It may seem disheartening that it has taken thirteen posts to work our way through chapter one of the Gospel of John. But the first chapter of John’s Gospel serves as an introduction to the entire Gospel. The themes raised in this opening chapter run through the whole Gospel.
As we read through the rest of this Gospel, which will go more quickly from here, it is important to keep these themes in mind.
Here is a summary of the basic themes I believe are important in John chapter one that will help when reading the rest of the Gospel.
1. Our capacity to open to the power of John’s Gospel is commensurate with our ability to embrace mystery.
2. Jesus is the embodiment of the invisible generative sustaining intelligent energy that resides at the core of all existence (the “logos“).
3. In order to see Jesus as John’s Gospel portrays him we must be able to hold the paradox that Jesus embodies both distinctiveness/particularity and unity/universality.
4. The Life embodied in Jesus exists in every human being created in the image of God.
5. There is darkness in the world; but the Light embodied in Jesus is always stronger.
6. If we are going to experience the Light that is our true nature, we need to open to the deep inner stirring of God in the depths of our being.
7. There is an “already” and a “not yet” dimension to life that we must hold in balance if we are to avoid cynicism while maintaining the luminous Gospel vision for what it means to be fully human.
8. Grace is the power that opens us to the deep Mystery of God’s presence permeating all of life.
9. The practice of surrender is the central gesture of Christian faith; it opens us to the work of grace.
10. When we let go of our need for understanding and control we become capable of a deeper way of seeing.
11. The deeper way of seeing is a gift of grace; it enables us to perceive in Jesus the qualities of true life.
12. The closer we draw to Jesus the more we open to our true nature.
13. When our hearts open we find truth.
These thirteen points form the foundation for the Gospel of John.
It is easy, at many points throughout John’s Gospel to go astray. Our ability to benefit from this profound mystical work will be enhanced to the degree we keep these thirteen principles in mind.
The Bible is a sacred text. It is intended to enable us to encounter the living reality from which the text emerged. Our ability to benefit from reading the Bible will be enhanced to the degree we are able to read thoughtfully and at the same time, with an open receptive heart.
When we find the text difficult and challenging, rather than dismissing the text, we need to put aside our judgmental critical mind and listen more deeply. There may be parts of the text that seem complicated, even offensive. The difficulty of the text is an opportunity to look at ourselves and ask what there may be in us that is reacting to what we are reading.
When Christians say that the Bible is “the word of God,” we mean that it is active and living. It has power to work transformation in our lives. We do not mean that every word exactly as written must be taken literally. But, if we allow God’s Spirit to work through the text, we will find the transforming power of the living God at work in our lives.