancient Jewish idiom that means studying the messianic prophecies. The idiom stems from Mic. 4:4, in a passage describing the future messianic kingdom: “Each of them will sit under their vine, and under their fig tree.”
49Nathanael blurted out, “Teacher, you are truly the Son of God and the King of Israel!”
50Jesus answered, “Do you believe simply because I told you I saw you sitting under a fig tree? You will experience even more impressive things than that! 51I prophesy to you eternal truth: # 1:51 As translated from the Aramaic. John records Jesus using this phrase twenty-five times. The Greek is “Amen, amen I say to you.” From now on, # 1:51 As translated from the Aramaic. you all will see # 1:51 Or “you [plural] will spiritually see.” This is a promise for every believer today. an open heaven and gaze upon the Son of Man # 1:51 “Son of Man” is a messianic term pointing to Christ, not as the son of a man, but the Son of Man (humanity). He is not Joseph’s son, but the Son of God. like a stairway reaching into the sky # 1:51 The “stairway into the sky” is an obvious reference to “Jacob’s Ladder” as the fulfillment of his dream found in Gen. 28:10–22. Jesus Christ is that stairway that joins earth to heaven and brings heaven to earth. The word for “angels” can also be translated “messengers” and could be humans given access into the heavenly realm through the blood of Jesus. Jesus, as the stairway, was both in heaven and on earth as he spoke this to Nathanael. What mysteries surround him! with the messengers of God climbing up and down upon # 1:51 Or “next to.” him!”