1 The Word of life
Jesus Christ fully expresses God’s mind
1 What I’m about to tell you is the most exciting story, the most dramatic event, in the whole of human history. We begin before time itself began, in eternity. I know it’s difficult to think of a time before the world was created, but we need to try to move beyond our own limited thinking back to a time before time itself began. We are not the centre of life; God is and he has revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ. We need to look beyond the physical dimension of what we can see to the deeper reality of God himself.
Before time began, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, already existed. In fact, he has always existed and has always been in the immediate presence of God the Father. Christ powerfully expresses and reveals God’s thoughts, his mind, just as a word clearly expresses and reveals a person’s thought. Christ himself, fully God, is the Word of God. 2 I cannot say it too often, Christ himself, fully God but distinct from the Father, has always existed from all eternity in the immediate joyful presence of God.
Jesus Christ lights up all humanity
3 Everything – just stop and think, every single thing – was made by Christ, the Word of God. He is the One who acts for, and with, the Father. He himself was not created; he existed from eternity. Nothing that has been made was made without him. See how central he is to everything. He is the reason behind all we can see and all we cannot see. Christ is the explanation of all things, the key to life itself. 4 The full, overflowing life of God has always been present in the Word of God. He gives and sustains every kind of life, both physical and spiritual. That life has lit up all humanity. Just as the Word of God, Christ, gives life, so he also gives light, revealing to us what God is like and how he wants us to live. 5 This light continues to shine out even in this world’s darkness, even though people refuse to accept the light. This light keeps on shining as brightly as ever: the darkness cannot put it out or even dim it in the slightest.
John came to declare the truth about Jesus Christ
6 Now, you may be asking why this is relevant to today. Let me tell you. A man, John (later known as John the Baptist), was sent by God. 7 He was entrusted by God to declare the truth about what he saw, heard and experienced of the light that is Christ. John did this so that what he said might bring everyone to know Christ personally, to trust in him for themselves. 8 Let me underline this: John wasn’t the light; his role was simply to come as a witness to the light, Jesus Christ.
The incredible privilege of becoming God’s own children
9 This real and perfect light – Christ himself, who gives light to every person who has ever lived – was coming into the world. 10 Although he lived in the world and the world came into being through him, the world refused to acknowledge him. 11 Even when he came to his own people, they didn’t welcome him. 12 Some people, however, did welcome him. All who simply accepted him for themselves – those who trusted in him, all he is and all he has done – could enjoy the incredible privilege of becoming God’s children. Just think about that: God’s own children, personally affirmed by God himself. 13 This means they don’t owe their origin to human descent or decision, but only to God himself.
Jesus Christ made his home among us
14 All this leads up to the most dramatic event in the whole of history. The Word of God, Christ himself, took on a real human body. Although we cannot understand it, he was fully God and fully man. He chose to make his home among us, even among the likes of you and me, so identifying himself fully with us and personally affirming our humanity. And we (and I include myself here) have gazed in wonder on his radiant glory. Surely our only fitting response is to pause to worship and adore him. He is the unique Son of the Father. His life was filled with love for those who do not deserve his love. He fully expresses all that the Father is; he is the reality underlying all things.
The new era of grace and truth has come in Jesus Christ
15 John gave evidence of these truths about Christ. He declared that the One he spoke about, Christ, was far greater than he was, because Christ existed long before he (John) was born. 16 We have all constantly drawn on the ever-fresh complete resources of Christ’s love. That love supplies all we need and sustains us moment by moment. Such love is like the waves on the seashore: it keeps on flowing. We don’t deserve this love in the slightest.
17 Let’s stand back and put all this in the range of human history. The law, which showed us right and wrong, was given in the old era through Moses. That era paved the way for the new era of grace and truth that has come in Jesus Christ, who met all the demands of the law. He can actually get to the root of what is wrong in our lives and help us, showing us the real way to live.
18 God himself cannot be seen by anyone. However, Jesus Christ, God’s unique Son – who is fully God and is in the closest possible relationship with the Father – has made him perfectly clear to us.
John the Baptist as a witness to Jesus Christ
19 This is the record of the evidence John gave to the priests and Levites who were sent by certain Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to investigate what was going on. They asked John who he claimed to be. 20 He had nothing to hide; he acknowledged freely that he was not the promised Messiah.
21 ‘Who are you, then? Are you Elijah come back from the dead?’ they asked him.
He replied, ‘No, not at all.’
‘So are you the Prophet that Moses referred to?’
‘No,’ he insisted.
22 They kept on asking him, ‘So who on earth are you, then? Tell us so that we can report back to the leaders who sent us. Stop keeping your identity secret.’
23 Finally, John replied to them, using some words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘I’m only a voice, the voice of a herald crying out in the desert, announcing the coming of the king: “Make way for the Lord.” Are you listening and getting ready for his coming?’
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent to investigate John thoroughly 25 asked him, ‘If you’re not the Messiah, Elijah or the Prophet, why then do you baptise people? On what basis do you have the authority to do that?’
26 John replied, ‘I baptise simply with water, but One has already come among you whom you have not recognised. 27 He comes after me. I acknowledge I am nothing compared with him. I’m not worthy even to perform the least important duties of his humblest servant.’
28 All these things took place in Bethany, east of the River Jordan, where John was baptising people at that time.
‘Look who’s coming: the Lamb of God!’
29 The next day, John saw Jesus approaching. John called out, ‘Look who’s coming! There’s the Lamb of God. He’s the One who takes on himself the sin of the whole world by becoming a perfect sacrifice for sin. He is going to remove the burden of sin from all humanity. We deserve to die because of our sin, but he gives up his life for us. He bears all the guilt of our sin so that we can be set free from our sin and be forgiven. 30 This is the Person I was talking about when I said, “The One who comes after me is far greater than me, because he existed long before I was born.” 31 There was a time when I didn’t know who Jesus really was, but the whole purpose of my life and work, why I came and baptised with water, was that he might be made known to his people Israel. I want to point to Christ, the Lamb of God, whom you now see.’
32 John continued to declare the truth about what he saw: ‘I watched the Holy Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and settle on Jesus, continuing to rest on him. 33 As I just said, I didn’t know who Jesus really was – that he was the Messiah – but the One who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and continue to rest is the One who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” 34 I have seen him with my own eyes and gladly confirm the truth: he is God’s Chosen One, the Son of God.’
Jesus’ first followers
35 The next day, John was with two of his followers. 36 When John saw Jesus walking by, he called out, ‘Look, it’s the Lamb of God.’
37 When the two followers heard what John said, they immediately went along with Jesus. 38 Jesus turned round to them, saw them coming after him and asked them, ‘What are you looking for? What do you really want?’
They replied, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying at the moment? We want to spend some time with you to get to know you more.’
39 Jesus answered, ‘Come with me right now and you will see. You can find out for yourselves.’
So they went with him and saw where he was staying. They enjoyed his company so much that they spent the rest of the day with him, from about 4 o’clock in the afternoon onwards.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two men who heard what John said and went with Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew then did was to find his brother Simon. When Andrew saw Peter, he told him, ‘We’ve found the Messiah (that is, the Christ).’ 42 And Andrew brought Peter to Jesus.
Jesus focused his attention on Peter and said, ‘I know who you are. You’re Simon, son of John. I’m going to call you by a new name, Cephas.’ (When translated from the Aramaic, this name is Peter, which means ‘rock’.)
‘Come and meet him for yourself’
43 The next day, as Jesus was getting ready to go to Galilee, he found Philip and called him directly, ‘Come with me.’
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and couldn’t hide his excitement. He told him, ‘Nathanael, we’ve found the One the Law of Moses and the Old Testament prophets wrote about, Jesus, son of Joseph. He comes from Nazareth.’
46 ‘Nazareth?’ Nathanael asked, expressing his scepticism. ‘You must be joking! Can anything good come from somewhere so obscure?’
Philip invited Nathanael confidently, ‘Come and meet him for yourself.’
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said about him, ‘Here comes an Israelite with absolute integrity. That is a rare sight indeed!’
48 Rather than thanking Jesus for the compliment, Nathanael asked Jesus, ‘How do you know me and the kind of person I am?’
Jesus answered, ‘Even before Philip called you, while you were sitting under the fig tree, I was watching you.’
49 Amazed, Nathanael spontaneously declared his faith, ‘Teacher, you surely are the Son of God, the king of Israel.’
50 Jesus replied, ‘Because I told you I was watching you under the fig tree, you believe. But you will see even greater things than that.’ 51 And he added, ‘One day you will see an open door into heaven. Jacob saw God’s angels going up and down a ladder reaching into heaven. I am telling you the truth: the way to heaven has come here and now by the Son of Man.’
 Isaiah 40:3.