The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Up to this point, we know that the Word was with God and that the Word was God; the “Word-God.” We have also seen John refer to this Word-God as “he”. Now, for the first time, John identifies “him” as the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yes, for it was none other than Jesus who became flesh and made His dwelling among us at the incarnation, it is of Jesus that the Hebrews author asserts, “and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2) which is parallel to John 1:3; there can be no doubt about whom it is that John is referring to here. It is Jesus who is the Son, having come to us from the Father.
Now that we are certain of just who John has been talking about, we can look at the attributes John mentions about Him, He was full of “grace and truth.” Notice the balance between those two; how many of us maintain that kind of balance between grace and truth when we are interacting with others? Some of us have a great deal of grace, so much so in fact, that we can overlook almost anything; we might even make the truth hard to find. Others are so strong on truth that we find ourselves pointing fingers at those around us, seldom displaying love or compassion or understanding.
I used to give my students a little chart containing two axes, the north-south axis was labeled “justice” at the top and “mercy” at the bottom, and the east-west was labeled “truth” on the west and “grace” on the east. Then I would ask them to rate themselves by making a little “X” where they think they fall on the chart as I asked them four or five simple questions. After that, I would ask the questions again and have them rate me…
Almost without exception, the students rated themselves right in the middle of the chart, and almost without exception they rated me in the upper left hand quadrant: they were all full of grace and truth, while I was cold, aloof and correct.
I always got a kick out of that and joked that they should just remember who was the one who was correct in the room. Then, springing the trap, I would congratulate them, for they had each placed themselves on a par with none other than Jesus Christ Himself, a position much loftier than anything the Apostle Paul would ever dare to claim!
The preacher who pounds his pulpit while heaping condemnation on the sinners around the room thinks he’s being just like Jesus, but where is the grace? The preacher who is willing to tolerate virtually any behavior also thinks he’s being just like Jesus, but where’s the truth? Oh yes, dear reader, it is so very hard for us to see ourselves the way that others do, and even harder to see ourselves as God sees us, but since being like Christ is our goal, we need to try!
It might just be that you, me and everyone else should seek His guidance in this through fervent and regular prayer that He, through His Spirit would guide our every action, that all around us would see His love at work in each of us.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
When I was a youth, these verses changed everything for me; this is where I began to comprehend the truth of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in Him before that, but simple belief isn’t the same as comprehension, and though my comprehension was not, and for that matter still is not as complete as I might like, this was the turning point for me. Yet again, simple John took a major theological concept and boiled it down to a few simple sentences that anyone can understand; it is clear and simple. This “light” who is also the Word-God, came into this world of darkness, and even though He made the world, the world simply didn’t recognize Him for who He really was. He even came amongst his own covenant people, the ones who had received the message of the prophets concerning Him and His coming, yet they for the most part, didn’t recognize Him any more than they recognized the prophets when they came. Yet, for those who did see Him for who He was, He made it possible for them to be reborn as children of God.
What could be simpler?
The interesting thing about a text like this is that while I’d like to write on and on, I’m pretty sure that I would either resort to being redundant, or I would translate simplicity into complexity, and neither of those are very good outcomes. Accordingly, I think I’ll just leave you with…
What could be simpler?
Verse 5 begins the next little section of John’s text, a section that continues through verse 13. The theme is that of the manifestation of the Word in this dark world, and in this it is interesting to note the transition from the Word, to God and then of Word-God into “light’. We can easily see through this device that the three terms, Word, God and light are being used interchangeably to describe attributes of God, thus they are One in their reference to Christ, who is as yet unnamed in the text.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Once again, John has put into one simple statement a fact that theologians have struggled with for centuries; the world around us just doesn’t “get it”. OK, those poor souls who live in the darkness of this world don’t understand the light; why does this surprise us? At the same time as we are surprised that this world struggles with the message of Christ, some of us are surprised that we should be called to reach out to the world around us to deliver the message of light to them and help them to see it for what it is; grace and truth. Why should we be surprised to be called to help others understand it? Why should we resist this calling?
There was a guy who did not resist the calling, and his name was John. This John is not the same guy who wrote the gospel, yet both of them were only too happy to share the light with a dark world. Verses 5-9 set up what follows by pointing out that this John (the Baptist) was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah who was about to burst upon the scene in the person of Jesus. John was not the light, just as you and I are not the light, yet he was sent to prepare the people to hear the message that would come in Christ.
In our time, the light has already come, and we have received it and received grace as a result. We are sent to share that light, and to help those around us to comprehend it that some should receive it also and share in its blessing. When you think about, this is an awesome calling!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
John begins his account with the words, “in the beginning” with a very different beginning in mind than we find in Genesis 1:1, for while Genesis begins with the creation, John begins with God alone. The “God” that John refers to here is first called the Word (logos) God, the uncreated Creator, before the creation of anything… The Word. That “Word” was there first of all… with God; in fact the Word was and is God.
We throw those terms around in our day, don’t we? “The Word” referring to the Scriptures, and we seem to like to use it to prove our various points in arguments with each other as though the “Word” is our own very precious tool for debating. Yet John, the Apostle of Jesus Christ uses it as a name for Almighty God!
Notice how the Word becomes God, and then in the next verse, God becomes “he.” He was with God in the beginning. The Word was with God in the beginning: “The Word” “God” and “He” were all together in the beginning, before anything had been created.
They are One.
Jesus is God’s messenger to mankind, as well as being the embodiment of God’s message (Heb. 1:1-4) It was by His Word that the universe came into being, and it is by His blood that we may enter into relationship with Him, as told in His Word. Thus, we may say that the Word is not only God’s person, essence and power, but that it is one and inseparable from the person of Jesus Christ, who is entirely one with God. Verse 2 is set up as transition in the sense that it begins the move from “what” to “whom”; from “the Word” to “he”: Jesus was there.
Now it becomes clear and unambiguous that this “he” is the one through who all things have been made. This is stated positively “all things” and negatively “without him nothing…” Within him was life reminds of God breathing life into Adam. (Gen. 2:7) “He” contained life, was its very source, and this essence will be the light of the world. Life and light are two themes that carry throughout the entire gospel of John, and will become more and more clear as we go on. For now, suffice it to say that His very essence is “Truth” and that will illuminate a dark world that carries on without either Truth or God’s presence, since fellowship with God had ceased after the entry of rebellion into the world.
I hope that you have noticed how much theological truth that John has expressed in four simple, clear and easy to understand little verses; scholars write volumes and can’t say so much! This is precisely why I always tell my students that John’s gospel is very much a “Big Boy” book!
I have been away from my writing desk for nearly a week now, and following after a summer in which I have slacked off quite a bit in my writing, I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things here at The Life Project! I would like to begin by thanking those of you who sent well wishes this past week; I doubt I can adequately express my appreciation.
I have some catching up to do today, that’s for sure, but I do want to get started with an introduction to a new set of posts that will begin in earnest tomorrow morning on the Gospel of John…
Of all of the Gospels, John’s is without a doubt my favorite, just as John is my favorite New Testament author. John just has a certain way with words. His language isn’t the best grammar, and sometimes he has a way of writing in circles, yet as he does so, he leads to major revelations in which he takes the complex and makes it so very simple that it’s not easy to miss the point. Of course, much of the theology written in the centuries that have passed has succeeded in doing so, but it usually takes an awful lot of education and training to miss John’s points!
His Gospel is unique in that it is not synoptic, which is to say that it is the only one of the four that is not always in chronological order. It is a biography of sorts, but it is not merely the story of the life of Jesus, it is a revelation of deeper significance than one would gain from a recitation of narratives as Mark’s contains, for instance. John relates Jesus’ life from a heavenly point of view, while Matthew relates it from a Jewish point of view, Luke from a Greek point of view, and Mark from a Roman viewpoint. As a consequence, John is the only Gospel author who wrote to a universal audience. Why did he write the book? Here is John’s answer to that question:
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
He wrote the book sometime between 85 and 95 AD, with a clear New Covenant orientation, and begins in a way that only John writes about; a deeper view of the birth of Christ. He introduces Jesus Christ to us in a way that is similar to Hebrews 1:1-4 and 1John 1:1-4 which provides us with a Heavenly overview of His nature, position, identity and purpose, beginning with the words, “In the beginning….” The “Christmas story” is usually told from Luke chapter 2, but in John chapter one you see the theology of that story. Thus we can easily say that Luke, the historian gave us the facts, but John the Apostle of love gave us the behind the scenes background that gives Luke’s account a significance that is the reason this birth is celebrated 2,000 years later.
I hope you will plan on joining with us in a new adventure here at The Life Project, as we dive into John’s first chapter, right here posting at 6 am (Eastern) tomorrow morning!
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
How much joy do we take in life?
How much joy do we have in worship?
OK, I agree that not every situation in life can be joyful, for there are also many sorrows and hardships; I also realize that many of us are undergoing severe trials these days.
Yet even in sorrow, hardship and trial we are the redeemed of the Lord if we have entered relationship with Jesus Christ. Is there any hardship or trial that can compare with all that He has done for us?
I would never want to make light of suffering, nor would I ever want to let someone forget how great our God is!
Here… let’s try an experiment: Let’s decide that we are going to celebrate our great and awesome God no matter what trial we are dealing with. Let’s even go another step and commit ourselves to praising God in every situation; even the ones we don’t really like that much…
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We’ll know you tried this experiment when we see the big smile on your face!