Meditating on Great Themes in John: 1. The Incredible Word
John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…… The 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.
Reading through John’s Gospel recently I have been grabbed afresh over how it seems John writes in big blocks, each block revealing something incredible about Jesus Christ. John doesn’t try to copy the style of the Synoptic Gospels and produce a history of what happened; they have done that already. John has thought over many years of the wonders of what he saw in those three incredible years with Jesus and he has seen things and remembers things the others hadn’t bothered with. Now he writes and every chapter or section seems to light up a whole new area of understanding. Yes, there are overlaps with the Synoptics because he is writing about the same things, but his emphasis is on the wonder of Jesus, not merely the acts of Jesus.
These first fourteen verses of chapter one, so often called the Prologue in John are staggeringly incredible. Have you ever been to a Christian event where they have on the back part of the stage a painter who paints large brush strokes throughout the event until suddenly at the end you see the picture and it is amazing. I find these first fourteen verses to be like that. Massive brush strokes.
Brush stroke number one, a word, The Word. He takes a concept used by the Greeks of that day and the Greek word is the Logos. There was a different Greek word for the spoken word; this ‘word’ in the Greek means the Thought, the Reason, the Meaning, the power or force of life, the cause behind everything. John takes this brushstroke and paints in others around it to define it – in the beginning (when it was) – with God (where it was) – was God (who or what it was). Everything about this word, this expression, is of God; it is God expressing Himself.
He goes on in verse 2 – with God in the beginning (one with but distinct). Then in verse 3 more brush strokes – Through him all things were made (he was the agent of Creation) – without him nothing was made that has been made (he was essential to Creation). This word is God and yet distinct within God. This word was there at the beginning of all things, being the agent that brought all things into being.
But then verse 4 – In him was life (life, energy, movement, all came from him). Then another brush stroke – and that life was the light of men (this is life which brings meaning.) Then verse 5 more brush strokes – The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (the meaning came and revealed itself but those there did not understand it.)
So far there have been philosophical concepts, tantalizing in their suggestions but then suddenly there comes a down-to-earth change: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” (v.6) Suddenly there is something simple and clear, almost off to the side of the picture perhaps, the figure of a man, not part of this word but beside it. So what is he doing, this man? “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” (v.7) He is part of the picture to speak about this word, this life bringing light, so that people would understand and respond to the word, this light. But be quite clear as you look on this picture being formed, “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (v.8) He is distinct from this word, this life-bringing light He isn’t this light; he just comes to tell about this light to get people ready to receive and appreciate this light.
So now we might be wondering about this light, so John adds more brush strokes: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (v.9) This light that is coming is real light, a light that affects every single human being so they will never be the same again. This light wasn’t yet in the world and so the world was in darkness, unseeing, uncomprehending, and wondering, but it was coming. And so this light came. But then we realise there is a personal pronoun used about this light, and it has been there from the earliest verses – ‘he’ – and this says that this word, this idea, this force, this light, is not some theoretical idea but a person: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (v.10)
This person who had been involved in the very Creation was now in the world he had had a hand in creating, but his creation did not realise who he was: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (v.11) This word comes as a human being but the other humans did not realise who he was, and yet eventually (the story will show) there were those who did respond to him and so, “who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (v.12) Wow!
Where did that come from. Suddenly there was a brush stroke on this picture that brought focus and the focus was the point of his coming – to create children of God! But how? “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (v.13) This was all going to be a work of God. This is all about God coming to earth to create children for Himself! How incredible. But how did He do it? How was this Word, this light going to do that? “The 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.” (v.14) Oh my goodness! The Word, the meaning, the reason the power, the force that was God which had existed from before anything material came into being, this word appeared on the earth in human form, revealing the glory of the One who has always been, coming as a distinct expression of the Godhead, full of the wonderful love and goodness of God and utterly real THIS is who this Gospel is going to reveal.
Imagine the start of a film. You are in outer space. Wherever you look around you all you can see are stars, millions upon millions upon millions of them. And then the camera focuses on one gleam of light and dashes towards it but then as it nears it, it bypasses it and goes on to a tiny planet and homes in on it. As the camera dives through the clouds, land becomes visible and as it nears the land features become clear and soon buildings and people and then it homes in and stops in front of one single human being. We have arrived with John. Now who is this incredible one person who has had such incredible things said about him? What are we going to see through the eyes of this aged saint who had been there all those years back and witnessed the wonder of it all? Read on!