New Testament Week 6: “For God So Loved the World” – John 2-4

This week we are back into the Book of John. The chapters for this lesson are so iconic that there are very few Christians who have not read or thought about them at some point. As I was preparing the outline I really noticed how much more John emphasizes the divinity of Jesus Christ than in the other gospel accounts. I am not saying that the other authors did not talk about his miracles, and his resurrection, but John is so much more emphatic that the reason behind Jesus’s miracles, teachings, and the events of his death and resurrection are because He is God incarnate.

I remember a friend of mine asking me why it was necessary for God to condescend as a mortal and experience mortality? In other words, why was Jesus even necessary? Why couldn’t He just have experienced the atonement part of His mission as a singular moment in eternity and avoid everything else?

What I love about the book of John is that he helps answer those questions better than any other book. He shows and tells us how important it was for Jesus to relate with us, to be like us, but also to be like God. He was our beacon, the idol that would replace the idols of the past worship. He not only showed us what we can be now, but what we can become in eternity. As we study John’s chapters I hope you can see the beauty of fallen man and God of power mixed together. I believe seeing this in Jesus helps us see it in ourselves, and maybe more importantly in all others who live on earth with us.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” – CS Lewis


– Jesus’s divinity is paramount to His ministry and to our salvation.

– Being born again through the Spirit is essential, and the beginning of being a disciple.

– Being a disciple means ministering to people who may be far different from us.

Context and Timeline:

– The first part of the Book of John is known as the “Book of Signs” and the word miracle can be interpreted as sign in the translation. There are seven specific signs that are called out in the book as proof of Jesus Christ’s divinity:

1. Changing water into wine – John 2:1-11
2. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15
4. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
5. Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24
6. Healing the man blind from birth in John 9:1-7
7. The raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

John 20:30 explains to the reader his intent and that there were other signs:

“Therefore, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

– Much has been discussed about who’s wedding Jesus is attending. It is very
likely that the wedding was for someone very close to Jesus and most likely
someone who he was related to otherwise Jesus, Mary, and her children would not be there together. Some have speculated, despite Jesus speaking to the bridegroom in the account, that it was Jesus’s wedding since he was fulfilling one of the bridegroom’s responsibilities in providing the wine.

– There have been some LDS church members propagate the idea that Jesus was drinking grape juice or something instead of wine, and that is very unlikely. Water was less healthy than most drinks at the time, and wine was one of the easiest drinks to not only acquire but also to keep for longer periods of time. The fermentation allowed the drink to last longer. Drinking wine with the intent to be drunk was against the Law of Moses, but wine as a common drink was customary at the time. The Word of Wisdom is a principle for modern times, but that is conversation for another time. 

– When Jesus seems to rebuke Mary in a condescending way at the wedding it can be interpreted in many ways, but it is important that the formality of his addressing her would likely have been common for an event like a wedding, even if uncomfortable for us. I think it shows the humanity of Jesus and allows us to relate more to him, because of course he solves the problem she points out afterward and likely there was no animosity between them. 

– One thing that we can understand from modern translations is that Jesus was in the presence of his mother, brothers, sisters, and disciples. This makes it seem pretty clear that Jesus had siblings and that he was a part of their life.

– Caiaphas, who was the high priest at the time, was likely the owner and
beneficiary from animal sales in the temple. Historically the people would
bring their own animals for sacrifice, or they would purchase an animal outside the temple at one of the shops. Caiaphas, and his family, decided to bring their animals into the temple area to be sold in an effort to corner the
market. They were successful, and it seems that most purchases for sacrifices were being done within the temple walls. This also brought money changers to the area as a way for people to trade goods for money that could be used to purchase the animals. The temple became one of the largest marketplaces under the reign of Caiaphas.

– John presents the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of the Savior’s
ministry, while the other three gospel accounts place it at the end of His
ministry. This has led many to assume that He cleansed the temple two different times. While it is possible this is the case, it could also be one time that was told out of order in the gospels. It is important to note the different
purposes behind Jesus cleansing the temple as well. He was making a point spiritually about the temple being God’s house; he was also showing to the people that it wasn’t right for the leaders of the church to profit from the people; but He was also calling out Caiaphas directly and making sure He had the attention of the leadership. This challenge was not going to be met with good feelings and was likely the beginning of the plot to take the Savior’s life.

– Nicodemus could be Nicodemus ben Gurion, wealthy and holy man that was told to have miraculous powers during the Jewish War 40 years after Christ’s death. This would make him a younger man than traditionally thought at the time of his encounter with Jesus. In either event, Nicodemus was likely a member of the Sanhedrin and very influential. It seems likely that John knew Nicodemus as he is mentioned in both this private occasion with Jesus, but also as someone who speaks for Jesus during his later trial and the person who assists in the burial rites of Jesus after his death.

– Israel and Samaritan history is very complicated at this point. It is important to know that Samaritan’s were likely descendants of those of the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh who survived the Assyrian conquests in 722 BC.  They believed in the five books of Moses, but they believed all of the words of the prophets after that were made up by the Jews to strengthen their control over the temple and priesthood. They believed the temple should be at Mount Gerizim where Moses commanded Joseph to build it, while the Jews believed it should be at Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.  The Hasmonean ruler of the Jews, John Hyrcanus, actually destroyed their temple in 113 BC. This further escalated their hatred for each other leading up to the time Jesus travels through Samaria. It is hard to state the level of loathing that existed between Jews and Samaritans. 

– There are three different levels of interest in Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan women at the well. She had three things about her that should have precluded Jesus from speaking with her as a religious leader. 

1. The fact that Jesus would be speaking to a woman at all, especially in the fashion he was, showed Jesus was radically different from the religious men of his time. It is also important to understand that when Jesus speaks to her at a well and she leaves her water pot, it may be the beginning of a betrothal according to custom. If Jesus were later to eat dinner with the woman’s family, it would symbolize a betrothal and the disciples were concerned about that happening. I think it is really cool, that Jesus was willing to abandon tradition and minister to someone who he should not as an example to his disciples and us that we must do the same thing. The Gospel is for all people.
2. We already spoke of the Samaritans, but we cannot understate that Jesus was teaching and conversing with people who were the worst kind of apostates in the mind of the Jews. I also love how much she was moved and inspired by Jesus despite this. 
3. The woman had been married 5 times and was currently with a man she was not married to. It is unlikely that a woman would be married that many times, but even so she would have been viewed as an adulterer at this time and so Jesus was teaching and trying to help her despite this situation that would have been very scandalous at the time. 

According to John, once Jesus was baptized and had called his disciples to follow him, he attended a family wedding in Cana. The disciples had left their lives to follow Jesus so they accompanied him to the festivities. Jesus’s mother is concerned that there is not enough wine so she points this out to Jesus. He responds by saying, “I’ve got this!” The barrels held about 30 gallons of water and so Jesus tells the servants to fill them up and take them to the Master. They do it and the barrels end up being filled with wine instead of water.

The wedding was happening around the same time as Passover and so Jesus makes a trip with his disciples to Jerusalem as is custom. While he is there, for the first time since being a young boy, he goes to worship at the temple and sees it has become a marketplace. Jesus is furious and he cleans the temple out completely and makes a scene that would not be forgotten. His fame was already growing, but this outburst put him square in the sight of Caiaphas the High Priest as the animals were his and he was benefiting from the marketplace the most. The people confront him, and he makes his first illusion to his death and resurrection by claiming that if they destroy the temple He can raise it again in three days. They obviously do not understand His words, but John eludes to the fact that Jesus performs other miracles while in Jerusalem and people began to believe in him and spread the word.

While in Jerusalem Jesus is approached by one of the Pharisees, a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus has been affected by the miracles he has witnessed and asks Jesus what he should do. Jesus then teaches the famous lesson that we must all be born again if we wish to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus is confused about what it means to be born again, and Jesus eludes to both baptism and being spiritually reborn from on high and then declares that God sent Him, the Only Begotten Son, to give his life to give everyone else Eternal Life. This would have been very jarring to Nicodemus, but it likely converted him as he helped Jesus twice at the end of his life.

On the journey back to Galilee, before John the Baptist is arrested, the disciples have a conversation with John the Baptist where John confirms Jesus is the Christ and encourages them to follow him. So, they continue their journey, but they take a detour through Samaria. The JST states that the anger the Pharisees had regarding Jesus cleansing the temple and baptizing more followers caused Jesus to take the detour to avoid them. In any case, they arrive in a village around noon and they are hot and tired, so Jesus goes to a well and begins a conversation with a Samaritan women.

Jesus has an interesting conversation with the woman, trying to convince her to see that it is more important to worship God than the traditions built over time in religion and more important than any of our temporal needs. He tells her that it will not matter whether the Jews or the Samaritans are right about where the Temple should be, but that whoever bows a knee and worships the Lord will be saved. He is quite explicit in stating to her that He is the Messiah, and that drinking from his teachings and love is more important than getting water to survive. He correctly tells her she has been married 5 times when she tells him that she is currently not married to the man she was with. He does not judge her other than to encourage her to see that worshiping God is something we can all do. She knows at this point he is the Messiah and goes to tell the rest of the village.

When the disciples arrive, they are concerned about the impropriety of his conversation with the woman and what would happen next. They offer Jesus food and he takes the opportunity to teach them the same lesson. Ministering to the children of God, the field that is white for harvest, is more important than food and harvesting for our temporal needs. Many people from the village then come and listen to Jesus and are also converted.

We finish the chapters with the second sign of Jesus’s divinity. He has come back to Capernaum and they hear of a government official who has a sick son. The official is seeking Jesus and finds him with his disciples. He asks Jesus to come with him to heal his son. Jesus asks a pointed question about whether the man is just seeking a sign, but the man apparently was not as he requests again to come quickly before his son dies. Jesus responds that the boy will live and when the official returns home he discovers that at the same time he was speaking with Jesus is when the illness abated, and the boy was healed.

What would it be like to witness some of the miracles and signs Jesus performed? Have you seen a miracle or sign before? Have you written it down or shared it with those you love the most?

What kinds of things reflect our being born again from on high? What can we do to seek being born again? Does being born again only happen once? Should it happen regularly?

How willing are we to put what the Lord needs from us ahead of what is needed from us temporally? This is a theme that will continue to recur in the gospels, what should we do to make this a part of our discipleship?

When you think about the exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, what stands out the most to you? How does it make you feel about yourself? Can you see this experience as an illustration that Jesus truly loves and ministers to anyone who seeks him and even those who don’t seek him? What does this say about our own ministry?

Key Moment or Scripture: John 3:16-17
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

We all know this scripture, and there were a number that I could have chosen that would have been something else to think about, but I truly feel that the divinity of Jesus Christ is what should be the focus. The condescension of God is incredible when you think about it. Jesus, God, was not only willing but wanted to debase Himself from his everlasting throne and come to mortality in a time of extreme violence, prejudice, uncleanliness, ignorance, and limitations. He came and fought against religious convention, ministered to the most marginalized, was persecuted, hated, misunderstood by even those who loved Him, and traveled almost continuously followed and swarmed by mobs. Then he took it a step further by suffering all the pains, infirmities, ailments and sins of the entire world. The guilt, the shame, the fear, the regret of all the combined actions of us all weighed on His soul and yet He did it because He loved us and because the Father loved us.

There is comfort and peace in this knowledge that John is testifying about, but there is also power. The power to change our hearts and our souls is real. I have seen it change people, I have seen it change myself. The secular world wants to talk about history, logic, reason, and evidence. I subscribe to those ways of learning, but most people in the world want to ignore the evidence that the spiritual power of Jesus Christ and his atonement changes people for the better and it saves their lives. I can testify as a witness of the power in others, but most importantly I can testify of it changing my own heart and life. It is as real as any other evidence and I am thankful to God for Jesus Christ.

Final Thoughts:
I love Jesus Christ. I know that He loves me from my own personal experiences. I believe that we can all feel Him and His love for us if we seek him and seek to be born again in Him.