The Preacher’s Scrap Pile: Seven Days in John 1

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With both Genesis and the Gospel of John starting out with the words “In the beginning . . .”, the reader ought to expected other similarities of significance. One such parallel relates to timing.

Of course Genesis 1 and 2 unfold for us the six days of creation plus the additional day of rest. During these pivotal days God makes the heavens and the earth, and all of the things that fill these. Chief among these things, of course, is man, who is to be made in God’s “image” (1:26), and who is to have “dominion” (1:26). Moses, the writer of Genesis, lays these days of creation and rest out in vivid detail, accounting for various specifics that add color to what could have been an otherwise black and white depiction of creation.

It is acceptable to think that the Apostle John had such things in mind when penning the historical account bearing his name. As referenced above, he begins the Gospel of John with “In the beginning . . .”, clearly an allusion to the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures. But the similarities do not stop there, and when thinking of the time parallels John seems quite intentional, albeit a tad subtle. Consider the following:

In John 1:19 the reader is introduced to John the Baptist, especially in the context of confrontation, wherein the priests and their associates challenge John regarding his identity and purpose. The time structure of John 1 would suggest to us that this is one particular day, made clear by the statement in verse 29 regarding “the next day.” Thus, John 1:19-28 is Day One of a season to which the Apostle John gives attention.

Day Two begins in verse 29 and runs through verse 34. Herein John the Baptist proclaims Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (verse 29). He also elaborates on the Holy Spirit’s confirmation of Jesus’ identity.

Day Three begins with verse 35, and finds its completion with verse 39. During this period the Apostle John tells us of John the Baptist’s disciples and their choice to leave the Baptist behind to follow after this newly identified “Lamb of God” (verse 35). They follow Jesus to his place of lodging, and spend the evening, presumably, sitting at his feet as he teaches them the things of God.

Verse 40 strongly implies the begininng of a new day, one in which Andrew, one of Jesus’ new followers, arises to go and retrieve his brother Simon Peter so the Simon Peter may likewise sit at Jesus’ feet. This time element is suggested because of verse 39’s suggestion that it was late afternoon when Jesus and his new followers gathered together–the idea being that they finished the day together. If this is so, then Andrew’s search for Simon Peter begins the next morning, Day Four.

Day Five begins, then, in verse 43, wherein Jesus determines to return to Galilee from the Jordan River region. On this day Jesus pursues a man named Philip, who in turn retrieves a man named Nathaniel. It is presumed, rightly I suspect, that as Jesus gathers around him Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel, as well as an unnamed disciple who we should expect is the writer of the account, John, he and they take a day or two to return to Galilee. This would imply that Day Six and Day Seven could be accounted for, affirmed clearly, it would seem, by the time reference in John 2:1 that says “On the third day . . .”, that is, three days from the previous time stamp in John 1:43, which would, if 1:43 is the fifth day, propose two intervening days, a sixth and a seventh.

All of this is to say that in the first chapter of his gospel account, the Apostle John seems determined to offer even a mildly constructed parallel to the seven days of creation, a structure that might not even be noticed had it not been that both Genesis and John begin with “In the beginning . . .”. The question, of course, is why?

I might suggest it is rather simple: just as Genesis 1 lays out the order of God’s creative effort, his determination to bring life into what was “without form and void” (1:2), so John 1 seeks to lay out the order of God’s re-creative effort, his determination to bring new life–dare I say, ultimately, resurrection life–into a spiritual environment that is formless and void. It is as if John is declaring, “You thought God did a wonderful thing in making time and space as we know it? Just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet, for this very same God is now going to remake the soul so that it reflects the heart of the Son of God.”

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