Second Genesis

“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there…Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”  John‬ ‭19:41-42‬, 20:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  We’ve taken a lot of time, been on a journey if you will, in the fourth gospel looking at signs.  In his gospel, the apostle John strategically places seven of Jesus’ miracles as signs to guide us.  Matthew, Mark and Luke fill their gospels with signs, miracles.   John  on the other hand reduces his down to seven, never calling them miracles, but he calls them signs, because it’s not the thing, the miracle, John wants you to focus on, but rather what it points to.  These seven signs point us to believing in the right way in Jesus Christ, so that in believing we might have life in his name.

In the seven signs Jesus does things like turn the water into wine, multiply loaves and fishes, walk on the water, heal the blind, the lame, the dying, and then finally raise the dead.  Seven signs to inform our faith, and John, to be sure, wants you to think there are seven signs.  All these seven signs take place in the first half of John’s gospel, then they cease.  The second half of John’s gospel are narrative, teaching, controversy in Jerusalem, but no more signs, because John wants you to believe that once you see the seventh sign, that’s the end of the signs.  Seven is the divine number, and when you get to the second half of this gospel, John wants us to think “That’s seven signs, there are no more.”  This is what John wants you to think, because he’s an artist, maybe a dramatist, and he’s setting us all up for a surprise.    

And just when the reader thinks there are no more signs in the gospel of John, suddenly, out of nowhere, we find an eighth sign.  A surprise, another sign.  Yes, it is number eight, because if seven is the divine number (and it is), then eight is the number of new beginnings.  This sign is all about new beginnings, and new beginnings is one of John’s dominant themes in his gospel.  John’s gospel is very sophisticated, there is a lot of artistry in it.  One of his themes is the theme of new beginnings.  In fact, John in his gospel is doing nothing less than giving us a Second Genesis.  

In our bibles, we have books that are second – second Kings, second Chronicles, second Corinthians, second Thessalonians, maybe a few others.  If we like, I think it’s permissible for us to think of the gospel of John as a kind of Second Genesis.  John makes it very clear.  After all, how does Genesis begin?  What is the opening phrase?  “In the beginning…”  Genesis‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  And how does John begin his gospel?   “In the beginning….” John‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  He expects you to catch that, but it’s more involved than just that.

Genesis begins like this – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”  ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  Read this aloud, listen, hear.  Now say aloud the beginning of John’s gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  This is Second Genesis.

At the conclusion of he first chapter of Genesis, we find the creation of man on the sixth day.  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, the sixth day was a Friday.  On Friday as we speak of the days, on the sixth day, God creates man.   And we are told that then God beheld his work.  Or maybe we could say it this way – Behold the man.   

In Chapter 2 of Genesis, we find things like this – we find a seventh day, a day of rest.  We find God Himself at rest.  We find a garden, and a gardener.  We find God breathing upon man.  In Chapter 3 of Genesis, we find things begin to turn bad.  And now the Bible has a big story to tell, but the story always moves in one direction.  It’s moving toward new beginning, new Genesis, new Adam, new humanity, new creation, a new garden.  

Listen to how John tells the gospel story.  Back up into John 19.  It’s Friday, Good Friday.  It’s the sixth day.  Pilate brings forth Jesus in the purple robe wearing the crown of thorns.  What does Pilate say?  Heche HomoBehold the man!  John 19:5.  On the sixth day, Behold the man.  John wants you to catch that.  We have a new representative human being.  This man, Christ Jesus, is condemned and crucified.  After the six days of labor in which God created the heavens and the earth, we are told in Genesis 2:1 that the work of God was finished.  “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished…”  Genesis‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  God had finished creating the heavens and the earth.

So, Behold the man on the sixth day, as Pilate says of Jesus, and after six hours suffering upon the cross, He lifts up His voice and what does he say?  “It is finished,” John‬ ‭19:30‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   Not to give it all away, but what is finished?  New heavens, and new earth.  New Genesis.  It is finished.  And he breathes his last and he dies.  And with the evening of this day, it’s now crossed over to the seventh day, Saturday.  In Genesis, what does God do on the seventh day, the Sabbath, Saturday?  He rests.  In John, what does God in Christ do on the Sabbath day, the seventh day?  He rests, in the tomb.  A tomb that is set in a garden.  Not the garden of Eden, but the garden of Arimathea.  We see these themes that are present in both Genesis and John.   

With that, I will end for now.  Obviously, more to come.

John Lewis

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