The first Bible reading by Gerard Kelly is on 1 John 1:1-2:6, apologies for any typos or spelling mistakes whilst trying to keep up!
John’s text is a little odd, it meanders around and he repeats himself a number of times so helpful to bring your bible and follow them through. In the old days you used to get points for your big bible, these days we’re too cool to carry our bibles!
John is trying to pull together his own record of what he’s seen, his own video recorder. We will assume that this is the Apostle John, the same who wrote John’s gospel. We can’t be certain of it, but it is a good guess, writing around 85-90CE. He writes as an elder of the church in Ephesus.
He was there when Jesus first called disciples, seen the church begin and spread, but then seen people twist and change the gospel.
1 John 1:1-4
John writes as a witness, one who has seen the story unfold. You may be familiar with the prologue of John’s gospel; he uses similar phrasing and wording. Cf. The Message translation of John 1:14.
- We saw Jesus, we touched Him, he was a physical being, present with us day after day after day for three years. It is rooted in the historical reality.
- And yet John has become convinced that this Jesus is God in flesh, he existed before we saw him. “Existed, and then became flesh”
This is the foundation of his faith, defines the Christian movement – Jesus is both man and God. It doesn’t mention 13 weeks of membership classes, it doesn’t say what doctrine you have to believe, it doesn’t say much about morality – this is a statement of foundation which unites us.
John was a relatively uneducated fisherman, taken from a simple peasant lifestyle – upper working class background. But very quickly shows he is a learner with a sharp mind. As the church spreads to Asia Minor he becomes very aware of the Greek mindset in the Empire. The Romans had the swords, but the Greeks had the calculators. The Romans carried on the Greek philosophy, education and triangles! They loved the concept of beauty and mysterious in the universe and the vastness of it all. John says that he agrees but I think there is an order to it, and I think that comes from Jesus. He makes this connection from the philosophy to Jesus – the double confession is what forms the church, but is also the most crucial part of our faith to hold onto in post-modern culture – rather than a good man, a great teaching Rabbi, a man with more God stuff than the rest of us. John doesn’t say that Jesus is the best man, he succeeded for his efforts, instead he says when he looks at Jesus he sees what God looks like when he reveals himself.
The whole of human history is a vast ocean, everything that it in the ocean matters, but everything that is in the ocean that matters is in the small boat in the huge ocean.
If there was a God who made the world, who choose to rescue us, to initiate our rescue – that is what Jesus looks like.
Did some research of portraits of Jesus. No wonder people don’t want to join the church if that’s what they think we look like. Interestingly Google suggests “Michael Jackson portraits” as an alternative link!
Jesus is a rumour, this is the third generation of faith, writing in 85-90CE.
1 John 1:5-7
God, John says is light. Again links to John 1 with the light being revealed which the darkness cannot overcome. Think back to the Greeks, and the intelligence of the universe, things being illuminated, and John says that comes from Jesus.
There are three things which John basis his ideas around Jesus
Our culture believing itself to be distant from John asks questions about these issues in mysticism and esoteric thoughts.
Image of rope is to symbolise looping back to one of John’s key themes. He starts with big themes and then weaves them rather than giving a logical development of 63 different issues.
1 John 1:8-2:2
John has a very big place for the nature of sin, the brokenness of humanity. It is a huge part of his thinking, reflecting on what Jesus makes possible. Those hoping for a nice warm up will be disappointed as John won’t allow us to do that. He wants us to know how crucial the brokenness of humanity is in his thought process about Jesus.
Jesus coming to be the atoning sacrifice. He moves out of his Greek triangles move, back into his Jewish story mode. All the disciples, Peter, John, James, and Paul etc. have understood Jesus in the context of their upbringing, the Jewish story. Atonement is the sacrifice and removing the issue of sin. John says we need to understand the Jewish context to understand Jesus. By John saying Jesus came to be a sacrifice for our sins and the world’s sins. The Jewish ritual of bringing a sacrifice for each time you sin, or of once a year putting a goat into the wilderness with your sins on it, and feeling good temporarily. John says the whole cycle is replaced once and for all by the event of Jesus giving himself on the cross.
John as a Jewish thinker, deep in his thinking and psyche of who God might be is the narrative of the Exodus. Sat around the family table once a year to rehearse the narrative of Exodus: we were in slavery but God came and rescued us. The process of saying God is in human form is deeply radical and offensive, but God rescuing humans is natural due to the Exodus story. In the Jewish family the oldest man reads the questions – why did God come – and the youngest child answers – to rescue us. John and his fellow disciples see that is what Jesus had done – to initiate the Exodus but for the whole world.
A particular life that bears universal significance. The One God, who is infite, is present in finite humanity. This is important, but challenging in our society where we have soft views of God looking at a sunset of climb a mountain, but to say it appears in a particular place is challenging. John says it is challenging but what he is claiming from the historically verifiable life of Jesus. We can rethink the meaning of the gospel in post-modern culture, we can reframe how we say things to help people but you cannot move away from the particularity of Jesus – that in that one life God actually came to us.
A movement from Heaven to Earth. The initiative the One God takes to rescue his creation in an outside-in manoeuvre. It is God’s initiative offered to humanity.
God’s intention for them, to draw humans free into intimate fellowship with himself, has come forward in the face of Jesus.” Tom Wright
Derek Tidball, The Message of the Cross: Jesus at the initiative of the Father has come to put something right. He is doing this in the context of talking about sin. In v. 8 if we claim no sin we are fooling ourselves, we are all broken, and it is at that point we stand to understand the significance of the coming of faith.
Leonard Cohen – taking seriously that we’re cracked, we are broken. Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, talking about the atheistic bus adverts says we can’t just enjoy life, it is simply not true, it is nonsense, no evidence that human beings without intervention do good, they do some good, humans are capable of beautiful things but in the next moment the most atrocious things. We know that God has made us beautifully but we can’t live it, e.g. Romans 7: I know what I should be but I can’t live it. We know that there is something in us that we are fighting. The Prodigal Son owns the weight of his mistakes.
Psalm 51 is the most powerful version of this, not written by a prodigal son or an addict, but by someone who has fought for 20 years to be king, who has always followed God’s guidelines and yet still find there is something wrong in his life. The problem wasn’t out there, it was always in there. But he has the courage to come before God and say you need to fix this, not from a place of weakness and degradation but from a place of triumph and strength. David also wrote Psalm 139, and there is nothing that is contradictory that says we were made by God and yet broken, and neither change – we aren’t not God’s when we are broken and vice versa. Please don’t say we used to be broken but now we’ve been saved! They only have to come and live with you for 5 minutes to realise sin doesn’t disappear. John will tell us how we can deal with it.
1 John 2:3-6
Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
John makes an interesting connection between belief and behaviour. It isn’t very evangelical. We love grace, and then say that how we behave doesn’t matter. John disagrees, and says your behaviour is a reflection of who you are. He will look at those he’s writing too, and if he sees no evidence of God in their life he will ask the question how is it true! Help me today God to be more like Jesus – that’s what the rest of 1 John explains to us – not by trying harder but by surrendering more. Jesus constantly went to parties, he wasn’t a negative force, he never wrecked a dinner party, he just wrecked funerals – including his own! People were so glad he was there – do people feel that way about you?