A few thoughts on John 1:1-18 (mainly with Christmas preachers in mind)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 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.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (NIV)
As we know all good storied begin “Once upon a time”
But the best story begins “In the beginning…”
Gen 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”
John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the word”, or “in the beginning the word already was”
… John’s magnificent Gospel begins by stretching our minds to the eternal existence of God, and the external co-existence between God and the Word.
… The word was with God and the word was God …. “I am the Father are one” (John 10:30)
This is the same one, who at this time, came to “be with us” – Immanuel. The one who was eternally with the Father, took on human flesh and was “with us”.
What does “word” mean?
Rationality? The word ‘Word’ is the Greek word logos. John’s Greek thinkers would have been very familiar with the concept. Dating back to Heraclitus (500BC) the word came to refer to cataloguing, ordering, and sequential thought. In fact the verb lego from which logos comes has become the name of a popular toy because of the way it encourages the development of building skills. Other words in English include: Logical; catalogue, developing the same idea.
Certainly in John it is true that Jesus is seen as the logical coherence of this world. He is its architect and builder, through Him all things were made and nothing was made without Him.
Wisdom? The idea of logos as wisdom spans the gap between Greek and Hebrews ways of thinking. The Greek sophists saw knowledge as being the height of human development, and the concept was developed by Plato and Socrates. God is the ‘big idea’, the seat of all knowledge and wisdom. The Stoics came to see logos as the bridge between the material world and the world of the divine.
The wisdom emphasis in the Old Testament is found particularly in Proverbs and the prophetic writings (see Proverbs 22:17; 8:22-36). The wise God reveals His plans through His prophets.
This leads us onto the dominant understanding of logos in the Old Testament.
Communication? God’s Word is God in action.
* In creation: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made…” (Psalm 33:6);
* In calling His people to Himself and producing spiritual life: ‘… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ (Isaiah 55:6);
The ‘Word of the Lord’ is not dry, arid or academic. Far from it. God’s word is creative and life-giving. Through His Word God created the world, and still re-creates them with new spiritual life.
These two ideas come out very clearly in John’s Gospel. Jesus, the creator of this world, through His Word brings men and women to new life.
The light has come – hooray! Praise the Lord? But many want to snuff this light out
The light shines; it penetrates darkness … like the far off lighthouse – slicing through the night.
Darkness doesn’t emanate. ..Darkness is the absence of light
Light reveals other things shine up in its light
Like the brilliance of truth
Like the ugliness of sin
Light is only welcome if you want to see what it illuminates cf John 3:17f.
If it’s not welcome you can seek to snuff it out… Herod tried; the Communists tried; the secularists tried; I tried ….but all you actually can do is shut the door on it… but it will keep pouring in through the cracks. …. Light is welcome but not if you would rather stay in the shadows (e.g. Nicodemus, a great example of one who journeys from darkness to light, Jn 3:2; 19:39)
John was the greatest witness to the light
But however great John was he wasn’t the light. He is the Voice; Jesus is the Word. He is the witness to the light, Jesus is the light.
Hence 1:29 – Don’t look to me, but look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
For us who believe, Jesus is brilliant. Revel in His light; but never forget that the brighter he shines the more people will want to snuff the light out – and the stifle the faithful witness to him.
John – 1:9-13
Twin big themes in John – rejection of the light, powerful and simple transformation through belief and trust in Him.
Many will reject the witness of the Word – He is this dark world’s light (kosmos 73 times in John). As we saw yesterday – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness is unable to overcome it (v5)… this verse might suggest either wilful or just ignorant… but v 10b clearly implies that he came to those who should be most likely to accept him, but they received him not. Even at this pinnacle of God’s self-revelation there remains ignorance and stubborn rejection. Rejection should not be a surprise to us. We should rejoice, though, that this is no “false dawn” the true light has come.
But – a big but! (A turnaround sentence “But God” Eph 2:4) – those who “receive” and “believe” will become children of God. This, of course, is why John wrote this Gospel “these things 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” (20:31).
The human response – receive and believe (acceptance and trust that He is the true light) correspond with the supernatural divine work (becoming a child of God) …. John emphasises both the Human response necessary and the Divine action required …
Not of natural descent or a husband’s will – it’s not inherent in being human. …you’re not born a Christian nor do you automatically become one by being born to a certain race or part of the world. It’s not a middle east or a western thing.
Not of human decision – it’s not even a personal lifestyle choice or a matter of personal preference.
You only become a Christian by receiving Jesus and believing in him. then you become a rightful child of God.– not illegitimate – but by receiving and believing you become a true part of the family of God. What a great privilege to be in this family and what a unity this brings about across the ages and around the world! He became a human child so that we, by believing and receiving Him might ourselves become children of God.
It has been said of John’s Gospel that it is “a pool where children may paddle and elephants may wade”. Maybe you are just getting “your feet wet” as a Christian. Well, John is a good place to begin, for here we meet Jesus. But for those who want to go deeper, the Gospel is intellectually stimulating and presents a challenge to our Christian discipleship.
God is invisible and unknowable apart from his self-revelation
- Believers get to see his Glory (v14). He pitched his tent among us. Veiled in flesh, yes, but – we get to see the unveiling of God (hence 2:11)… his glory is full of grace and full of truth.
- No one has ever seen God, but many people saw Jesus. “Have you ever seen God” – born too late. “Sight” is important for John, hence the signs … but seeing beyond the sign to the significance – the unveiling of God. He shines in this dark world, revealing a gracious God. He is not accessible through law keeping; he can only be known through Christ.
Yes, Good Friday and Easter matter. But so too does Christmas – God stooped low to be with us; to show unfallen humanity; to prepare the way for our salvation and offer grace and truth.