Day 307: John 1-3; Introduction to and Prologue of John

Today we come to the Gospel of John, the fourth and final Gospel in the New Testament.  John’s Gospel was the last of the four that were written and is not considered to be one of the “synoptic Gospels.”  Much of what is written in John is unique from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and doesn’t follow in the same order as them.  This is not to say that the Gospel of John is in some way, incorrect, but instead takes yet another perspective of Jesus life from presumably one of His closest disciples.  John is writing in an effort to prove once and for all that Jesus the Divine Son of God.  Not only that though, John sought to show His readers, which were likely some of the Church’s that are mentioned at the beginning of the book of Revelation, that Jesus was indeed God almighty as well, the creator of the world who took on human flesh and ultimately sacrificed Himself for the salvation of His beloved children, and ultimately all of creation.

John begins his writing with a beautiful prologue that we have the opportunity to read today.  It is one of the most theologically rich writings in all of Scripture if you ask me.  In some ways, it is a genius move on John’s part, starting with the main point of His writing, almost as a theological plateau or mountain top from which we can look down and survey the whole of the rest of the Gospel (and most of Scripture too actually).  To be honest, I think we could spend a month talking through the prologue of John, and then venture carefully into the rest of His writing, however we aren’t given that amount of time.  So instead we will indeed use this scripture as the point from which we look out over the whole of the next 9 day’s readings, always keeping in mind the dual nature of Jesus on earth.  He is both fully human and fully Divine!  Too often we tend to divide up God and we forget that though we have a Triune God with three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, God is also one and Jesus being God means that God came here to earth and took on human flesh.

The book of John is divided up into two different sections after this first chapter: the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory.  In the first half of the Gospel of John, we specifically see a focus on Jesus’ miracles, in (arguably) seven signs, which are Jesus’ miracles, that are performed as John establishes Jesus Divinity in human form.  We see clearly that Jesus, though a man, has divine abilities and powers over creation.  In some ways, Jesus is also “recreating” many things, showing the true nature of creation and the Kingdom of God in small but important ways.  The wedding of Cana, which is Jesus’ first sign is one of these miracles where Jesus both does something miraculous but also shows the nature of His love and the Kingdom of God in the abundance of what he creates and what it comes from.  These basins were wash basins for those that had to go and “relieve” themselves at the party.  The Jewish community would have considered that water to be completely dirty and unclean.  Yet Jesus takes the dirty and makes it clean.  You can definitely see some of clear foreshadowing to the Lord’s supper here, with the wine that Jesus creates and gives to all the people.  Again, taking the unclean and making it clean.

Notice too, in our reading today, the interplay that John sets up between darkness and light.  There are many of these types of interplay that happen in the book of John.  He is a masterful writer, blending many themes together throughout the whole of His writing, even carrying them on into His letters which we will read in about a month.  John works on making many distinctions between what was before Jesus and what was after.  The unclean and the clean at the wedding of Cana is just one example.  The darkness and the light that we see in chapter one as well.  In chapter three we also see a bit of the interplay between flesh (before) and spirit (after), and John lay this out very well without giving into some of the Gnostic teachings of the time that said that flesh was ultimately bad.  John does not say this, but points to a time when the Spirit will be in our flesh, in much the same way that he points to God incarnate in flesh through Jesus Christ.

As we begin our short journey through John, I think its important to know that John’s book is in many ways one of the most important theological books of the Bible.  I know that this is a difficult thing to say and I wouldn’t even discount the rest of Scripture, however John makes some very specific theological moves in His book that are very important for us as Christians.  While they are present in other places throughout the Bible and especially in the New Testament, John does a great job of weaving them in deeply in His writing.  The whole book of John is worth reading over and over.  We many only have a little time to cover each days’ reading (and I’m sorry if my posts get long these next few days, but there is just so much to say), but it’s still completely worth the read.  John’s Gospel is like a swimming pool: you can play in the shallow end and still get pretty wet, or you can dive down deep into the deep and get soaked.  My prayer this week is that we get as soaked as we possibly can in the good news of Jesus Christ as revealed in the book of John!



Day 32: Leviticus 12-14; Holiness Codes (Part 2)

This is day two of what I would consider to be the “Holiness Codes.”  As I started the post yesterday, The last verses of Leviticus 11 really sum up where we are going with the Holiness codes.  They read, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.  For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

So what’s with all these codes anyway?  Some of them seem like common sense, others seem a bit ridiculous, all are ordained by God.  If that is the case, then there must be some meaning here, for them and for us.  Again, I think that the key here is God’s statement, “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Israel was to be a light to the nations, a kingdom of priests as we talked about on January 25.  They were to be set apart as a testament to the glory of God.  To do this, they needed to be different than the nations that surrounded them.  It is suggested that these were all animals that other peoples would have no problem eating or touching.  (It is relatively ironic that I am eating shrimp as I write this… which are considered detestable to the Israelites).

Another thing that could be said about this is that many of these animals, like those that have skin diseases, carried disease infectious agents that could harm the people.  This could be another reason why certain animals, people, and even things like mold and mildew were considered unclean.  The laws for the uncleanness of a woman after childbirth or menstruation, though cruel by our standards, are actually somewhat healthy and not necessarily odd if you think about them.  A woman’s body needs time to recover after Childbirth.  It is unhealthy for a woman to become pregnant right away after the birth of a child.  Some of you may also know that the best time for conceiving a child is in the second week after a woman’s period (aka after the 7 days of uncleanness)… This could be seen as a form of  natural family planning if you will, or contraception I guess. 

If you’re interested in the break down of this, I recommend reading a blog from The Sent One.  There is a great breakdown of what is clean and unclean here.  The image below also belongs to the writer of this blog.

uncleanness

Finally, though, getting back to the main reasoning of this section, the whole purpose is holiness.  A state of being in which the people of God are set apart from the world, living lives to glorify God.  We’ve read in the past that the dead are unclean.  Many of the animals that are considered unclean would eat other dead animals, meat that had not been sacrificed to God.  This would make them unclean, thus passing their uncleanness to the one that ate them.  Others of these animals, insects included, would eat dung which is also considered to be unclean.  Again, this would pass the uncleanness to its eater.  Disease and destruction  are also unclean… thus people with them or around them are unclean… why?  Because it is contrary to the nature of God, the nature of the world as it was created, and thus contrary to God’s holiness.

If we think back to Genesis 1, the world was created perfect, with all creatures living in harmony towards one another.  The Hebrew word for this is “Shalom” or a state of peaceful, perfect existence.  In the Garden of Eden there was no death, no destruction, no disease.  Adam and Eve’s diet?  Plants.  Genesis 2 tells us that God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…”  We actually don’t have an account of animals dying until God makes coverings for them later in Genesis 3.  In fact, we don’t see that humans are given permission by God to eat animals until after Noah gets off the Ark later in Genesis 9.

So this is how God created the world, without death, disease, and destruction.  Therefore we must assume that these things are contrary to the purpose of creation and the nature of God.  Engaging in this brokenness of creation would thus make one unclean… separated from the holiness of God.  For the people of Israel, there were things they would then have to do to make themselves clean.  Sometimes wash… sometimes sacrifice… sometimes wait until evening…

We too are sinful… unclean… and by our very nature cut off from relationship with God.  For us though, something was done to restore this relationship.  Thanks be to God that He sent His Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins!!  In Christ, all things unclean are made clean.  We see this in Peter’s vision in Acts 10.  All we need do is believe in Jesus Christ and we too will be made clean in the eyes of God, washed and cleansed in His blood.  Amen.  Praise the Lord!