Module 01: Jesus the Eternal Divine One - Love, Light, Life
Module Guide: John - Jesus Christ the Word of God
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
John was a mystic in all the highest senses of the word. Conscious at once of the things patent, and of that vast realm of the spiritual, of which the material is but a partial and transitory manifestation, he came into fellowship with the profoundest things in the Person of his Lord. Turning to the gospel according to John, we find ourselves immediately compelled to worship. The same personality is presented to us as that with which we have grown familiar in the earlier stories. From the beginning, however, we are conscious of a new assertion on the part of the writer, and a new quality about the Person. As we proceed, we find that the change is not that of difference, but an unveiling and explanation. The revelation of this gospel is that of God manifest in fiesh. The central division dealing with this is introduced by a brief but pregnant one, showing how the Word came from the everlasting conditions into those of time and human sense; and is followed by one presenting Him in the new everlasting conditions arising out of His incarnate presence in human history. These divisions therefore may thus be stated: From Everlasting (1:1-1:18); God Manifest (1:19-19:42); To Everlasting (20-21).
In the study of this division it is necessary that the first and fourteenth verses should be read in connection. The first declares the everlasting relation of the Word; the fourteenth the fact of His temporal manifestation. In each statement there are three parts, those of the first being immediately related to those of the second.
Lying between the two verses referred to, the glories of the Word are dealt with in the varied processes of God's relation to humanity. All creation has proceeded through Him. All life has been derived from Him, and the inner light of humanity has ever been His shining within the consciousness of the race.
Following this preliminary paragraph the evangelist recorded the double witness of John the prophet, and John the apostle, the messages of hope and realization, respectively.
The final verse announces the evangel, and constitutes a key to all that is to follow. The evident need of man is the vision of God. This he lacks. It is granted to him through the Son Who speaks from the bosom of the Father.
The main division of the gospel deals with the Word as the manifestation of God in time. It has three sections - manifestation in the world, manifestation to His own, manifestation by the Cross.
The manifestation in the world is introduced by a prologue, giving the account of the ministry of John the Baptist, and of the gathering of the first disciples of Jesus. In response to the inquiry of the rulers, the herald directed their attention to Another than himself, identifying Him as the Lamb of God, which description, to be appreciated at its true value, must be heard with the ear of the Eastern. The Lamb was suggestive of sacrifice, and this is emphatically declared in the statement, "Who taketh away the sin of the world."
There immediately follows the account of the gathering to the Lord of His first disciples. Men are seen finding the One for Whom men everywhere are waiting. They came seeking Messiah, and found that He had already found them.
We now approach the actual manifestation in the world. Yet here again John grouped some initial signs and wonders in order to introduce the more formal showing. This grouping is full of artistic and spiritual beauty. The matters dealt with have to do with life and light, and move in an interesting circle. The first sign was that of life in its creative power, exercised at Cana, in turning water into wine. This was followed by the wonder of light manifested in Jerusalem upon the great subject of worship, first in the cleansing of the temple as the House of God, and in the interests of Gentile worshippers who had been excluded by the traffic established in the courts; and then in the instruction of a man, honest, sincere, and inquiring, as to the deeper meanings of the Kingdom of God, and the possibility of human entrance thereto. After this first sign and wonder at Jerusalem, the evangelist introduced the double witness of John the prophet, and of himself, John the apostle. The former was the last voice of the old dispensation, and constitutes a dignified recessional, culminating in the declaration, "He must increase; but I must decrease." The latter was the experimental declaration of the new, and constitutes a triumphal processional, ending with the declaration, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Then sweeping on in his circle, and so returning toward the point from which he started, he recorded the wonder of light in the spiritual illumination of a woman in Samaria, and her instruction as to the deepest meaning of worship; and returning to Cana described the second sign which revealed life operating in restoration. Whereas in the first division of the gospel the cosmic relations of Christ are set forth in their voidest reaches, in this introduction to the formal showing, His relation to human life and history is set forth.
The formal showing consists of the grouping of such works and words as show the Word manifesting God in life, and light, and love.
The manifestation of life is threefold. It is first shown as having its source in God, and mediatorially in His Son, Who is the Word. This is first set forth by the account of the healing of the man at the pool. On the Sabbath day Jesus arrested and healed a man who for thirty and eight years had been in the grip of infirmity. This action was immediately followed by controversy, in the course of which Christ claimed that what He had done had been of the nature of co-operation with His Father, Whose Sabbath had been broken by man's sin. This claim stirred up their opposition, because in it He made Himself equal with God In a discourse resulting from their criticism Jesus lifted the controversy into the highest realm as He declared His right to work this miracle on the Sabbath to be that of His fellowship with His Father, as Source of life. The key-verses of the discourse are the twenty-first and the twenty-sixth.
John recorded His fourth and fifth signs, the first that of the feeding of the multitude, and the second that of the stilling of the storm as the disciples crossed the sea to the other side. The outcome of the sign of the feeding of the multitude was the great discourse on the bread of life, in which rebuking them for their eagerness concerning material sustenance. He declared Himself to be that Bread of life, out of heaven, which was necessary for the sustenance of life eternal. The sign of the stilling of the storm was for the disciples only, and was granted to them in an hour when in all probability they were both perplexed and disappointed that He had not consented to be made King by popular acclaim on the basis of His power to feed the multitudes with material bread. They were shown thereby His power over Nature. The claim of Christ to be the Bread of life gave rise to perplexity in the minds both of the Jews, and of His own disciples, each of which stated their difficulties, and Christ dealt with them in turn. The teaching was on so high a level as to sift the ranks even of the disciples, many going back to walk no more with Him.
In the next section the Word is revealed as the Satisfaction of life. The central declaration is that of Christ's invitation on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, in which He challenged all human need under the figure of thirst, and claimed to be able perfectly to satisfy it. The effect of the manifestation is seen in the disputes and divisions occurring as the result of His teaching. Through all this the positive theme is developed as Jesus answered questions and corrected misapprehensions.
The record now deals with the Word as light. This section is introduced by a paragraph universally conceded to have been added by a later hand than that of John. In set discourse Jesus definitely claimed to be Light, maintaining His claim in the controversy which followed. This claim was then illustrated by the introduction of the account of the miracle wrought on the blind man. Jesus is recorded to have repeated His claim before bestowing on him his sight. The gift of sight was in itself symbolic of the mission of the Word in the midst of the darkness of human unbelief. The whole of the subsequent controversy gathered round the same idea, and the development in the testimony of the man to Christ is a remarkable illustration of the illumination of spiritual life by the Word of light.
Finally, in the formal showing, we have the revelation of love. There is the closest connection between the subject of the section and that of the preceding one. In the former a man was excommunicated by the rulers of the Jews because of his truthful testimony to what Christ had done for him. Being so excommunicated Christ received him, and accepted his worship. In the scheme of revelation His discourse concerning the new community of believing souls is recorded, and in this He is seen in the ultimate revelation of His love, under the tender and beautiful figure of the Shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep, first in the death by which He delivers them from the marauding wolf; and secondly in that infinite mystery by which through such death He takes the life again, and communicates it to them. The highest and final expression of love is found in this teaching, and the supreme declaration concerning the nature of God is made by Christ when He declared that His Father loved Him because He laid down His life, that He might take it again. This teaching was naturally followed by further controversy, in the course of which Jesus declared that the final argument for those who did not know Him personally, was that of His works.
John now recorded the seventh and final sign in the manifestation in the world. It contains all the elements of love, of light, and of life; and makes a profound appeal, in that these essential things of God are seen in relation to individuals and family life. The love is declared in the midst of circumstances which seem to contradict it. The home at Bethany had ever been open to Jesus; and one of the family circle, the much-beloved brother, lay sick unto death. When appealed to, Jesus did not seem to respond with any earnestness, and yet in this connection the affirmation of love was made. Then as He went with His disciples toward the scene of sorrow, those who went with Him are seen walking in the light, and thus triumphing over appearances. Finally, at the grave of Lazarus the life had its most remarkable revelation in the world in His words, "I am the resurrection" and in His work as He raised Lazarus.
The section dealing with the manifestation in the world ends with an epilogue, which gathers up in a series of movements the results following the ministry of Jesus. The effects upon His foes were seen in the plotting of the priests, and His inability to walk openly among the Jews. The effects upon His friends were seen as they gathered about Him at the social board, and were superlatively set forth in the anointing spikenard of Mary. The general issues among His own people, the Jews, were revealed in the curiosity which made them crowd to see Lazarus, and the fact that many of them believed on Him; and, finally, in the popular acclaim of the Galilseans as He rode into the midst of the hostile city of Jerusalem. Moreover, the interest of the Gentiles was seen beginning, as the Greeks came to Him, and He revealed the fact that it was necessary for them also to find Him by the way of the Cross. These illustrations and results are followed by a summary. In that summary John first recorded the broad issues of the manifestation in the world. On the one hand, blind unbelief in fulfilment of the word spoken by Isaiah; and on the other, fearful belief on the part of many who loved the glory of men more than the glory of God. Thus the epilogue is linked to the prologue. He then chronicled what perhaps were the last words uttered in the way of public teaching and appeal by Jesus.
The second movement in the manifestation of God by the Word now commences. In it are recorded the works and words in which Jesus dealt exclusively with His own. The essential revelations are the same, but they are now made to that inner circle of believing souls who are able to understand more perfectly the Divine manifestation, and consequently they touch a profounder depth.
The first section is pre-eminently an unveiling of His love. This took the form of a supreme act of lowly service. Jesus laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel - that is to say, He adopted the very badge of slavery. It was the most marvellous revelation of the love of God expressing itself in terms of service. Following this action He gave His disciples instruction concerning the perfected union between Himself and them, based upon love, and expressed in mutual service. In this connection occurred the solemn act of the exclusion of Judas. Love then proceeded to speak to them in terms calculated to help them in view of the fact that He was about to leave them. This discourse was thrice interrupted by the inquiries of certain of His disciples.
The next section has pre-eminently to do with light, as it would be granted to His own by the coming of the Paraclete, consequent upon the completion of the work of the Word. The gift of the Spirit would be bestowed by the Father in answer to the intercession of Christ, and His office would be that of interpreting the things of the Christ. Thus, through the going of Jesus, the disciples would pass into new light as well as into new realization of love.
The last movement in the farewell discourses has to do with life. As in dealing with love He spoke of Himself; and with light, of the Spirit; so now in dealing with life He speaks of Himself perfected in His own by the Spirit. The new union is illustrated by the figure of the vine, and He emphasized the conditions upon which the disciples would become fruitful. The truth thus symbolized of the relation of the disciples to Himself in the bond of life He then spoke of in greater detail as to its purpose, its law, its relation, and its appointment; and finally communicated the value of this relationship for the world. Under the law of love His own would have fellowship with Him in suffering, and fellowship with the Spirit in witness. This led on to a declaration of the work of the Spirit in the world; and consequently of the work of the Spirit in equipping the disciples for the fulfilment of their work in the world. These final discourses to His own ended with His gracious declaration that the sorrow of His going would soon be turned into new joy; a summary of the meaning of His mission; and a last word of warning.
Following the discourses we have the great prayer of the Word. This again follows the threefold line of life, of light, and of love. The essential fact of life is unfolded as He spoke of His relation to His Father, and uttered His own petition. The fact of light is revealed as He spoke of His relation to the men by whom He was surrounded, and uttered His petitions for them. The fact of love is supremely evident in His prayer for the Church, which also thrills with His care for the world. He prayed for the unity of His own, that the world might believe, and that the world might know; and for their ultimate perfecting by being with Him and beholding His glory in the ages to come.
The final movement in the manifestation of God by the Word describes that manifestation by the Cross. It is first an unveiling of love, deserted and yet faithful. Love is now seen at its mightiest as it proceeds in strength through weakness. Voluntarily, and yet with the movement of a Conqueror, He bends to suffering. All this is revealed in the story of the betrayal, and of the two trial scenes. While the foes of the Word opposed, the friends failed; and Pilate, neither friend nor foe, sacrificed justice in the interests of self- preservation.
At the centre of the manifestation by the Cross light is eclipsed, and yet flashes forth in new radiance. The darkness gathers as men crucify, while yet the attitude of the Word, and the two sayings from the Cross chronicled by John, suggest dawning rather than eclipse, victory rather than defeat.
The final fact in the manifestation by the Cross is that of life laid down and yet thus given. The pent-up suffering of the long hours found vent in one brief and fearful cry, "I thirst"; and the victory in the mightiest of all cries, "It is finished." In sublimity and simplicity John chronicled the most stupendous fact in human history in the words, "They crucified Him." There is no detailed description, and again the only fitting attitude is that of the subdued spirit, which, in consciousness of the terribleness of the scene, shuts it out from all curious contemplation. Sorrow is crowned as to its measure, for never was such before or since; as to its value, for the cup there drained to the dregs will for evermore overflow with the elixir of a new life for a death-doomed race. Exquisitely beautiful is the story of His burial. After the accomplishment of the redemptive work, God suffered no rude hand to touch even the dead body of the Man of manifestation. Two secret disciples paid the last tender offices of respect to their Lord. Joseph found Him a grave in a garden, and Nicodemus brought wealth of spices for His entombment.
The last division of the gospel is brief but full of suggestion and value. As the first division declared the way by which the Word came from ages past into time, this reveals the abiding conditions of the Word toward His own in all the ages to come. Abiding life is manifest in the empty tomb and the living Lord. Abiding light is seen in His appearances to His disciples, and His patience with Thomas. Abiding love has manifestation which touches the simplest and sublimest things of human life. Its interest in material necessity is seen in the breakfast provided for toil-tired fishermen. Its provision for all spiritual need is seen in its dealing with Peter. John closed as he began. His first statement concerned the eternal Word. His last declares that words can never express all the facts, even of His tabernacling in the flesh. Thus as at the beginning we stood in wonder in the presence of the bewildering eternities, at the close we stand in amazement in view of the infinitudes which have yet been condensed into manifestation in a Person upon Whom we may look, to Whom we may listen, Whom indeed we may handle, and yet Who for ever defies any to say all that is to be said concerning Him.
Part A: FROM EVERLASTING - John 1:1-1:18
A.1. The Word Essentially - John 1:1-1:14
- The two Relations - 1:1 and 1:14
- The two Creations - 1:2-1:13
A.2. The Witnesses - John 1:15-1:17
- The Old. John, Prophet - 1:15
- The New. John, Apostle - 1:16-1:17
A.3. The Word Evangelically - John 1:18
Part B: GOD MANIFEST - John 1:19-19:42
B.1. In the World - John 1:19-12:50
- Prologue - 1:19-1:51
- The Manifestation - 2:1-11:46
- Epilogue - 11:47-12:50
B.2. To His Own - John 13:1-17:26
- Love - 13:1-14:15
- Light - 14:16-14:31
- Life - 15:1-16:33
- The Prayer of the Word - 17:1-17:26
B.3. By the Cross - John 18:1-19:42
- Love: deserted and faithful - 18:1-19:16
- Light: eclipsed and dawning - 19:17-19:30
- Life: laid down and given - 19:31-19:42
Part C: TO EVERLASTING - John 20:1-21:25
C.1. Abiding Life - John 20:1-20:18
- The Tomb Empty - 20:1-20:10
- The Lord Alive - 20:11-20:18
C.2. Abiding Light - John 20:19-20:31
- The Disciples - 20:19-20:23
- Thomas - 20:24-20:29
- Unrecorded Signs - 20:30-20:31
C.3. Abiding Love - John 21:1-21:25
- Breakfast - 21:1-21:14
- Love Triumphant - 21:15-21:23
- Unrecorded Deeds - 21:24-21:25
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.