There were already three very serviceable gospels in circulation, and John’s gospel—along with Peter’s—was being widely taught in oral fashion. He had set pen to paper already once, just to sketch out his own testimony, working in the symbology of what he had experienced with Jesus. It was all so much more profound than any written word could adequately convey, anyway. He wanted people to understand the reality of the supernatural, the cosmic impact of God revealed in the Lord Jesus, Messiah, and that seemed to come better with teaching in person, rather than a flat papyrus with ink scratches.
But there was a growing number of those who were denying the humanity of Jesus, that God had somehow imbued the man Jesus with God’s supernatural being when he had risen up out of the Jordan, baptized by the other John—John the Baptist. And that—somehow—in that last hairbreadth of a moment when Jesus’ breath rattled to a stop on the cross, God had taken the Holy Spirit back, for God cannot be mortal, such people said.
John was old, and his gnarled fingers often ached, as his hand brushed across the papyrus, inking each word. Yet, it was more important than anything else he could imagine doing, to impart the momentous truth of Jesus.
He had told Nicodemus he was the Savior of the world.
He had told the woman at the well he was the long-awaited Messiah.
He had told Pontius Pilate he was King.
The term “Son of God” may not sound like saying flat out Jesus is God. It may sound like there is a distinction between the term “God,” and the term “Son of God.” But remember, John wrote his gospel in the context of ancient Judea, to be read by those familiar with the Hebrew scriptures as well as the practice of Rome’s emperors.
No Hebrew would have seen a distinction between those two terms. To someone of Jewish culture and faith, to call someone a “son” of something was to say he was identified with, even identical with, that thing or that person. So, to the Hebrews, the use of the term “Son of God” meant “This man is God, of one being with God.” He was literally the personification of godhood on earth.
In much the same way, for the century surrounding the events of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, several Roman emperors were deified after their deaths so that their successor was entitled “son of (a) god.” In this way, Roman emperors had temples built to them where people could worship them, and statues designed in their likeness to stand at the entryway of marketplaces and public buildings, where everyone could leave a sacrifice or libation of some kind. To be the son of a god was indeed to be a god oneself.
The mystery of the trinity was deeply hidden in the Hebrew scriptures, and it took several church councils over a number of centuries to come to some sort of understanding of how the Godhead might be grasped. It is not something we, as three-dimensional creatures, can fully comprehend. We try our best to hold the perspective of God and human together with open hands.
The Son of God is said to be one person of the Godhead, the trinity. As God, Jesus is eternal, Jesus always existed.
Jesus has the true divine nature.
Before there was anything, Jesus was with God, a distinct person in the Godhead, and also was God, that is what the first few verses of John’s gospel was seeking to convey.
The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as “the radiance of the glory of God,” the visible aspect of God. But Jesus is not just an image or a reflection of God. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is “the exact imprint of God’s nature,” “He is the image of the invisible God,”
Jesus is the absolutely authentic representation of God’s being.
Paul explained that all of God’s fullness—the totality of God’s powers and attributes—rests in Jesus. God upholds the universe by the word of God’s power, Jesus. Jesus actively holds all things together.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20 (NRSV)
The Father and the Son are equal in being, yet in the plan of redemption the Son subordinated himself to the Father—a willing subordination that in no way implies inferiority. At a specific moment in earth’s history, The Son of God took a human form, becoming the man we know as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Himself said, in this gospel, that he, as God, entered from eternity into the world not to judge it but to save it.
Jesus has a true human nature that is perfectly united with His divine nature. Jesus was completely human, except He was without imperfection in his inner being. As a human Jesus humbled himself by becoming perfectly obedient (we might say so attuned to God as to be one with God’s will and intention) to God, even to the point of death on the cross for the sake of our salvation.
Jesus’ death and resurrection have changed everything. The work of redemption is complete. Because of Jesus’ humility in obedience, God has exalted Him, giving Him authority over every authority. Jesus now remains the unique God‑man forever—fully God and fully human.
Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God
Today, many think that Son of God and Messiah still do not mean GOD, the God of the universe, the real GOD.
But there was no confusion during Jesus’ ministry about Who he claimed to be. The scribes and teachers of the law, who knew the scriptures better than anyone, understood perfectly what Jesus was saying.
John’s Gospel explained this was why the Judean religious authorities were seeking all the more to kill Jesus, because not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, but Jesus was even claiming God as his own Father, making himself equal with God.
The scribes understood that Jesus was claiming the same essence as God. In fact the Pharisees told Jesus, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.“
Taken as a whole, it was the intention of John’s gospel that readers and hearers make some conclusions based upon these witnesses’ testimony.
[Early portrait of Jesus, Aya Sofya, a beautiful mosque turned museum, built by Emperor Justinian in in 532 AD | Curious Expeditions, flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/%5D