Meditating on the Gems of the Bible: 4. Witnesses of God
1 John 1:1-3 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
I suppose ‘Gems’ might refer to verses that stand out in the Bible and the ones above certainly do that. We can perhaps take for granted the most obvious thing that the Bible conveys and that is that God has revealed Himself to mankind. It is not that different human beings have gone looking for God and have found Him, but that God has made Himself known to us. Initially it was through the nation of Israel and the record of its dealings with Him in a period up to about two thousand years ago. Then it was through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the record of him, in the four Gospels of the New Testament. Finally it was through the Church, some of its representatives and their writings, and the working of His own Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians and the Church at large over the last two thousand years. There has been non-stop testimony if you go looking for it.
But this testimony of the apostle John, written down somewhere in the latter half of the first century AD, has got to be one of the most amazing testimonies ever written down. Admittedly it is couched in language that comes from a Hebrew and Greek perspective – “the Word of life” – but it is so similar to the language of his Gospel that his intent is unmistakable.
In his Gospel he had started out with the same sort of language: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (Jn 1:1,2) Eventually he explained, “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.” (Jn 1:14) and as he unravels the parcel before us, there is no mistake about the fact that he was speaking about Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God.
For John there was no doubting as he used the Greek concept of ‘the Word’ or ‘the reason’ or ‘the purpose behind all things’ to describe Jesus who was not only “with God” but “was God”. Jesus was God in the flesh. Of that there was absolutely no doubt in John’s mind and his Gospel, written decades after the other three, reveals that on every page.
So then we come back to this incredible testimony in his first letter. If we insert the name of Jesus into it, it becomes even more powerful: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Jesus Christ. He appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you that Jesus Christ was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.
In his Gospel, he picks up things that the other earlier writers had not noticed. They had been so taken up with getting down the bare bones of the story, the basic things that had happened, that they had not dwelt on specific things Jesus had said, as John had in his years of ministry after those three incredible years with Jesus in the flesh. As he got older, John clearly looked back and pondered the things he had seen and heard in those three incredible years and he realised that Jesus had been giving them indicator after indicator about himself and the others had not bothered with those details. Thus in John we find, in the dialogue in chapter 6, repeated references to him being the bread that had come down from heaven. When Jesus prays in John 17, John remembers Jesus praying, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (v.5) There is no question in John’s mind that Jesus was telling them indirectly (praying out loud before his disciples) that he had always existed there in heaven with the Father.
John is full of this revelation: this Jesus is and was God and what is more we are so sure of this because we were there and we saw and heard him and we actually touched him, rubbed shoulders with him in daily life, that we know beyond a shadow of doubt that he was a human being but a human being who was God in the flesh. We were there, we KNOW!
What gems these verses are, just sitting there waiting for anyone with an open heart, who is not so perverted by jaded cynicism, so that they can see the wonder of them. How wonderful!