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Jan 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 7, 2019 – Mark 1:1-13 and John 1:1-13


A Gospel Tapestry

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Intro: Something surprising happened a couple years ago

While reading in the Gospel of John, chapter 2,
– I began exploring the thought that the same theme appears early in Mark’s gospel
• it occurs in a different context–
◦ in Mark it’s used in an illustration, whereas John tells it as an event
◦ it was like looking at the same diamond in a different setting
• I was curious as to how far I could follow this thread
◦ did the entire Gospel of John match themes in the other three gospels?
– I did not research it at that time
• but I happened to come across a similar thought in a book by John Pennington
(I will list two or three references at the end of these notes)
• last year I went through John, looking closely a how it connected with Matthew, Mark and Luke
◦ it has been an exciting adventure that at times has left me in awe

My intention is to walk you through John, showing you what I found
– I may have bitten off more than I can chew
• so if it bogs down or is too much for you or me,
◦ I’ll throw in the towel and change lanes
• but if it works for us and we hang with it,
◦ we will have a better understanding of gospels
◦ and a richer experience of Jesus

John has been a challenge from the third century to the present

It is so different from the other three gospels

By the way, Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic” Gospels. Synoptic means “to take the same point of view.”  It is their shared point of view that has resulted in so many shared stories from the life and ministry of Jesus. So when I use the term Synoptics, I am referring to the first three gospels in the New Testament.

– John does not report the same miracles as the Synoptics
• and he introduces other, sometimes dramatic, miracles they left out
◦ for instance, the raising of Lazarus
◦ John does not include Jesus’ parables, exorcisms, Transfiguration, or the Last Supper
• how to explain this?

In the eighteenth century, John was an embarrassment for intellectuals
– they argued that it was not historically accurate
• that some of the places John mentions were fictional
• John was left out of significant critical New Testament works
– but archaeological excavations up to the present have vindicated John
• sites have been explored that confirm his accuracy
• this includes both the topography and culture of first century Israel
◦ John proves to a historically reliable document

But this still leaves us with the question, Why is it so different from the Synoptics?
– why isn’t there more overlap, like there is in the other three gospels?
• the answer is actually the key to our adventure
◦ John was the last of the four gospels to be written
◦ the other three had been in circulation before he wrote his gospel
• John did not have to say what had already been said
◦ his concern was to write what was missing from others
– John assumes his readers were familiar with at least one of the Synoptics
• For instance:

  • in John 1:40, he assumes his readers already knew who Peter was
  • in John 3:24, he assumes his readers knew John the Baptist was imprisoned
  • in John 11:2, he assumes his readers already knew a woman anointed Jesus with perfume
    ◦ and refers to Mary as that woman before he even tells her story in the next chapter! (Jn. 12:1-8)

What is missing from the Synoptics?

I said that Synoptic means “to take the same point of view”
– what is the point of view shared by Matthew, Mark and Luke?
• it is their time-frame
◦ they tell story from within the time the events occurred
• in the Synoptics we travel with the disciples as they follow Jesus
◦ the narration is kept within their day-to-day experience
◦ as readers, we are subject to all of their same limitations
– in the Synoptics, the disciples are totally clueless at times
• understanding Jesus was out of their reach

Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all parables? (Mk. 4:13)
Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see . . .? (Mk 7:18)
(regarding the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees) Do you not perceive or understand? . . . Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? (Mk. 8:17-21)
(regarding his death and resurrection) But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him (Mk. 9:32)

• John picks up on this and explains it

(when Jesus said, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up, he was talking about his body) When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this (Jn. 2:22)
(when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey) His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and done to him (Jn. 12:16)

• Jesus indicated they would eventually get it

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father (Jn. 16:25)

◦ his intention was to mature them to the point where they could understand his plain speech

John’s point of view is different from the Synoptics in that he is not stuck in their same time-frame
– he writes after years of reflection and his own experience in the faith
• eventually, when he returned to the Synoptics and filled-in the blanks
• he now understood what he and the others had not understood back then
◦ so, without repeating them, he brings out the hidden meaning of Jesus’ words and deeds
– what John does is illuminate the things they didn’t get
• he brings out the spiritual meaning of Jesus and his teaching
• it is like John writes a spiritual commentary on Synoptics
◦ not an exegetical commentary that rationally dissects and analyzes what’s there
◦ John reveals what was revealed in the Synoptics, but underneath the surface

With this in mind, let’s look at the two passages we read

In the first sentence, both Mark and John talk about a “beginning”
– Mark’s beginning refers to the ministry of Jesus
• John goes all the way back to beginning of the universe
◦ he obviously borrows the language of Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth

• the first chapter of Genesis tells how world came into existence
◦ the first verses of John’s gospel tell us why
◦ so God could be known and loved by everyone
( especially in John, God is concerned for the entire “world”)
– Matthew and Luke begin with the virgin birth of Jesus
• the significance of that is to explain how he can be the Son of God, Emmanuel
• John begins with a burst of cosmic light
◦ that from before the beginning of creation,

the Word was with God, and the Word was God

◦ and yet, he also describes someone who is human

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)

The Synoptics also make refer to the glory of God and Jesus (especially Luke)
– the most dramatic instance was Jesus transfiguration
• three of Jesus’ disciples who witnessed this event say his glory (Lk. 9:32)
but in those days they kept silent, Luke tells us
◦ in Matthew, Jesus told them not to tell until after he was raised from the dead (Mt. 17:9)
• while there, Peter felt compelled to blurt out how good it was to be there
◦ but Mark explains, For he did not know what to say (9:6)
◦ and on way down the mountain, the three disciples puzzled over what rising from the dead might be (Mk. 9:10)

So the disciples witness a revelation of Jesus’ glory, but did not understand what it meant

– John doesn’t report the transfiguration, even though he was one of three who saw it
• at same time, Jesus’ glory is one of John’s central themes
◦ like the Synoptics, the fullness of Jesus’ glory would be revealed in the future
◦ but unlike them, it would happen in his death and resurrection as well as his return
◦ and even during the time of his ministry, his glory occasionally broke through

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory (Jn. 2:11)
This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4)
Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? (Jn. 11:40)

• in glory, he is full of grace and truth
◦ truth is what we live, grace is what enables us to live it

In the Synoptics, Jesus’ ministry commences with John the Baptist
– in John also Jesus’ ministry commences with John the Baptist,
• only, John does not tell us that Jesus was baptized by John
(his readers would, of course, know that part)
◦ although he does tell us that he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus
◦ this was a signal that had been given to John prior to meeting Jesus (Jn. 1:31-33)
– John has more to say a lot more about the Baptist than the Synoptics
• and he quotes a lot more of John the Baptist’s speech
◦ that is because of John’s role as a “witness” (Jn. 1:7, 15, 19, 32-34; 5:33-35)
• witnesses to Jesus are important to the plot as proof of Jesus’ person and teaching
◦ but John’s objective is to get his readers to a point of faith where no proof needed (Jn. 20:29-31)

On John the Baptist’s first encounter with Jesus, he says,

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (v. 29)

– in the Synoptics, the Passover meal becomes the Lord’s Supper
• at Passover a lamb was sacrificed commemorating Israel’s salvation from Egypt
◦ at that time, the Lamb’s blood was applied to the doorposts of God’s people
◦ later, Moses sprinkled blood on the people, saying,

Behold, the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you . . . (Ex. 24:8)

• in the Synoptics, Jesus identified the cup of the Lord’s Supper with his own blood
◦ in John’s gospel (and his Revelation), Jesus becomes the Lamb of God
– the Syntoptics tell us that John the Baptist proclaimed

a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins (Lk. 3:3)

• in John’s gospel, forgiveness of sin becomes a taking away the sin of world

Conclusion: The message of John’s gospel is that, in Jesus, the disciples had more than they realized

The whole time, God himself was right there with them

Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (Jn. 14:9)

As we continue on through this amazing book,
John will help to open our eyes to what we too often miss
And that is, God himself fills every moment of our lives
We live and breathe the presence of Jesus



My first confirmation came from a sentence in John Pennington’s Reading the Gospels Wisely (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), “. . . a good argument can be made that canonically the Gospel of John evinces awareness of the Synoptic tradition and serves to complement, fill out, and thoughtfully transpose those accounts . . . .” (p. 194).

I followed a reference from Pennington to an essay by Andreas Kostenberger, “John’s Transposition Theology: Retelling the Story of Jesus in a Different Key,” in Earliest Christianity: History, Literature, and Theology, edited by Michael Bird and Jason Matson (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012, pgs. 191-226).

For recent archaeological confirmation of the historicity of John’s Gospel, see the essays “Archaeology and John’s Gospel” by Urban von Wahlde and “Aspects of Historicity in the Gospel of John: Implications for Investigations of Jesus and Archaeology” in Jesus and Archaeology, edited by James Charlesworth.

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