This year, I’m participating in the Bible Reading Challenge put on by Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. The idea is that you read through the whole Bible during the academic year. Thousands of Christians across the country and world are participating. You can find out more and print out the reading plan here.
The second day of reading, today, consisted of reading Genesis 1-3 and John 1-3. Reading the ‘In the beginning’ passages right next to each other is a treat and John intentionally wants us to think of Genesis when we read his first chapter.
Upon reading John this morning, I made some observations and connections I had not made previously; these connections center around the theme of “life,” specifically, how Jesus brings life. Allow me to share some of these observations.
- ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.’ – John 1:4
As Jesus is “in the beginning” and as “all things are made through him,” He is life and has life in and of Himself.
2. The emphasis upon baptism.
We are first introduced to John the Baptist in an argument with the priests and Levites about who he is. Is he Elijah? Is he the Prophet? But He continues to try and to get them to see that is the ‘voice of the one crying in the wilderness’ the one who is making a way for the Lord, the true Messiah.
John makes the straight way for Jesus by baptizing people in the river Jordan. He is getting those who are expecting the Messiah ready to meet their Lord. Baptism is an image of cleansing and the newness of life. The word baptism comes up four times in the first chapter, several more times through chapter 3, and the use water and cleansing will come back up in this gospel a few times.
3. Water turned to Wine
Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water to wine. How does this play into the theme of life? Well in a way, wine is ‘alive.’ Of course it’s not sentient, but the life is found in the fermentation process. Yeast and bacteria, microorganisms, convert carbohydrates into alcohol. Water is dead, but wine is alive. Back in the day, wine was sometimes mixed with water to purify the water in case it was bad. Wine was literally used to bring life to the body.
4. The New Birth
Jesus is visited by Nicodemus by night in John 3. This episode is infamous as it’s where we get the term ‘born again.’ Jesus tells Nicodemus than in order to even see the kingdom of God, one must be ‘born again,’ born anew,’ or ‘born from above.’ In other words, a person needs a new life. The people who are born again are born of water (continuing theme, point two above) and of the Spirit.
5. Eternal Life
John 3 is also famous for arguably the most famous Bible verse in the world, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is a positive verse about the powerful promise of God to the world. But the promise of eternal life has the flip side to it. In verse 36 John says that those who believe in the Son has eternal life (presently), but, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (presently).”
If you have not the Son, you have not life.
As I continue to read through John I will be on the lookout for more instances of his theme of Jesus bringing life.