Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2009

In Study One we saw that the Word is the eternal God, the Creator, the source of both physical life and spiritual life. This spiritual life is more specifically termed ‘light’, and consists in the knowledge of God, which is accessible from one source only: the Word, Jesus Christ.



1:5 ‘the light shines in the darkness’

Here we immediately become aware that there is something that is called ‘the darkness’ that exists in opposition to the light. The light shines ‘in the darkness’. There is ‘the light’ which John has told us has its source in the Word, and there is everything else - ‘the darkness’ in which ‘the light’ shines.

Again John is preparing us for what he will teach later, planting seeds of truth into our thoughts. Here in particular he is preparing us for the connections between light and life, and between darkness and death: the death in which we all live apart from knowledge of Christ, and the life that is regained through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Let us note in passing the present tense of the verb ‘shines’. The light, John says, shines in the darkness. Present, continuous tense. God’s life-giving light, God’s truth, has always been shining, shines at this moment, and will continue to shine. God is, by his very nature, a self-revealing God. He is the light that shines.

From these scriptures, comment on the ever-present, ever available light of God’s truth. Where appropriate, comment also on what human beings have done with God’s self-revelation.

Psalm 19:1-4



Romans 1:18-23




Romans 1:24,28,32



Hebrews 1:1



2Peter 1:16 -21




As part of this continuity of self-revelation, and particularly as we study further in John’s Gospel, we understand that whenever God reveals himself, that light, that revelation, is in or through the Word. Thus we find: · It is ‘by the word of the Lord’ that the heavens were made, and these heavens declare the glory of God. · The written word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, speaks of Jesus Christ, the Word. · The incarnation of the Word is God’s final self-revelation.

1:5 … but the darkness has not understood it [alternate reading: but the darkness has not overcome it]

In this statement John continues to prepare us for the eternal truths and the time/space historical facts which he is about to record immediately and throughout his Gospel. Jesus, the Light, was rejected. Men preferred darkness over light. Yet the very reason he came was to rescue us from the darkness.

      • 3:19 : ‘Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’
      • 8:12 : ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’
      • 12:46 : ‘I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.’



Lest we should mistake John the Baptist for the expected Messiah, John is careful to contrast John the Baptist and Jesus, and to highlight their contrasting origins and roles, right here at the beginning.

John the Baptist Jesus Christ

Came [egeneto = ‘came into existence’]

a man sent from God

not the light

a witness to the light

points men to the light

existed eternally

the Word, God

the light, the source of light

the true light

gives light to men



1:10-11 the rejection of the incarnate Word

Read verse 10. How does this verse describe:

[1] the incarnation


[2] the fact that Jesus is God


[3] the world’s failure to recognize who he is


Read verse 11. How does this verse describe the rejection of Jesus?


How does John communicate the pathos of the failure to recognize and receive Jesus as God?


Jesus, the Creator of the world, and the owner of the world, came into the world, and by that world was not recognized and was not received. In these two verses John sums up the continued lack of recognition that he reports right through his Gospel.

1:12-13 the extreme significance of receiving Jesus

In the midst of the general failure to recognize and receive Jesus Christ there were those who did recognize and receive him. Here John makes a number of important points about this reception of Jesus:

      • To receive Jesus Christ is to believe in his name. As Jesus repeatedly points out later in this Gospel, believing that he is who he claimed to be … believing all that his name defines about his real identity … is the critical factor that determines one’s standing before God.
      • Those who receive him, those who believe in his name, are given the right to become ‘children of God’.
      • Those who thus become children of God owe that new identity, and therefore the belief through which they obtained this new identity, to the regenerating action of God, not to their own, or any other, human will or ability.


1:14 the incarnation as the revelation of God

Lest we should have missed it in the previous four verses John now makes a bold and definitive statement: ‘the Word became flesh’. That Word whom he has described so powerfully in verses 1-4, that Word whom he has identified as ‘God’ – the eternal Creator upon whom all that exists depends for its original and its continued existence – that Word ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us’.

Here is an amazing and incredible thing: That at this given point in time [the verbs ‘became’ and ‘made his dwelling’ is Aorist Tense] -

      • He who is eternal became locked in time
      • He who is infinite became locked in a limited physical space
      • He who is spirit became flesh
      • He who inhabits eternity confined himself to life in a human body
      • He who is the Creator became a created thing
      • He upon all things depend became dependent
      • He who is life, and the source of life, became mortal
      • He who is light came into the darkness
      • He who is invisible became visible
      • He who is unapproachable came to us and lived with us as one of us

This amazing, unbelievable fact was still impacting John when he wrote his first letter:

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard …’ [1John 1:1-3]

Here in this visible, physical form God is revealed, here God makes himself known to us. John sums this whole incredible incarnation event with the words: ‘We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

      • ‘We have seen his glory’ – here, in Jesus, the glory of God is seen and known. Not just any aspect of God, but his glory. That same glory that filled the Tabernacle, that same glory that filled the temple, that same glory that caused the seraphim to sing continually ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty’, that same glory before which Isaiah felt threatened with extinction, that same glory that the prophets foretold would fill the earth when the Messiah came – we have seen that glory of God in the incarnate Word.
      • …the glory of the One and Only [= ‘only begotten’] who came from the Father. The Greek word is monogenes – ‘only begotten’, and means exactly that: that the Word who became flesh is God’s only and unique Son. John uses it again in 1:18 . There is no other Son of God who is a ‘son’ of God in the same way this Son is the Son of God. Only this one. All other ‘sons’ of God referred to in the scripture are either created or adopted. This One alone is begotten. Unique. One of a kind. As the only begotten he shares, he owns, the same glory as his Father. As the begotten Son shares the nature and essence of the Father.
      • ‘…full of grace and truth.’ Here in Jesus God’s love and God’s justice both have their ultimate expression. Here in Jesus God’s promise and God’s law are both fulfilled. Here in Jesus we see clearly that grace and truth are never to be set in opposition to each other, but must be always held, believed and proclaimed together, in complete measure, as they are in him.

1:15-18 further comments on the incarnation

How does 1:15 express the deity of Christ?



What is there is verse 16 that necessitates the deity of Christ?



How does verse 17 teach that Christ reveals more than Moses?



How does verse 18 teach that incarnation is revelation?





John the Baptist identified himself as ‘the voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord”’ and by that statement also identifies Jesus.

As far as John the Baptist is concerned Jesus is:

      • The Lord [23], quoting from Isaiah 40:3, which resonates with anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ.
      • The one who comes after him, whose sandals John was not worthy to untie [27].
      • The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world [29,36].
      • The one who existed before John the Baptist, even though he was actually born after him [30].
      • The one who surpasses John the Baptist because of his eternal identity [30].
      • The purpose of John’s ministry [31].
      • The one upon whom the Spirit came down and remained [32].
      • The one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit [33].
      • The Son of God [34].

John the Baptist has, at this point of time, no doubt about the awesome identity of Jesus Christ. He knows where Jesus, the Christ, fits in in relation to the eternal God: he is the eternal Son of God; he knows where Jesus, the Christ, fits in in relation to human beings: he is, as man, one with them, yet as God, far above them; he knows where Jesus, the Christ, fits in in relation to human sin: he came to bear it away as the sacrificial Lamb; he knows where Jesus, the Christ, fits into the eternal plan and purpose of God: he is its focus and its fulfilment, the One towards whom it has all been moving through all the ages.

For personal meditation: Read Isaiah 40. Make notes about what it reveals about the aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ listed below.

Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s glory:


The compassion and tenderness of Jesus Christ:


The creative power of Jesus Christ:


The awesome authority and sovereignty of Jesus Christ:


The constant trustworthiness and dependability of Jesus Christ:





In this section of Chapter One John reports varying initial perceptions of Jesus Christ:

      • John the Baptist repeated his perception that Jesus is ‘the Lamb of God’ [36]. Immediately on hearing this two of his disciples left him and followed Jesus as he walked by. We might ask: how much did they realize of the meaning of that title: the Lamb of God? Did they call to mind all they knew about the substitutionary, sacrificial role of the Lamb in the Passover? Did they think of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7 ‘he was led like a lamb to the slaughter’? Whatever they thought, they followed him. This was the appointed purpose of John’s ministry: to prepare the way for the Lord [Isaiah 40:3].
      • These two addressed him as ‘Rabbi’ – Teacher [38]. They then spent the rest of the day with him listening to his teaching [39]. Again we might ask: how much did they realise of the significance of this title – of just how great a teacher he was – the One who knew all truth, indeed, the One who is ‘the truth’, the One who spoke with divine authority?
      • As a result of John’s testimony, and of Jesus’ teaching, Andrew is convinced that Jesus is ‘the Messiah’ – he went out and found Peter and told him: ‘We have found the Messiah’ – the Christ [41]. The One anointed and appointed by God. The One whom generations of Israelites had longed for. The One in and through whom God’s purpose would be fulfilled. Again the question rises: to what extent did Andrew understand the ‘Messiah’ concept?
      • Philip , after a brief time with Jesus, went and found Nathaniel, and told him: ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’ [45]. Philip’s words are impressive: they affirm that this ordinary man, this man from up country, is the One who is anticipated in both the Law and prophets – the one to whom the whole scripture points with eager expectation. Yet it is later Philip who expresses how little he, and the others, really understood [14:8,9]
      • Nathaniel’s initial scepticism [46] is demolished by Jesus, and he defines Jesus with two radical titles: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’ [49]. How much, if any, did he realise the power and the meaning of these two titles? Would he have been so strong in his affirmation if he had known that these two titles would one day nail this Jesus to the cross [18:33-19:22]?

We see an interesting dynamic in each of these perceptions of Jesus: that these perceptions are all actually right: that Jesus actually is all that John the Baptist and these first disciples affirmed, but also, that these men had very little realisation of the deep meaning of what they were saying. Yet, by their affirmations John introduces to his readers perceptions of Jesus that he will fill out with that deep meaning as we read through his Gospel.

Jesus pointed out this discrepancy and this contrast between this initial, largely ignorant and uneducated, ‘belief’ in him and the ‘greater’ belief that would come later. Their current belief had a simple and superficial basis. Their future belief would be based on the revelation of God that he, the Son of Man, would placard before them [50-51].

NOTE: Jesus’ first contact with these disciples occurred in Bethany [ 1:28 ], and somewhere along the way between Bethany and Galilee [1:43ff], while John was still baptizing people. It does not contradict his later challenge to them, after the imprisonment of John the Baptist [Matthew 4:12ff, Mark 1:14 ], recorded in Matthew and Mark [Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20]. At this time, after the beginning of his public ministry, he challenged them to follow him, and he would make them ‘fishers of men’.