- John the Baptist: John was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25;39-45;57-80). He was a miracle baby in that God opened up the womb of Elizabeth who was past menopause. Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus. John was clearly sent from God to prepare the way for the Messiah – Jesus.
- Witness: This was a legal concept both in the Greek and Jewish worlds. Isaiah spoke of the people of God testifying/witnessing to God’s redemption during the end times.
- Light and Darkness: The images of light and darkness were commonly used in Jewish culture (Qumran Community – Dead Sea Scrolls as an example) to talk about good and evil, truth and falsehood.
- The world did not recognize him: The people of John’s day would have God in their midst (Jesus) and not recognize him. In Jewish tradition (not Scriptures) there was an idea that God had revealed the law to all the nations, but only the Jews accepted it. In the case of Jesus, all the nations, including Israel, the chosen people, would not receive or recognize who Jesus really was. Thus, all nations are under judgment for sin and all nations are in need of a redeemer. This idea that even the Jews would miss God’s revelation in Christ would be startling to John’s readers from a Jewish background.
- Spiritual birth/descent: In contrast to the idea in Israel that one’s status before God came from one’s ethnic/Jewish heritage as a member of the chosen people, John is changing the landscape with the idea that it is not human descent, but spiritual descent from rebirth through Christ that will be the deciding factor in one’s position before God.
- The Word: The “logos” in Greek refers to Jesus who John makes very clear is God, existed from eternity, was not created.
- Became Flesh: Jesus, God Himself, takes on human form, but he is not created as He has always existed.
- Dwelt among us: This expression is used of the tabernacle in the Old Testament as the Tabernacle represented God’s presence to the people of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness. Jesus is presenting God to the people of Israel by being physically present among them as God incarnate.
- Jesus’ Glory: Moses reflected God’s glory after meeting with God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33:20), but nothing compares to the glory of Jesus who is God Himself.
- John defers to Jesus: As a prophet, John the Baptist points to Jesus as God, the Messiah and seeks to decrease in status among the people so that people can turn to Jesus. He is the one prophesied in Isaiah 40:3 who calls people to get ready for the Messiah.
- Normally younger defers to older: In ancient culture, the younger person (Jesus in this case) would typically defer to the older (John the Baptist), but it is clear in this case that Jesus, being the eternal God, trumps John the Baptist in actual eternal age.
- Grace and Truth: God has always displayed and communicated both grace and truth throughout His relationship with His people as seen in Exodus 34: 6, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” However, the fullest expression of grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ.
- What do you know about John the Baptist?
- What is exceptional about John the Baptist’s character and message?
- How does the apostle John use the image of light in this passage?
- What was the world’s response to Jesus?
- What was the response of the nation of Israel to Jesus? Why would this be shocking to John’s readers?
- What does it mean to “receive” someone? Describe
- How do we receive Jesus?
- How do receiving and believing go hand in hand?
- What does it mean to be born of God and called a “child of God”?
- What people are not children of God? How does this conflict with the notion that all people on earth are God’s children?
- What does it mean that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”? Ponder that thought for a moment and describe the magnitude of this.
- How does someone full of “grace and truth” act and talk?
- How does Jesus supersede Moses, the prophet of the Old Testament?
- How would you answer the question, “How can someone come to know God?”
- Have you been born again and become a child of God? If not, you may consider praying with the people in your group to repent of your sins and surrender your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior.