What does John chapter 1 mean?The first chapter of John begins with a clear, expressive description of Jesus as identical to God the Father. It then segues to the ministry of John the Baptist, and the local religious leaders who questioned him. By the end of the chapter, Jesus has collected the first five disciples: John, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.
Along the way, John describes Jesus using seven specific titles. These names outline both the purpose of Jesus' ministry, and His status as both God and Savior. The seven names of John chapter one are "The Word" (John 1:1–3; John 1:14), "The Light" (John 1:4–13), "The Son of God" (John 1:15–28; John 1:49), "The Lamb of God" (John 1:29–34), "The Messiah" (John 1:3, 42), "The King of Israel" (John 1:43–49), and "The Son of Man" (John 1:50–51). Each of these is meant to explain a particular aspect of who Jesus is, and the reason He was born on earth.
The first 18 verses of John form a prologue, setting the tone for the rest of the gospel. Jesus is described using the Greek word Logos, meaning "logic, word, order, or definition." Jesus is the message, the logic, the "word" of God. In describing Jesus, the prologue states that Jesus has always existed (John 1:2), and has always been identical to God (John 1:1, John 1:3). And yet, since He came in physical form, He was subject to all of the physical struggles of a human man (John 1:14). Jesus is described as the "light" (John 1:4–5), an important concept in Hebrew philosophy. Much of Jesus' ministry, as described in John, is an "illumination" of human ignorance. Jesus constantly corrects mistaken concepts about God.
John the Baptist (different from the author of this gospel) preached a message of repentance, preparing people for the arrival of the Messiah. Local religious leaders interrogated the Baptist about his teachings. In response, the Baptist clearly stated that he was not the Savior, just a man opening minds and hearts to receive the Chosen One. In front of these witnesses, the Baptist testifies that he has seen the Holy Spirit on Jesus, and that Jesus is the Son of God. He directs two of his followers, Andrew and John (the author of this gospel) to follow Jesus.
Andrew seeks out his brother, Simon, and brings him to Jesus. Jesus gives Simon the name "Peter," which makes more sense later on. Jesus then calls Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael in order to tell him about Christ. Nathanael is skeptical at first, but believes after Jesus demonstrates His supernatural wisdom. Jesus tells the five disciples that they will see far more amazing things as they follow Him. John's gospel only discusses seven miracles, but each is explained in order to prove that Christ is who He claimed to be. Chapter 1 is just the introduction to these amazing events.