Jesus was God's Word from the beginning of time. When he was born into the human race, his own people rejected him. John the Baptist declares him to be the light of the world (1:1-18). This is a difficult section to understand; if you find it confusing, move on to the next section.
Before anything else existed, Jesus, the "Word," already was. The Word was in fellowship with God; in fact, the Word was God. He was there from the very beginning.
It was through him that God brought everything into existence. Not a single thing was created apart from him.
He was the source of all life, and that life has provided light for the human race. The light keeps on shining in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to put it out.
Onto the stage of history came a man whose name was John the Baptist. He was sent by God to tell people about the light so that they might come to believe through him. John himself was not that light, but the one who was to tell others about the light.
Sunset over ancient Moab
The real light, the one destined to enlighten everyone, was about to come into the world. When Jesus, the "Word," did enter the world, the world failed to recognize him even though it had been created by him.
The Word came to his own creation but his own people would not receive him. However, to as many as did receive him -- those who believe that he really is who he claims to be -- he gave the privilege of becoming sons and daughters of God.
This birth was not by natural means, the result of a physical desire, or a father's decision; it was a birth that came from God.
The Word became a human being and lived among us. We gazed on his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, sent from the Father.
John the Baptist told everyone about the Word. He exclaimed, "This is the one I was talking about when I said, 'There is a man yet to come who is greater than I because he existed even before I was born.'"
From his perfection we have all received one gracious gift after another. While it was through Moses that the law was given, it is through Jesus Christ that grace and truth have come.
No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who himself is God and dwells in the presence of the Father, he has told us about him.
John the Baptist says that he himself is not the Messiah but has come to prepare the way for the Messiah. John recognizes Jesus as the Messiah by the descent of the Spirit as a dove (1:19-34).
The religious authorities in Jerusalem sent some priests and Levites to John the Baptist in order to find out who he was. In answer to their question he admitted with all candor, "I am not the Messiah."
"Then who are you?" they asked. "Are you Elijah?"
"I am not," he answered.
"Are you by any chance the prophet we have been waiting for?"
"No," he replied.
"Well then, who are you? Tell us, so we can take an answer back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
John responded by quoting Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling out in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.'"
Now some of those who had been sent to question John were Pharisees, so they asked, "Why are you baptizing since you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet we have been waiting for?"
"I baptize only with water," answered John. "And although you do not recognize him, the one who is to come after me is right here among you. I am not worthy even to unloose the strap of his sandal."
This exchange took place in the town of Bethany, east of the Jordan river where John was baptizing.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him. "Look!" he said, "the Lamb of God, the one who will take away the sin of the world! He is the one of whom I said, 'There is a man yet to come who is greater than I because he existed even before I was born.'
I didn't know that he was the Coming One; but I have been baptizing with water so that God might reveal him to the people of Israel.
Near the headwaters of the Jordan River
"I saw the Spirit," said John, "coming down from heaven like a dove and coming to rest on him. I would not have known him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said, 'The one on whom you will see the Spirit descending and coming to rest is the very one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I saw this myself and therefore declare that this man is the Son of God."
The first disciples of Jesus (1:35-42).
The next day as John the Baptist was standing there with two of us (we had become his followers), Jesus walked by. "Look!" exclaimed John, "here comes the Lamb of God!" When we heard him say that, we left John and began to follow Jesus.
Jesus turned around and saw us following him. He asked, "What is it that you want?"
"Rabbi," we said (the word means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?"
He said, "Come along and you will see."
So we went with him and saw where he was staying. Since it was about four in the afternoon, we stayed with him for the rest of the day.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was the other one who had heard what John said and had gone with Jesus. The first thing he did was to find his brother Simon. "We have found the Messiah!" he told him (the word means "Christ," that is, "the anointed one").
Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him intently and said, "You are Simon, the son of John; you are to be called Cephas" (the word means "Peter").
The next day Philip and Nathanael become disciples of Jesus (1:43-51).
The following day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He met Philip and said to him, "Come along with me." Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town where Andrew and Peter lived.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, the one the prophets foretold. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph, and comes from the town of Nazareth."
"Nazareth!" exclaimed Nathanael, "Can anything good come from that place?"
Philip answered, "Come and see for yourself."
Jesus saw Nathanael approaching and said of him, "Here comes a true Israelite! A man in whom there is no deceit!"
"How do you know me?" asked Nathaniel.
Jesus answered, "I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree, before Philip spoke to you."
"Rabbi," exclaimed Nathaniel, "you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
"Is it because I told you that I saw you sitting under the fig tree that you believe?" asked Jesus. "You will see greater things than that." Then Jesus said to him, "The truth is that you will see heaven standing wide open and the angels of God coming down on the Son of Man, and going up from him."