JOHN 1 v 6-18: ‘The Word revealed’
One of the frustrating things about mountain walking is that often when you get to the summit, you reach the tarn or ordinance survey marker it is foggy or wet and that great view you were promised by the guidebook proves elusive. The view of four counties is essentially a view of perhaps a couple of soaked sheep. John begins his Gospel with a bang! He charges straight into the core, the centre, the mystery. Yes, Jesus is born into this world, essentially coming as a foetus in a mother’s womb, but John takes us back way before 3 BC to the beginning of creation and in deliberate echoes of Genesis 1, reminds his readers of the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ. This is no great man, on par with Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Mandela: no this is God comes as man. As CS Lewis rightly stated, we have three options in the way we can view Jesus: He is either liar, lunatic or Lord. The things He said, the claims He made through word and deed separate Him from those who are merely good. The Jewish religious leaders clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God, that He stated that He was God’s Son, and that God was His Father. My psychiatrist friend who demanded to know why this Jesus and not the many others who had claimed to him to be Jesus and yet were in mental institutions: because of his church background he clearly knew the truth that this Jesus is not like any other, not just by what He did, but by what He said, not just by what He taught, but by His compassion for others. There are parallels in other religions to the Nativity birth narrative, but these stories pale into comparison with the Son of God descending to a woman’s womb! No prince, no appearing full grown out of the desert, no! Jesus experienced all there is to human life beginning with descent down the birth canal!
We have been repeatedly saying that not only did God speak, but He did, He acted. With God, words and actions are as one. In creation God spoke and it was, now with eternal salvation God speaks and it is through Jesus, The Word of God, the Word made flesh. The intimate details of a baby with everything that is needed for a full life already there. Some of you became grandparents again in the last year. Logos is here. Why did John call Jesus ‘Logos’? The word means ‘meaningful utterance’ and what more meaningful utterance has there been since the world was created than the Son of God born a baby! John’s intention is to draw us deep into the awesome mystery of the Christ-child. There has never been greater-throughout our universe there are many things that continue to challenge us. The Hadron collider was built at great expense to try to find answers to one or two such mysteries, but there will always be more and as with so much, answers to our initial questions will more than likely produce greater and more complex questions! So, John uses the word ‘Logos’ for many reasons, but it is important to know that John aimed to get clear understanding to both Jews and Greeks.
So, who is this Word? Or is it some kind of personalised concept, similar to 'Wisdom' in the book of Proverbs and elsewhere? John initially keeps his readers guessing, but in verse seventeen John makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the Word, so that all that he has told us in the opening verses we can attribute to Jesus Christ. In a sense, even greater than that, He is the One who reveals God to us! Who is God? What is His character? Look to Jesus! Read about His life, His works, His words in the following chapters and make up your mind about Him! No one, apart from lunatics and frauds, has called themselves the Son of God, equal with the Father, apart from Jesus. As C S Lewis stated: ''Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Jesus is God’s last Word to humanity.
So, we ask the question, what is it about Jesus? I was talking with someone the other day who told me that he came to a belief and acceptance of the God of the Old Testament a long time before he discovered Jesus. His school only looked at the Old for some reason and it was with great joy that in later teenage years he discovered the Jesus-God of the new. It reminded me of that episode in the book of Acts when Paul spoke to the disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus, who had not heard of Jesus and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with joy. Jesus as the Word reinforces the belief that He is distinct from Father-God but one with Him. Remember that John wrote a couple of centuries before the idea of Trinity was fully documented, yet in his Gospel more clearly than anywhere else, do we see this Trinity worked through in practise.
JOHN 1 v 6-18: The Word became human and, as the Message Bible puts it, 'moved into the neighbourhood'. He lived an average, normal life for thirty years, waiting for the Holy Spirit's anointing to begin His ministry. Most people ignored Him or rejected Him, but those who recognised something about Him, He brought into the family of God, whether Jew or Gentile. John is intent on bringing witnesses to support His declaration of the supreme Godhead of Jesus Christ. The first man to declare Jesus to be the Messiah was John the Baptist, an ascetic guru-type figure, and he makes it clear that Jesus' message is for all people. He brings this challenge in right from the beginning: if the reader comes to recognise Jesus as God from studying this book, then he or she must decide to worship Him and commit their lives to Him. This is not intended to be biography or for the intellect alone. There are vital decisions to be made. So, how does ‘the Word became flesh’ affect us today? For myself, I grew up in a loving but strict Christian family and when I reached my teenage years, although I had made a commitment of faith, I found a level of obstinacy in me strong enough to rebel against my parents. I did things which caused them pain, but I still went to church and continued with God- I couldn’t get rid of Him from my life because I had come to recognise that He had suffered for me and that He continued to stand by me through the years of rebellion We are, if we have believed in Jesus as our Lord, of those who have accepted Him and we have received the eternal inheritance which is now ours as children of God, part of His family. There is no surer foundation. I was talking last week about my vision for 2021 and it comes from a place of recognition that we have been given something which those who do not have it are lost without. The trappings of materialism have been shown this last year as vanity, emptiness, a running after the wind. Any thinking person has had cause to reflect on their life in the last nine months and observe the great hole, the absence of something fundamental, at the core. We are not to hide the Good News as if it were a secret! All around we see people suffering mentally, physically, spiritually. We see those who are blind trying to find something else and we have the answers. They do not begin with us, they come from God and they are available freely to all! I encourage you to pray daily for your neighbours and those that you will meet at work and at the school gates when they re-open again. Seek to get to know them, offer support, trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of when to speak and when to listen. We can be absolutely certain that there are spiritually hungry people living in your street, working in the place where you work, taking their children to school. Paul spoke of veils hiding the truth from people, seek the Holy Spirit’s help in saying a word which will cut through those veils.