Day 1: It all begins with a best friend
Do you, or did you, have a best friend? Someone you “ran with” in your youth? Maybe someone more recent? A brother or sister in the military, a co-worker, a buddy from the gym who always cheers you on… you get the idea. You know, that person with whom you faced giants.
Picture those days in your mind: the laughter, the battles, the heartache, the triumph; and now imagine writing their story!
I have this friend. When he introduces me to others, he has this knack for making me sound both amazing and ridiculous at the same time. It’s an art form.
Think about something with me. The Gospel of John is Holy Scripture. It is the Inspired Word of God. Amazingly, God the Holy Spirit inspired someone to write it… someone who considered himself Jesus’ best friend.
I know that may sound arrogant on John’s part, to declare himself Jesus’ best friend, but have you ever declared yourself someone’s “bestie”?
If you don’t know the story, John and eleven other men followed Jesus for three years. They viewed Him as their Rabbi, their teacher. You will read in John’s description that he, John, is the “disciple Jesus loved,” his BFF. It was not until later that John considered Jesus, well...God. And then he wrote it down.
And so for John, a huge dimension of his writing is this: he’s talking about a man who is both the Son of God and his Best Friend. I am not trying to be cute here, folks – we have a lot to ponder!
So often, people immediately jump to all sorts of philosophical conjecture about what John writes. But for our time together, I wanted to start with the idea of friendship to push back on our overly skeptical minds.
But, we will talk philosophy a little. Because in the midst of this personal story, John also manages to take on the intellectual powers of his day. He is wildly philosophical and theological. What is cool is that those philosophies are still present today. I hope to unpack them together, and get “the little gray cells” moving.
And there is another dimension. It is even bigger than writing about your best friend; it is writing a short description of why Jesus truly is the Man to Save the world. John is trying to write in a way that “you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his Name” (chapter 20 verse 31). That is a pretty tall order.
How does John approach it? Systematically. Here is a rough outline:
From 1:1-1:18: Get in on the secret. Immediately you, the reader, will be told that God has come to earth. Not merely looking human, but fully human, and fully God. Some people say these verses are a prologue. I tend to think John is trying to quickly get his readers attention.
1:19 to 4:54: Meet God on earth. Next, you’ll meet Jesus the way the people of his day met him: at weddings, along the road, even while drawing water at a well.
5:1 to 12:50: Watch the reaction. You’ll also get a glimpse of how people react – even rail against – Jesus. What is cool is that you will also see how Jesus responds. I am always struck by the compassionate deeds Jesus does, and the challenging words he speaks.
13:1 to 16:33: Learn from the Master. You will be given a front row seat to Jesus teaching his disciples. They’re in class, and not just any old class. It’s the class Jesus offers the night before he dies…and he knows it. I suggest we pay attention.
17:1 to 17:26: Hear him pray. You will be able to look into the heart of Jesus.
18:1 to 19:42: Cry. This will be hard to read. You will see (and I pray, feel), Jesus offering himself as the Lamb of God.
20:1 to the end: Be stunned. The God who became fully human, whom we killed, will defeat death and be resurrected. This is where John and his buddies begin to realize who Jesus really is. It will take a lot more for them to sort it all out, but you and I are getting a front row seat to what John, his best friend experienced.