Lesson 1 - The Public Ministry of Jesus Christ

Lesson One: The Public Ministry of Jesus Christ

(Chapters 1-12)

The Gospel According to John does not begin with Jesus' birth.  It begins, "In the beginning...."  Then it bypasses the childhood of Jesus to the ministries of John the Baptist and Christ.  In this lesson we will examine three things: the titles of Jesus, the signs performed by Jesus, and believing in Jesus.

 

The Titles of Jesus

Many descriptive titles are given to Jesus in John's gospel.  In our study we will examine two of them which appear to be the most important.

 

THE SON

As you remember, John wrote His gospel "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God...."  It's interesting that Jesus never referred to Himself as "the Son of God" in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, the first three gospels.  In this gospel He does attribute that title to Himself three times.  See John 9:35; 10:36; 11:4.  According to John 19:7 the Jews, who demanded that Jesus be crucified, understood that the Lord claimed to be the Son of God.  At the grave of Lazarus her sister, Martha, expressed her faith in Jesus saying, "I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God...."  If He wasn't the Son of God, He most certainly would have corrected her, but He didn't.

The most conspicuous title of Jesus in John's gospel is simply "the Son," without any modifying phrase.  In John 5:19-23 several times we find "the Son" references.  (How many references can you find in these verses?)  The original Greek word translated "the Son" is huios.  John uses this word only for Jesus.  The King James Version of the Bible refers to Christians as "the sons of God."  But the apostle John always employs a different Greek word, tekna, for Christians.  This word is more accurately translated "children" instead, as is the case in the New King James Version.  For an example, see John 1:12.

John refers to God as "Father" more than 100 times, which is more than all the other gospels combined.  It is obvious that "the Son" and "the Father" are correlative ideas.  Jesus always says "your Father," or "the Father," or "My Father," but never as "Our Father."  The Son of God bore a unique relationship with the Father.  This is quite clear in John 20:17, where the resurrected Savior says to Mary Magdalene, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God."

 

GOD

In John 1:1 we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  Much confusion reigns among theologians and philosophers regarding the meaning of "the Word."  The student will be spared the ordeal of learning useless explanations, which appear to be many.  One thing is clear.  Jesus is the Word.  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  John 1:14.  We can learn three truths about our Lord Jesus Christ from John 1:1.  The Son of God was the Word, who is coeternal with the Father, coexistent with the Father, and coequal with the Father.

John 1:18 may give meaning to "the Word," where we read, "No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."  In other words, Jesus is the Word who has made the Father known.  He has revealed God.  He is the Word through whom we can come to know the Father.  Do you want to know what God is like?  Look at His Son, who said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."  John 14:9.

Jesus claimed to be the great I AM of the Old Testament.  This is important.  In Exodus 3 Moses was commissioned to return to Egypt to lead out the children of Israel who were in bondage there.  Moses asked God how he should answer the children of Israel when they ask what His name is.  "And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'  And He said, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"  Exodus 3:14.  In John 8:58 Jesus said to the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I AM."  They understood that He claimed to be God, because "they took up stones to throw at Him."  Jesus made a similar claim to deity in John 4:26; 18:5, 8.

Here are seven I AM statements of Jesus in the gospel of John.

  • The bread of life.  John 6:35.  "And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'"
  • The light of the world.  John 8:12.  "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"
  • The door.  John 10:7.  "Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.'"
  • The good shepherd.  John 10:11.  "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.'"
  • The resurrection and the life.  John 11:25.  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'"
  • The way, the truth, and the life.  John 14:6.  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"
  • The true vine.  John 15:1.  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser."

Anyone who made the claims that Jesus did was either crazy, lying, deceived, or telling the truth.  Take your pick.  Do you think that Jesus was insane?  Lying?  Deceived?  Or all that He claimed to be?

Here's an interesting assignment.  Read the first chapter of John, and list all of the descriptive titles that you can find, which belong to the Lord Jesus.  Compare your list with the list at the end of this lesson.

 

The Signs of Jesus

In the Bible four different words are used to describe miracles.  Three words---"miracles, wonders, and signs"---are found in one verse: Acts 2:22.  The fourth word is "works," as recorded in John 10:32.  The Greek word for miracles is the word from which we get the English word dynamite.  There is always a demonstration of power.  This word does not appear in John's gospel.  A wonder is something done that leaves observers in awe, saying, "Wow!"  Works is a more general term, something where the supernatural appears natural for Jesus.  A sign is performed with a purpose.  Some significance is assigned to it.  Again you should remember that "these (signs) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."  John 20:31.

Most Bible courses mention seven miraculous signs that demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Son of God with supernatural power.  These miracles are listed below with Scripture references.

  • Turning water into wine.  2:2-11.
  • Healing the official's son.  4:46-54.
  • Healing the impotent man.  5:1-15.
  • Feeding the five thousand.  6:1-14.
  • Walking on the water.  6:15-21.
  • Healing the blind man.  9:1-41.
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead.  11:1-44.
  • However, there is an eighth miracle that is often overlooked by some Bible teachers.  It happens to be the most amazing miracle of all...His resurrection!  Jesus said, "The reason my Father loves Me is that I lay down My life---only to take it up again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from My Father."  John 10:17, 18.

  • The resurrection of Jesus.  20:1-29.

 

Believing in Jesus

The signs were written that men would believe in Jesus and have eternal life.  When Jesus changed water to wine, we read that "His disciples believed in Him."  John 2:11.  As a result of the healing of the nobleman's son, "He himself believed, and his whole household."  John 4:53.  At the raising of Lazarus "many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him."  John 11:45.

But just what does it mean to believe in Jesus?

 

A KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS

Joel 2:32 is a promise of salvation in the Old Testament.  "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved...."  On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter quotes this verse.  See Acts 2:21.  The apostle Paul also makes reference to this verse in his letter to the church at Rome, writing, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?"  You cannot believe what you do not know.

After Jesus healed the man who had been blind, He sought him in the temple and asked, "'Do you believe in the Son of God?'  He answered and said, 'Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?'  And Jesus said to him, 'You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.'  Then he said, 'Lord, I believe!'  And he worshipped Him."  John 9:35-38.

Faith in Jesus begins with a witness or testimony.  In John's gospel at least 11 witnesses testified of the Lord Jesus:

  • The Samaritan woman.  4:39.
  • Jesus Himself.  5:31.
  • John the Baptist.  5:32-35.
  • The works of Jesus.  5:36.
  • The Father.  5:37, 38.
  • The Scriptures.  5:39.
  • Moses.  5:45, 46.
  • Individuals who saw Lazarus raised from the dead.  12:17.
  • The Holy Spirit.  15:26.
  • Jesus' disciples.  15:27.
  • The apostle John.  21:24.

Again, the question is repeated.  "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?"  A knowledge of Jesus is basic to saving faith.

 

THE MEANING OF BELIEVING

Some parallel lines in the Gospel According to John shed light on what it means to believe in Jesus.  In John 1:11, 12 it is written, "He (Jesus) came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."  Here believing is equated with receiving.  Evangelists often preach about "accepting Christ."  You cannot find this expression in the gospel of John or anywhere else in the Bible.  Those who speak of accepting Christ are simply paraphrasing the first part of John 1:12.

John 6:35 sets forth another pair of parallel statements.  "And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life.  He who come to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'"  Coming to Christ is mentioned with believing in Him.  To come to Christ is to believe.  Jesus put it this way in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."  By contrast one of the saddest verses in the Bible is John 5:39, 40.  "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life and these are they which testify of Me.  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."  Jesus spoke these tragic words to Jews who were students of the Law, but refused to come to Him.  They willfully rejected the Son of God.

Be aware that a mental acceptance of something as true is not in itself saving faith.  For example, one word synonymous with belief is credence, which suggest mere mental acceptance of something apart from conviction or trust.  Churches are full of people who recite the Apostles' Creed (or some other statement of faith), giving credence to what they say, but without a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many have never accepted Him as their Savior.  They have never willfully come to Him.  They have never believed in Him.

 

THE OBJECT OF FAITH

Today Christians are His witnesses, empowered by the Spirit, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.  He is the object of our faith.  In other words we believe in Him.

We become children of God by believing in the Son of God.  John 1:12.  Believers in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16.  We are saved by faith in Christ.  John 10:9.

Our eternal salvation resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.

By way of Illustration, faith may be compared to eating utensils like a fork or spoon.  They provide no nourishment in themselves.  However, they are the means by which our daily bread is brought into our mouths.  It is the food which brings life, but the fork or spoon brings the food.  Faith is the fork, the means by which we receive the Savior, our Lord Jesus.

Some boldly preach, "Have faith!"  But not just any old faith will do.  For those who wish to travel to Philadelphia, it is not enough to say, "Take a bus!"  Not any bus will do.  For those who desire to be saved and go to heaven, John 3:36 says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life...."  Our faith is in the Savior.  No other faith will do.

 

 

Titles in Chapter One of John's Gospel

The Word.  1:1.

God.  1:1.

The Light.  1:7-9.

The only begotten Son.  1:14, 18.

Jesus.  1:17, 45.

The Lord1:23.

The Lamb of God.  1:29, 36.

A Man.  1:30.

The Son of God.  1:34, 49.

Rabbi (Teacher).  1:38, 49.

Messiah (Christ).  1:41.

Son of Joseph.  1:45.

The King of Israel.  1:49.

The Son of Man.  1:51.

 

Lesson 2 - The Private Ministry of Jesus Christ

 
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