Our Genesis.

1869 257 There is a striking correspondence between "the beginning" in the Book of Genesis, and in the Gospel of John, though the subjects of each are so vastly different. The Creator in one, and the Word in the other, alike come forth into the respective circles in which each is to be displayed. The earth was without form and void, and the eternal Word was concealed in His own essential perfectness.

The elements with which we are now familiar served to bring into existence and beauty a material creation; and the attributes, by which Deity has clothed itself, introduced the Creator. True, one was the beautiful development of a thing formed; and the other, the almighty power and wisdom of Him that formed it. "God spake and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast." As to the earth, it was without form — "Darkness was upon the face of the deep — and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." But the eternal "Word, was with God, for the Word, was God; and the same was in the beginning, with God."

Creation and the Creator are necessary to each other; but for what different reasons — like the potter and the clay! The formless and void earth, With darkness upon its face, carries along the secret power of its formative beauty in the Spirit of God which moved upon the face of its waters. So in John, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in darkness."

The Genesis formations, of day and night, firmaments, earth, and seas, with their greater and lesser lights, are completed; and the history of signs and seasons, days and years, with the fruitful products of the earth for man and beast, are familiar to us all. But the Gospel of John now claims its own pre-eminence, and passing away into heights and depths, which neither the sun above, nor the sea beneath, can measure, brings out its own mystery, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth."

Again, if we go back to the Adam of Genesis, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." But pass we on to the new created man of John, and we find another race, "For as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

The creation of Genesis just ran the cycle of its one week, as we follow it in its magnificent course, from evening to morning — and from its first day to the sixth day, till "God rested on the seventh day, from all the work which he had made; and blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." In this Eden man was made the responsible head, on whose obedience the whole creation depended. Adam sinned, and the link of relationship was snapped between the Creator and the creature, and all broke down. "The whole creation groans and travails together in pain," is the sad consequence.

The Genesis of John's Gospel brings in a revelation of grace and truth, reveals the Second man, the Word made flesh, "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." In this new beginning, grace — the grace of God — towards man, as a sinner, takes the place of responsibility between the creature and the Creator. Eden's gate soon closed upon the fair scene of the six days' work, and upon the sabbath of rest too — the cherubim, and the flaming sword, forbad the thought, much more the vain attempt, of the sinner to return. Grace, and the resources of God, are what John records: the Word made flesh was the great reserve of God. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" is become the new connecting link with God. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;" and this is the grand theme which the Gospel of John opens out.

How touchingly this is recorded in the intercourse between Jesus and the woman of Samaria! The links which sin had broken in Genesis have been formed anew, between God and the sinner, but only in and through Christ, who shed His blood for the remission of sins. The former ground of creature responsibility is abandoned through the knowledge of that eternal redemption which we have in Christ, "the beginning of the new creation of God."

Nathanael under the fig tree, and Nicodemus the master of Israel, set us in the path of the kingdom-glory, with "the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man;" and moreover, all must be born again, "to see or enter into it." How blessedly does the Messiah, the King of Israel, undo every burden, and loose them that were appointed to die! How refreshing thus to see the Second man, as the source of life and joy, where the first had brought in death and misery!

The marriage scene of Cana in Galilee gives further the style and actings of our Lord in millennial blessing, when the water is turned into wine, and every water pot filled to the brim. What a word will that be, when, in the full consciousness of unhindered joy around Him, and Himself the cause and producer of it, He says, "Draw out now, and bear to the governor of the feast."

There are two ways in which the Lord opens out the fulness of His person to us in this gospel. The first is what we have been considering, and may be described by that verse in John 2, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory" — a title by which He will link the ruined creation of Genesis with the victorious effects of His own death and resurrection, when He comes again to fill every heart with gladness and every tongue with praise. But other and higher glories are connected with His person and may be described by another verse in John 1: "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," and it is in these two characters of divine and human glory that the Word made flesh passes along before our view as we follow Him throughout this precious book of our new Genesis. The difference we are considering is this: the latter is the personal glory as of the only begotten of the Father, and the former was the miraculous power which accredited Him to the people by act and deed. Various chapters might be selected as displaying one glory or the other, and here and there a combination of them, which is very grand.

Before passing on, let me say that while the first and second chapters have been introduced for the purpose just described of marking these two especial glories of Christ, yet that chapter 1 throughout is the unfolding of the person of the Son, from His own essential being, into the relations by which e stands connected with God and man, and also in the various titles by which promise, type, and prophecy bad pointed Him out. It is in this breadth and fulness of grace that the Father's love has given Him forth to the faith of His beloved people, and for which the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove lighted on Him and sealed Him!

In John 3 the Lord in His intercourse with Nicodemus presents Himself in the circle of His own personal glory, taking as the centre the antitype of Moses and the brazen serpent, giving Himself out to the faith of a needy sinner, as the lifted up Son of man — a centre of a circle which in its vast dimensions embraces the love of God which is above all sin in its essential holiness, and yet stoops down to the worthlessness of the perishing one, whom it rescues in sovereign grace.

So again in John 4, where the personal and the moral glory of the Lord shines forth with the woman at the well, leading her up to the springs of life from which He had come, and yet giving her to drink thereof according to the perceptions of her own need which He in grace awakened, He maintains His own ground in this touching scene and proclaims "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Thus He connects God, in what He is in love, with the poor Samaritan in her sin, and by the supply of this living water to her soul, which was in her a "well of water springing up into everlasting life," led her to drink from a spring which is divine.

The nobleman from Capernaum brings Him down to the level of miracles again; but He consents to this, with the rebuke, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe."

John 5 begins with a word of power to the man at the pool of Bethesda. "Jesus said to him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk." From this point He rises to the height of His personal glory, and says to the Jews, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do; for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise;" and this is applied to quickening, judging, and raising the dead, in this Bethesda-world, the house of effusion (for such is its name), as well as of pity and mercy.

In John 6 a great multitude followed Him, "because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased." And He puts His disciples to the proof as to whether they were yet up to the point of His personal glory, by asking, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?" Subsequently, this scene of five loaves and two fishes gives place to the grand action which had brought Him down from heaven, as "the bread of God, that gives life to the world." And here, if we may anticipate the tenth (or Shepherd) chapter, it is only for the purpose of saying, the Lord seems to be acting in this character in chapter 4, where He led in the sheep of Samaria, and bade them lie down by the still waters; as in chapter 6. He leads them into "the green pastures." "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh;" for "my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."

The feast of Tabernacles, in John 7, like the Passover, in John 6, carries the Lord up into His own height with the Father. He passes beyond the reach of a reasoning, cavilling people, and presents Himself to faith as equal with God, or rather as identified with Him. "I know him: for I am from him, and he has sent me." Again, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." One with the Father in counsel and purpose, yet He is on the level with any who can lift the veil and see His personal glory, and take, in the title of His grace, all He is. In the previous chapter He had spoken of "ascending up where he was before;" and now, contemplating the day of His glorification at the right hand of God, He connects His disciples with the blessing, which should descend to them from thence: "He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," adding, "this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." What streams in the desert here surround us, as we follow the incarnate Word, the crucified Son of man, and the exalted Lord!

The narrative, in the beginning of chapter 8, important though it be, serves as the ground of introducing Himself as the Light of the world, adding, "He that follows me, shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life." In the midst of such a scene, what other challenge could He make than "Let him that is without sin among you, first cast a stone at her;" and then takes His own place as a Teacher and a Deliverer. "Verily, verily I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin … If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And again, "If any man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death." What assurances! They are like the grapes of Eshcol, that come from another land to thirsting souls. "Free from sin" through the lifted up Son of man; "the light of life" by following Him; not "tasting death" through His resurrection. In what majesty and grace has He thus displayed Himself! and how truly do all His paths drop fatness! Yet those who could not cast a stone at the adulteress now take up stones to cast at Him who had said, in the consciousness of His personal glory, "Before Abraham was, I am." But Jesus hid Himself; and, in the silence of disappointed love, "went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by." They have lost Him!

Before entering on John 9 we may observe (in reference to the previous eight) a dispensational link which connects them together in a way of its own; for while every type and promise pointed to Him, He must necessarily embody the type and supersede it. This is the fact even as regards His forerunner, for John's two disciples follow Jesus, and John declared, "He must increase, but I must decrease." So as to the temple, "I will raise it up in three days; this spake he of his body." And again, with Nicodemus and the brazen serpent in the wilderness, "Even so must the Son of man be lifted up." So also He takes the place of Jacob's well, and gives the living water; and at the pool of Bethesda He supersedes the angel, who at a certain season troubled it. He is likewise the antitype of the manna, by proclaiming Himself "the living bread." He also takes the place of the feast of Tabernacles, and finally acts as one superior to Moses the lawgiver, and greater than their father Abraham. Israel's hopes and prophecies are thus embodied in Himself; and in this character He meets the man blind from his birth, in John 9, ready to do for the nation what He does for the individual, if there is faith to receive Him. He presents Himself to them, with the man whose eyes He had opened. Will they accept the hand stretched out to give them sight? What a moment! But they say, "We know this man, whence he is; when Christ comes, no man knows whence he is." They cast out the man who confessed Him to have come from God; but to be cast out of the synagogue was then, as now, to be thrown upon Jesus, who reveals Himself to the man as the Son of God; and he said, "Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." Jesus quits them with the solemn words, "For judgment I am come into the world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind."

In John 10 the cast out sheep, in the person of the blind man last mentioned, gives occasion for Jesus to declare Himself the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep. To Him the porter opens. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." There are also "other sheep which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, that there may be one flock and one shepherd." "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." The double title in which the sheep are held is very precious. "My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him," accusing Him of blasphemy, because He, being a man, made Himself equal with God. He makes a last appeal to them: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him." They will not be gathered into the fold, and they cast out the Shepherd of the sheep.

John 11 and 12, or the Bethany chapters, are complete in themselves; and, if not standing alone, are to be viewed as family paintings, which represent the circle of Christ's social affections, with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary — a home group which had been gathered around Him — a green spot — a miniature representation of what the wilderness is to be when He comes again: and by His abiding presence turns it into a fruitful field, and gives the true length and breadth to Bethany, or the house of song (which its name implies), the house of obedience, and the house of the grace of the Lord. In the light of the past, as John gives it, Bethany and its inmates may well stand as a companion picture with the scene at the mount of transfiguration, where Jesus led others up to be "eye-witnesses of his majesty, when he received from God the Father honour and glory." The one is the circle of the social affections of the Lord — "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;" and the other is the manifestation of the "Son of man coming in his kingdom." But these two chapters supply their own proofs by which, as we have said, this gospel is occupied.

In John 11 the death of Lazarus leads Jesus to announce Himself as the "resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The knowledge of Christ carried no outside sin and condemnation, as other chapters have shown us; and now this further knowledge of Christ carries through death and the grave. "Whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die." Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth." Thus the Lord, in this resurrection scene, sets "the glory of God "above sin and its consequences.

In John 12 Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, and the whole house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Jesus interprets the act, saying, "Let her alone: against the day of my burying has she kept this." For the last time He presents Himself in the light of promise and prophecy to Israel, and rides into Jerusalem on the colt the foal of an ass. "When Jesus was glorified, then his disciples remembered that they had done these things unto him." His own death is now before Him as the only door of deliverance for His people, and for His own glory, and the establishment of covenanted blessing with Jehovah and the nation. He consequently takes a larger sphere for Himself (outside His Messiah, and king of Israel relations), and on the coming up of the Greeks to see Jesus, says, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified … Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit." By His own righteous title He had raised Lazarus from the grave, but He is now about to descend into death Himself, as between God, and mankind, and Satan; that God may take Him up out of the grave, and declare Him to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead, for obedience to the faith, among all nations. (Rom. 1)

"The light of the world" has travelled over its orbit in these twelve chapters, and, as was declared at its rising, the darkness comprehended it not." But before it sets, Jesus cries, "Yet a little while is the light with you. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." These things spake Jesus and departed and did hide Himself from them! He is refused in His personal glories — so also as to His acts and deeds, from the "beginning of miracles, in Cana of Galilee" to the close of His ministry, this is the sum, "though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." His incarnation has failed as a bond of union between "His own" and Himself, and therefore between them and Jehovah. Man must be changed in the springs of his nature; and what deeper work can be undertaken that shall effect this change? This is what is now before Jesus, and in the prospect of the cross He says, "Now is my soul troubled … Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die."

The secret is told, for here are found the hidden depths in which Christ must work for the glory of God, the overthrow of Satan, and the salvation of His beloved people. This closes the first half of John's Gospel, proving that relations in the flesh, however drawn out by what He was who was "manifest in the flesh," fell short, infinitely short, of what the holiness of God required, or the condition of humanity around Him needed.

Redemption must be the new basis of intercourse between God and His creatures, and these are the tried stones — the foundation stones — the precious corner stones — which the Lord lays in His death and resurrection. He turns away from everything on the earth — the links are broken, never to be formed again, except on the other side of death and judgment, where divine life, in resurrection power, is the new holding of all established blessing. "Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father;" and this opens a new path upward to the faith of "his own which were in the world." Judaism, in its full results, is the manifestation that God is come down to man upon the earth; and this will be displayed in the millennial days of Israel's blessing. But Christianity is based on the wondrous fact that man, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, is gone up to God into the heavens. This, however, finds its place in the beginning of John 13, or the last half and the heavenly side of this gospel. J. E. Batten.