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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
John

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21

Book Overview - John

by Donald C. Fleming

INTRODUCTION TO JOHN

An associate of Jesus

Early tradition and biblical evidence indicate that 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' was John the son of Zebedee, and that this John was the author of John's Gospel (John 21:20; John 21:24). Although the other Gospel writers mention John by name often, his name does not appear in John's Gospel. This is no doubt because the writer follows the common practice of using the descriptive name by which he was known rather than his real name (John 13:23; John 19:26; John 21:7). His use of the name may also have indicated his gratitude for all that Jesus had done for him.

The family of John lived in a town on the shores of Lake Galilee. He and his brother James worked with their father Zebedee as fishermen, along with Peter and Andrew, brothers from another local family (Matthew 4:18-21; Luke 5:10). John's mother, Salome, appears to have been the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

Both pairs of brothers seem to have responded to the preaching of John the Baptist and looked expectantly for the promised Saviour. When Jesus arrived, they were among the first to join him (Matthew 4:22; John 1:35-40). All four were later included in Jesus' group of twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2), and Peter, James and John developed into an inner circle that was especially close to Jesus (Mark 5:37; Mark 9:2; Mark 14:33).

Jesus called James and John 'sons of thunder', probably because they were sometimes impatient and over-zealous (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:49-56). As Peter became increasingly more prominent among the twelve, James and John tried to outdo him by seeking from Jesus the top two positions in his kingdom. The only guarantee Jesus gave them was of coming persecution (Matthew 20:20-28). By the time of Jesus' ascension, Peter and John were clearly the two leading apostles (Luke 22:8; John 19:26-27; John 20:2-9; John 21:20).

A church leader

In the early days of the church, Peter and John provided the main leadership and bore the main persecution (Acts 1:13; Acts 3:1-11; Acts 4:13-20; Acts 5:40). They were among the first to show that the church must accept non-Jews equally with Jews (Acts 8:14-17; Acts 8:25) and they encouraged the evangelization of the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9).

The Bible contains little additional information about John's ministry. Non-biblical writings indicate that he lived to a very old age (cf. John 21:20-23) and spent most of his later years in and around Ephesus, from where he wrote his Gospel and Letters. He was known as 'the elder' (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1) and has been traditionally regarded as the writer of Revelation. If that is so, he probably spent his final years as a prisoner on the island of Patmos, off the coast from Ephesus (Revelation 1:9).

Battle with false teachers

Churches of the Ephesus region had long been troubled by false teaching (cf. Acts 20:17; Acts 20:29-30; Revelation 2:2). The teaching was an early form of Gnosticism, a heresy that became very destructive during the second century. The Gnostics tried to explain some of the mysteries of the universe - such as the relation between good and evil, spirit and matter, God and people - by combining Christian belief with pagan philosophy. Because they denied there could be a perfect union between things that appeared to be opposites, some denied that Jesus was fully a human being, others that he was fully God.

John firmly opposed both these errors. But his writings were more than merely a defence against false teaching. He had a positive purpose, and that was to lead people to faith in Christ, so that they might experience the full and eternal life that Christ made possible (John 20:31; John 1:4; John 3:15; John 4:14; John 5:24; John 6:27; John 8:12; John 10:10; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 17:3; see also 1 John 1:1-3; 1 John 5:13). (For the relation of John to the other Gospels see earlier section, 'The Writing of the Gospels'.)

The uniqueness of Jesus

From the outset of his Gospel, John asserted that Jesus was divine (John 1:1) and human (John 1:14). He was eternal (John 1:2), he created all things (John 1:3) and he came from the heavenly world to reveal God to the human race (John 1:18; John 3:13; John 5:18-19; John 6:62; John 8:23; John 8:26; John 14:9; John 14:11). He was also fully human. He had a material body with normal physical characteristics (John 4:6-7; John 9:6; John 12:3; John 19:34), and he experienced normal human emotions (John 11:35; John 12:27; John 19:26-27).

If the heretical Gnostics of the AD 90s had trouble accepting Jesus' uniqueness, so did the orthodox Jews of the AD 30s. John's method of teaching the confused people of Ephesus was to recount the stories and teachings of Jesus. He had many stories of Jesus available to him (John 21:25), but he chose to use only a few. He did not just recount incidents from Jesus' life, but showed the significance of the incidents. For this reason he called them 'signs' (John 20:30; John 2:11; John 4:54; John 6:14; John 7:31; John 12:18; John 12:37).

Jesus' signs showed not only that he was the Messiah, but also that he was the Son of God (John 20:31). The Jews considered it blasphemy that a person who had grown up among them should claim to be God (John 6:42; John 8:53-59; John 10:33; John 19:7). As a result, the signs that Jesus performed were usually followed by long debates with the Jews (e.g. the miracle in John 5:1-15 followed by the debate in 5:16-47; the miracle in John 9:1-12 followed by the debate 9:13-10:38). These and other debates that Jesus had with the Jews provided John with much of his teaching material. He used the actual words of Jesus to teach Christian truth (e.g. John 7:1-39; John 8:12-58).

When John and one of the other Gospel writers recorded the same miracle, they treated the material differently. The other writers did little more than tell the story, whereas John followed the story with lengthy teaching that arose out of it (cf. Matthew 14:13-21 with Joh_6:1-14 and the teaching that follows in Joh_6:26-65).

Since John was concerned with the meaning and significance of events, he recorded some of Jesus' conversations with people at length (e.g. with Nicodemus in John 3:1-15 and with the Samaritan woman in Joh_4:1-26). In a similar way he used the account of the Last Supper, which the other writers recorded only briefly, to provide four chapters of teaching on important Christian doctrines. Again the teaching came direct from the lips of Jesus (John 13:1-16:33).

At the centre of all the doctrinal discussions was the fact that Jesus was God in human form. The Jews had always considered Jesus' claim to divinity as a reason to get rid of him (John 7:28-30; John 10:33; John 10:39) and in the end they had their wish (John 11:25; John 11:53; cf. Mark 14:61-64).

Jerusalem was the centre of this opposition to Jesus and consequently was the place where many of his debates with the Jews occurred. Because of John's usage of these debates for his teaching material, much of John's Gospel is set in Jerusalem (John 2:13; John 5:1; John 7:14; John 7:25; John 8:20; John 10:22-23; John 11:1). This is in sharp contrast to the other Gospels, which are concerned more with Galilee and make little mention of Jerusalem, apart from the few days leading up to Jesus' crucifixion.

Jesus and the Kingdom

KINGDOM OF GOD

A major theme of the Bible is the kingdom of God. It runs through the Old Testament, but is more fully developed in the Gospels. Jesus showed that through him the kingdom found its fullest meaning.

Rule of God

In its broadest sense, the kingdom of God is the rule of God. It is not a territory over which God reigns but the rule that he exercises. It is not defined by physical boundaries, time or nationality, but by the sovereign rule and authority of God (Exodus 15:18; Psalms 103:19; Psalms 145:10-13).

Jesus spoke of God's kingdom in this sense. Those who seek God's kingdom seek his rule in their lives (Matthew 6:33), and those who receive God's kingdom receive his rule in their lives (Mark 10:15). When they enter the kingdom, they enter the realm where they accept God's rule (Matthew 21:31), and they pray that others also will accept it (Matthew 6:10).

The world is under the power of Satan and in a state of rebellion against God (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19). Therefore, when Jesus brought the kingdom into the world, he demonstrated God's rule in the defeat of Satan. As Jesus announced the good news of the kingdom, he gave evidence of his power by healing those whom Satan had afflicted by disease and evil spirits (Matthew 4:23-24). As he delivered people from Satan's bondage he gave evidence that God's kingdom (his authority, power and rule) had come among humankind (Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:27; Luke 10:9; Luke 10:17-18).

Note: The Bible uses the expressions 'kingdom of God' and 'kingdom of heaven' interchangeably. They are different names for the same thing (Matthew 19:23-24). Jews had a traditional fear of misusing the name of God, and therefore they often used words such as 'heaven' instead (Daniel 4:25-26; Luke 15:18; John 3:27). Matthew, who wrote his Gospel for Jews, usually (but not always) speaks of the kingdom of heaven, whereas the other writers call it the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

Present and future

Jesus' teaching on God's kingdom was in contrast to the popular Jewish belief of the time. The Jews believed that the kingdom was a future national and political kingdom centred on Israel. Jesus pointed out that God's kingdom was already among them. It was present in him (Luke 10:9; Luke 17:20-21). Those who submitted to Christ's rule entered Christ's kingdom, and thereby received forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Matthew 21:31; Mark 10:14-15; John 3:3). The same is true of people of any era. Those who believe in Christ enter his kingdom and receive its blessings (Romans 14:17; Colossians 1:13).

Yet Jesus spoke also of the kingdom as something belonging to the future (Mark 14:25). It would be established only after his death and resurrection (Luke 22:15-16; Luke 22:28-30; Luke 24:26; cf. Revelation 5:6-12; Revelation 11:15). Moreover, Jesus said that those who were already believers would enter his kingdom at his return (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 13:41-43; Matthew 25:31-34; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50; 2 Peter 1:11).

Therefore, although the kingdom of God is already present, it also awaits the future. Since the kingdom is the rule of God, believers enter it when they believe, but they will experience its full blessings only when Christ returns to banish evil and reign in righteousness (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). In being both present and future, the kingdom has the same characteristics as salvation and eternal life. To 'enter the kingdom of God' is to 'have eternal life' or to 'be saved'. The Bible uses the expressions interchangeably (Matthew 19:16; Matthew 19:23-25).

Just as believers experience the kingdom of God now and will do so more fully in the future, so they have eternal life now but will experience it more fully in the future (John 5:24; John 5:29). Likewise they have salvation now, but they will have it in its fulness at the return of Christ (Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 9:28). Eternal life is the life of the kingdom of God, the life of the age to come. But because the kingdom of God has come among humankind now, believers have eternal life now (Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:46; Luke 23:42-43; John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:36; John 5:24).

JESUS THE MESSIAH

The title 'Messiah' is a Hebrew word that means 'the anointed one'. In Old Testament times, the people of Israel appointed kings and priests (and sometimes prophets) to their official positions by the ceremony of anointing. A special anointing oil was poured over the head of the person as a sign that he now had the right, and the responsibility, to perform the duties required by his position (Exodus 28:41; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 19:16).

By far the most common usage of 'anointed' in a title was in relation to the Israelite king. He was known as 'the Lord's anointed' (1 Samuel 24:10; Psalms 18:50; Psalms 20:6). That person whom Israelites looked for as their great deliverer-king was popularly called the Messiah. The New Testament (Greek) equivalent of this word is 'Christ'. Jesus and his disciples spoke the local language of Palestine, and therefore the word they would have used was 'Messiah'; but the Gospels were written in Greek, and therefore the word appears in the Bible as 'Christ' (Matthew 22:42; John 1:41; John 7:41-42).

Old Testament expectations

In the days of Israel's beginnings, God indicated that the leadership of the nation would belong to the tribe of Judah. From this tribe would come a leader who would rule all nations in a reign of peace and prosperity (Genesis 49:9-12). In developing this plan, God promised King David (who was from the tribe of Judah) an everlasting dynasty (2 Samuel 7:16). From that time on, Israelites looked expectantly for the ideal king, a descendant of David who would destroy all enemies and reign in a worldwide kingdom of righteousness and peace. They called this coming saviour-king the Messiah (Psalms 89:3-4; Isaiah 11:1-10; Isaiah 32:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Micah 5:2; cf. Luke 1:32-33; Revelation 5:5).

Because God promised to treat David's son and successor as his own son, Israelites regarded every king in the royal line of David as, in a sense, God's son. He was the one through whom God exercised his rule. Above all, the Messiah was God's son (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:6-7; cf. Mark 10:47; Mark 12:35; Mark 14:61). Israelites saw victories over their enemies as foreshadowings of the victory of the Messiah, and praised their kings in language that vividly expressed the ideals they looked for in the messianic kingdom (e.g. Psalms 2; 45; 72; 110).

Besides being a king, the promised Messiah had priestly characteristics as well. He would not be a priest in the Levitical system, but he would exercise the joint rule of king-priest after the manner of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:1-7; cf. Matthew 22:41-45; Hebrews 5:6). He would also have prophetic characteristics, in that he would be God's messenger to announce God's will to his people (Deuteronomy 18:15; cf. Luke 24:19; John 6:14; John 7:40; Acts 3:22-23).

Jesus and the Jews

By the time of Jesus, Jewish expectation of the Messiah had little to do with the Messiah's spiritual ministry. Most Jews were not concerned with being delivered from the power of sin or submitting to the righteous rule of God. They were more concerned with being delivered from the power of Rome and establishing an independent Israelite kingdom of prosperity and peace. For this reason Jesus did not immediately announce his messiahship openly. He did not want to attract the wrong sort of following. When people followed him because they expected political and material benefits, he resisted them (John 6:15; John 6:26; cf. Matthew 4:8-10).

When others, for better reasons, recognized Jesus as the Messiah, he told them not to broadcast the fact (Matthew 9:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20). The title by which Jesus usually referred to himself was not 'Messiah', but 'Son of man' (Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 20:28; for further discussion see below).

Towards the end of his ministry, when Jesus knew that his work was nearing completion and his crucifixion was approaching, he allowed people to speak openly of him as the Messiah (Matthew 21:14-16; Matthew 22:41-45). He entered Jerusalem as Israel's Messiah-king (Matthew 21:1-11) and declared his messiahship before the Sanhedrin, adding that as Son of God he was on equality with God, and as Son of man he had gained an eternal kingdom (Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:70-71). To Pilate he indicated that he was a king, though neither his kingship nor his kingdom were of the kind that most people expected or wanted (Matthew 27:11; John 18:33-37; cf. Acts 17:7).

The Messiah's suffering and victory

Many believers of Jesus' time still thought of the Messiah in relation to a visible worldwide kingdom centred on Israel, and they were puzzled when Jesus did not set up such a kingdom (Matthew 11:2-3; Luke 19:11; Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6). Jesus pointed out that God's kingdom had come through him; the messianic age had begun. He was the Messiah, and his ministry was proof of this (Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 11:4-5; Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:18; Luke 17:20-21; Luke 18:35-43).

What the disciples could not understand was that the Messiah had to die. They knew that the Old Testament spoke of God's suffering servant (Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12) just as they knew that it spoke of the Messiah, but they did not connect the two. Jesus showed that he was both the suffering servant and the victorious Messiah. The Messiah had to die before he could enter his glory (Matthew 16:13-23; Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 24:25-27; Acts 4:27).

If the disciples of Jesus understood little of his statements about his coming death, they understood even less of his statements about his resurrection (Mark 8:29-32; Mark 9:31-32). But after he died and rose to new life, everything became clear. They saw the resurrection as God's great and final confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. His death was the way to victory for him and deliverance for his people (Acts 2:31-32; Acts 2:36; Acts 10:38-43; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:20).

The early Christians so identified the victorious Messiah with the risen Jesus that the Greek word for Messiah (Christ) became a personal name for Jesus. Over the years the two names were often joined as Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, and the name Christ was often used without any direct reference to messiahship (Philippians 1:15-16; Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:21). In general the Gospels and the early part of Acts use 'Christ' mainly as a title (meaning 'the Messiah'), and other parts of the New Testament use it mainly as a name (John 1:20; John 10:24; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 5:10; 1 Peter 5:14).

SON OF MAN

Of all the names, pictures and titles of Jesus in the Gospels, 'Son of man' is the one that Jesus used most and others used least. It hardly occurs outside the Gospels, and inside the Gospels is used almost solely by Jesus. In ordinary speech it could be just a poetic word for 'person' (Numbers 23:19; Ezekiel 2:1-3), but people realized that Jesus used it with special significance. It was an unusual way for a person to refer to himself, but Jesus wanted people to think about who he was and what his mission involved (John 12:34).

A heavenly figure

The title 'Son of man' comes from a vision recorded in Daniel, where a person 'like a son of man' came into the heavenly presence of God and received from him a universal and everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14). The 'Son of man' was connected with the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus made it clear that, through him, the kingdom of God had come into the world (Matthew 4:23-24; Matthew 12:28; see 'Kingdom of God' above). That kingdom will find its fullest expression when the Son of man returns at the end of the age to remove all evil and establish righteousness eternally (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 13:41-43; Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 8:38).

An additional feature of the vision in Daniel is the connection between the Son of man and the people of God. Though the Son of man receives the kingdom, he shares it with his people (Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27). Jesus, the heavenly Son of man, therefore promised his followers that they would share with him in the kingdom's final triumph (Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31-34).

An earthly figure

Since 'son of man' could be used in everyday speech to refer to an ordinary human being (Psalms 8:4; Ezekiel 2:8), the expression had an added significance when used of Jesus. Although it pointed to his deity (for he was the heavenly Son of God; John 3:13; John 6:62), it pointed also to his humanity (for he was a man, a member of the human race; Matthew 8:20). The Son of man was a unique person who, being divine and human, brought the authority of God into the world of humankind (Mark 2:10; Mark 2:28; John 5:27).

In relation to the kingdom of God, the heavenly Son of man was in fact an earthly figure, who was born in the royal line of David and had claim to the messianic throne. Because of the Jews' misguided nationalistic ambitions, Jesus rarely spoke of himself specifically as the Messiah. By using 'Son of man' instead, he was claiming to be the Messiah without using the word 'Messiah'. He knew people found the name 'Son of man' puzzling, but he wanted them to consider the evidence of his life and ministry and discover for themselves his true identity (Matthew 16:13-16; John 9:35-36; John 12:34).

When the Jewish leaders finally understood what Jesus meant by calling himself the Son of man, they accused him of blasphemy and had him killed. They saw that he claimed to be not only a messianic figure in the line of David, but also a heavenly figure on equality with God (Mark 14:61-64).

Jesus' death did not take him by surprise, as he knew that the heavenly Son of man had to become the suffering servant. He had to suffer and die before he could receive his kingdom (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12; Mark 10:45; John 3:13-14; John 8:28). Also, he had to rise from the dead (Mark 9:31). God therefore raised him up and gave him glory, a glory that will be fully revealed when the Son of man returns in the triumph of his kingdom (Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62).

SON OF GOD

When the Bible speaks of Jesus as God's Son, the meaning is unique. Elsewhere in the Bible Israel is called God's son (Exodus 4:22), the Davidic king is called God's son (2 Samuel 7:14) and in particular the Messiah is called God's son (Psalms 2:7; Luke 1:32-33). But Jesus was more than God's Son in any of these senses. He was God's Son in the sense that he was God. He did not become God's Son through being the Messiah; rather, he became the Messiah because he already was God's pre-existent Son (Matthew 22:42-45; John 1:34; John 1:49; John 20:31).

Eternally the Son

God is a trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all of whom are equally and eternally God. Jesus' sonship does not mean that he was created by the Father or is inferior to the Father. He has the same Godhead and character as the Father (Matthew 11:27; John 1:1; John 1:14; John 1:18; John 8:19; John 10:30; John 10:38; John 14:9), the same powers, authority and responsibilities as the Father (John 3:35; John 5:21-22; John 5:43; John 13:3) and the same thought and purpose as the Father (John 5:17-20; John 5:30; John 8:16; John 8:28-29; John 14:10; John 14:24).

The relation between Jesus (the Son of God) and his Father is unique, and should not be confused with the relation between believers (sons of God) and their heavenly Father. Jesus' sonship is eternal. The Father and the Son have always existed in a relation in which both are equally and unchangeably God. Believers, by contrast, become sons of God only through faith in Jesus Christ. God makes them his sons, but he never made Jesus his Son. Jesus always has been the Son (John 1:18; John 5:37; John 8:18-19; John 17:1-5; cf. Galatians 4:5-7).

When Jesus talked with believers about God the Father, he was therefore careful to make a distinction between 'my Father' and 'your Father' (Matthew 5:16; Luke 2:49; Luke 12:30; John 5:17-18; John 20:17). Nevertheless, through Christ believers come into such a close personal relation with the Father that they can address him as 'Abba', as Jesus did (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15).

The Son's mission

Although the Son existed with his Father from all eternity, he willingly became a human being in order to fulfil his Father's purposes for the salvation of human beings and the conquest of evil (Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 2:14-15). When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Son added humanity to the deity that he always had. His entrance into human life came about through God's supernatural work in the body of Mary, so that the baby born was both fully human and uniquely divine (Luke 1:30-31; Luke 1:35; Luke 2:42; Luke 2:49). Jesus grew up in a relation with his Father that was shared by no other (Luke 2:49; John 5:19; John 8:28-29), and this relation was confirmed at certain events during his public ministry (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; John 12:27-30).

Jesus' followers usually spoke of Jesus' sonship in relation to his divine person and total unity with the Father (Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; 1 John 2:23; 1 John 4:15), but Jesus himself usually spoke of it in relation to his earthly ministry and total submission to the Father (Mark 13:32; John 4:34; John 5:19; John 7:16; John 8:28; John 8:42). The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, and the Son's obedience to this mission meant that he had to suffer and die (John 3:14-16; John 12:27; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 John 4:14). The Son finished the work, being obedient even to death (John 17:4; Philippians 2:8), and the Father declared his complete satisfaction with his Son through the victory of the resurrection (Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:9-11).

However, the Son's mission involved more than the salvation of believers. The Father had entrusted him with the task of overcoming all rebellion and restoring all things to a state of perfect submission to the sovereign God (John 5:20-29; Ephesians 1:10; 1 John 3:8). That mission extends to the whole universe, and will reach its climax when the last enemy, death, is banished for ever (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). The Son conquered sin at the cross, and the power of that conquest will eventually remove the last traces of sin. The Son will restore all things to the Father, and the triumph of God will be complete. God will be everything to everyone (1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:28).

JESUS AS LORD

Many people addressed Jesus as Lord (Matthew 20:33; Mark 7:28; Luke 7:6), but when his disciples used the title of him, or when he used the title of himself, 'Lord' had much more meaning (Luke 19:34; Luke 24:34; John 11:27; John 13:6; John 13:13-14; John 20:28; John 21:7). The early church developed the more meaningful usage of the word till it became one of the most distinctive expressions of the Christian community.

Hebrew and Greek backgrounds

The Greek word that is translated 'Lord' in the New Testament is kurios, the word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the Hebrew word yahweh (i.e. Jehovah) (cf. Psalms 32:2 with Rom_4:8; cf. Isaiah 40:13 with Rom_11:34). Yahweh, the name of God, was a mysterious name that Jews of later times considered so sacred that they refused to speak it. Linguistically, the name was connected with the expression 'I am' and referred to the eternal, unchangeable, self-sufficient and ever-present God (Exodus 3:13-16).

Jesus identified himself with Yahweh by calling himself 'I am' (John 8:58; see also John 4:26; John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:7; John 10:11; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 18:5; Mark 14:62). The New Testament writers also identified Jesus with the God of the Old Testament, and repeatedly quoted Old Testament references to Yahweh as applying to Jesus (cf. Psalms 16:8 with Act_2:24-25; cf. Isaiah 40:3 with Mar_1:1-3; cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24 with 1Co_1:30-31; cf. Isaiah 8:13 with 1Pe_3:15; cf. Psalms 110:1 with Mat_22:41-45).

Both the words of Jesus and the quotations of the New Testament writers reflect the Hebrew background of the New Testament. According to that background, to call Jesus 'Lord' was to call him God. But most of the early Christians did not come from a Hebrew background. They were Gentiles, not Jews, and they had no history of the usage of the name Yahweh to influence their thinking. Yet to them also, to call Jesus 'Lord' (kurios) was to call him God. Their understanding of kurios came from its usage in the Greek-speaking Gentile world in which they lived.

In common speech, kurios may sometimes have meant no more than 'sir' or 'master' (Matthew 21:30; Luke 12:36; Luke 12:45; John 12:21; Acts 25:26), but it was also used in relation to deity, such as when people referred to the Greek and Roman gods (1 Corinthians 8:5). The Greek-speaking Christians' use of this word for Jesus showed that they considered him to be God - not just one of many gods, but the one true God. This one was the creator and ruler of the universe, and the controller of life and death (Acts 1:24; Acts 13:10-12; Acts 17:24; Romans 14:9; Romans 14:11; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 17:14).

Glorified and triumphant

Through the glorious resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, God declared dramatically the absolute lordship of Christ (Acts 2:36; Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:9-11). Believers in Christ are also Christ's servants and disciples. They gladly acknowledge him as Lord and willingly submit to him as to one who has complete authority over their lives. At the same time they love him as one who has saved them and given them new joy, peace and hope (John 20:28; Acts 10:36; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 1:2-3; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Revelation 22:20).

When God's chosen time comes, the lordship of Jesus Christ, at present unrecognized by the world, will be openly displayed (1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; cf. Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 9:28). He will return in power and glory, to enjoy the final fruits of the victory he won through his life, death and resurrection. In that great day there will be universal acknowledgment that he is indeed Lord (Philippians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 19:16).

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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