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John

The Word Made Flesh

John 1:1-14

Would you like some clear evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures? Consider John the Apostle: by all accounts an ignorant, unschooled fisherman. At an old age he decided to take up writing biography. Here are the opening lines:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood£ it.

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.£

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13children born not of natural descent,£ nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,£ who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Tell me: does that sound like an unschooled fisherman? Or the Spirit of God?

Beginning

Sometimes the hearer listens to this passage, and hears the echoes from the Old Testament.

In the beginning

Consider it: long before modern science arose, the ancient Jews knew that the universe had a beginning. Not a universe going through endless cycles of reincarnation, but a time at which time started, a place at which all places were defined. The matter sounds so scientific now, but it was a leap of faith for the ancients; they saw a universe which did not change. Why should it not be eternal?

It is not eternal because its creator is eternal. The creator and the creation are not made of the same stuff. The universe is in time. Whoever created it therefore cannot be – or he would be a part of the universe. And if he were a part of the universe, how could he have caused his own creation? No, the eternal God solves the great problems of metaphysics.

Indeed, there is more in this introduction. To echo the words of Genesis, “In the beginning” means that the God spoken of here – the Word – is one with the God who was revealed to ancient Israel. This is no cosmic god proclaiming some pantheistic nonsense from the East. It is the stern Jehovah of Moses and Joshua, of Elijah and Isaiah.

In the beginning was the Word

Please note the structure of that sentence. It tells us so much:

  • “The” Word – not a word, or some messages, but “the” word. There is no other; nor will there ever be. He is the way, the truth and the light – and no one comes to the Father except by Him.
  • He is the “Word” – the Greek is logos – meaning that he is everything of the mind of God which is now revealed. Who has known the mind of the Lord? But we have the mind of Christ.[1]
  • And – in case you missed it – “was”. Not became after creation, not made for the purpose – but when time began, Christ was.
With God, and was God

Immediately your ears should hear, “Hear O Israel: the Lord your God is one.” So it is; so it has always been; so it will always be. God is one.[2] If he is not, how can there be anything eternal?

But do you not see that God must also be more than one? For God is love – and love has no meaning if there is only one. “No meaning” does not apply to God.

The Trinity is “confessedly a great mystery.” I can but give you the solution of the ancients, brought to its greatest clarity by Thomas Aquinas. You must not confound the persons or divide the essence. The persons are separate; the essence is one. And that essence is, “I am.”

There you have it. The eternal God, who created all things, has chosen to send us not just a message, but The Message – in the person of The Messenger.

The Eternal Character of Christ

Creator

It is a great puzzle at first. We know that the Creator God cannot be made of matter. Matter is created. If he is made of matter, he cannot be the creator – for nothing can cause its own existence. So God must be not only eternal, but self existent.

Then who is this Jesus of Nazareth? It is the clear intent of the Scriptures that Jesus is certainly made of matter – indeed, human flesh. How is it that God becomes man? We may certainly concede to God the power of epiphany – but to be honest about it, we ought at least to ask why?

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

It is so that the supreme God would also be supreme in all matters human.

Life

It sometimes surprises students that the word translated as “life” in this (and many other) passages means biological life. It seems OK to “spiritualize” this passage and talk about spiritual life. But the concept of pink angels and white ghosts finds no place in the Scripture. The angels bring fear – and the resurrection is to bodily life, the fully human life to come.

The real shocker is this: this Jesus of Nazareth has this life “in himself” – that is, it is at his command. His death on the Cross was voluntary; his resurrection by the power of God. He has authority even over life and death itself[3], for He is the Life.

Indeed, he is not only life, he is life and resurrection.[4] Here in this short passage we begin to understand that the day will come when the Life will come to us; we will be raised from the dead by the power of God – just as He was.

But there is yet time, if you are reading this. During that time you need some guidance.

Light

God is light; indeed, we know that Jesus is the light of the world.[5] But how do we interpret that phrase so that the light will shine on our paths in this world?

  • Light is given as purification.[6] By exposing ourselves to the light of Jesus, we are constantly examined – and constantly purified.
  • Indeed, we see its opposite. Those who choose to live in darkness cannot overcome the light. But they are not ignored; those who want darkness are turned over to their own sinful nature – so that the destruction that nature causes might cause them to seek the light.[7]
  • Why was this light sent? So that all men might believe, and believing, have life.[8]
  • The ultimate result of that light is that we walk not only in light – which purifies our ways – but also in love.[9]

Word Become Flesh

A lousy reception

Jesus certainly did not get a welcome reception. Except for those few who followed him, he was ultimately rejected. But in that rejection we can observe some very important points:

  • Both friend and enemy testify to the fact that he was indeed human.[10] Not until the last of the Apostles is gone does anyone dare suggest that he was in any sense ghostly. (False then, false now).
  • Whatever else it might have been, this was a tremendous humbling.[11] Only divine love could have been the motivation for this.
  • Even his own people – who for 1500 years had been sent prophet after prophet, foretelling his coming – did not receive him.[12]
  • And, finally, this has been a great mystery since the beginning of the church.[13] It is likely enough that we will not solve it here.
The right to become

My father often urged me to become a member of the Masonic Lodge. I am told that his membership qualified me to become such. How much greater is the privilege Jesus has given to us: to become the children of God.

  • Only divine love would have lavished such a privilege on us.[14]
  • This privilege by its very nature includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – the key to victory over sin in out lives.[15]
  • But this adoption must have a mechanism; that mechanism is faith.[16] When we accept this privilege, we do it by faith in the Son of God. It is therefore not something we do, but something we receive as a great blessing.
We have seen his glory

John had the privilege of being eyewitness to the glory of Christ.

  • He saw it first at the Transfiguration.[17]
  • He saw it again at the Ascension.[18]
  • He – and all the rest of those who believe – will welcome that same glory as Christ returns.

There remains but one thing: our reaction to all this. There are three reactions which seem to make sense to me:

  • The first is Peter’s, at the sea.[19] Like Isaiah before him, he is a sinner – and therefore wants to be as far away from Jesus as possible. It is a reaction which shows how sin flees the presence of God.
  • The second is that of the disciples when Jesus calms the sea.[20] They were terrified. A man who could command the wind and the waves?
  • The last is that of Thomas, known as “Doubting Thomas.” He is known for his doubt; he should also be known for leaping from doubt to complete faith: “My Lord and my God.”[21]

In my own small way I have experienced all three. The last is the one which lasts.


[1] 1 Corinthians 2:16

[2] Mark 12:28-31

[3] John 5:21-26

[4] John 11:25

[5] John 8:12

[6] 1 John 1:5-7

[7] Romans 1:28

[8] John 1:5

[9] 1 John 2:8-11

[10] John 1:1-4

[11] Philippians 2:6-11

[12] John1:11

[13] 1 Timothy 3:16

[14] 1 John 3:1

[15] Galatians 4:6-7

[16] Galatians 3:26

[17] Matthew 17:1-5

[18] Mark 16:14-19

[19] Luke 5:1-9

[20] Mark 4:37-39

[21] John 20:26-28

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