Text: John 1:1-18
We have arrived at the halfway point of our 100 essential readings through the Bible. As we embark on our journey through the second half of the readings, we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The entirety of the Old Testament concerned the work of God for and through His chosen people, Israel. The New Testament transitions this work from a certain group of people descended from Abraham, namely Israel, to the work of a certain person through whom God would reach out not to just one race, but to the whole world.
The question each of the first four of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament seeks to address is who is this person? Matthew, Mark, and Luke each answer this question by giving a largely biographical examination of the life, teachings, ministry, and work of Jesus, dwelling on the three years of his public ministry between his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist and his death and resurrection.
John takes a vastly different approach. Though he also derives his gospel from the life and works of Jesus, John examines them from a much more theological perspective. He delves into questions about Jesus’ relationship to God, what his work accomplishes for us in relation to God, and so on. So it is from John that we learn the most about Jesus’ role and position within the Godhead. John wastes no time with the deep dive, but starts right in at the very beginning of his Gospel.
In the very first chapter, John starts by giving us two truths about who Jesus is and two truths about why Jesus came among us.
The vast majority of the Roman Empire accepted the belief that there existed a pantheon of gods and goddesses, each of whom oversaw a certain aspect of life on earth. War, love, fertility, the sun, death, and so on. Each of these things had a god or goddess who held power and sway over it. If a particular area was troublesome, it was because its god or goddess had been neglected or offended. With proper attention and devotion, things could be made right again. Of course, this did not always work, but it was the accepted belief of the workings of the world.
Over against this belief system stood the Jewish faith, which stood against the polytheism of the world in which they lived with a staunch adherence to monotheism – the belief that there was one God, and one God only, who was God over all things in heaven and on earth.
Into these two opposing systems of belief, John began his Gospel with this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here is this Word, who John will later identify as Jesus, who is at the same time “with God” and can yet also be said to “be God.” It is a thought-provoking introduction to the now-accepted revealed truth that God is Trinity: one God, three persons.
Of course, John wasn’t trying to develop an argument for the Trinity. That would be developed later in church history. John was simply stating the truth that Jesus, born of Mary, living and preaching throughout Galilee and Judea, who died on a Roman cross and three days later left an empty tomb, this Jesus was and is God. Though he is able to distinguish Jesus as God the Son from God the Father, John is also clear that Jesus is at the same time distinct from God (the Father), being “with Him” and at the same time somehow fully God. As Paul wrote to the Colossians long before John wrote his Gospel, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
Jesus, in fact, was the one through whom all of creation was made. As God, Jesus is eternal, having been there “in the beginning,” the very words which begin the whole of Scripture in Genesis. He is eternal, he is light, and he is life. Jesus is all of these things because he is, in fact, God.
As John’s life came to its fullness in the late 80s and 90s of the first century AD, a new line of thinking came to prominence among the Greeks. This thinking argued that flesh was entirely corrupt, and as entirely corrupt, the holy and pure God could have nothing to do with it. The movement became known as Gnosticism. It would not be fully developed until well into the second century, but John was keen to address this new thought that God could have nothing to do with humanity and its evil flesh. And he did so with another dramatic truth.
In John 1:9, John mentions briefly that the true light which is also the Word, who is also Jesus, was coming into the world. But it is in verse 14 that the full weight of the Word’s coming is unveiled. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the other truth. Jesus is God, truly and completely. Jesus is also human, just as fully and completely, with our flesh and blood, completely God and completely man. Neither diminishes in any way the truth of the other. Jesus, as fully man, understands our plight and our temptations completely. Jesus, as fully God, lived out the Law perfectly and completely, just as it had been intended.
Theologians call this the incarnation, a word derived from Latin simply meaning God’s coming in our flesh. One of the great mysteries of our faith is just why God would do this. Why would God deign to take on our flesh, to become one of us, to submit himself to the death that is ours? John tackles that question, too. In doing so he offers two reasons for why Jesus needed to be both God and man.
First, though it is not the one he addresses first in this opening chapter of the Gospel, is God’s desire to reveal himself to us. At the end of the opening prologue, in verse 18, John says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The story of God and man is one of progressive revelation, where God makes more and more of Himself known to us. Though Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day, they knew comparatively little about Him compared to us. They were yet innocent of sin and the knowledge of good and evil.
Throughout the story of the Bible, God unveils more and more of himself. Through Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and the rest, we see a more complete picture, like post it notes coming off one at a time from a whole landscape. Jesus is the fullest expression of God we have known. It is in God as a man that we see the most complete picture of God, though we will never know everything there is to know about God. God himself, who alone is God, makes himself known. And it is the God Himself who is “at the Father’s side” who accomplishes this. A distinction between God the Son and God the Father that does not diminish the full God-ness of either. This letting us know about him is one of the two reasons John lists for God’s coming to us in our own flesh.
The second reason is this: Jesus, the Son of God, came as a man so that He could bring us grace and truth. The truth is that we are sinful and therefore dead in our sins. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, we have been a people at odds with God. This is the truth. The grace is this: in his own life, death, and resurrection, Jesus – the God-man! – pays our debt and allows us to become the children of God.
Many people reject God, John says even his own people rejected him when he came, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” As I have said a few times during our survey of the Bible through these 100 essential readings, God is interested in a people for himself. That is why He created. That is why He sought out Abram. That is why He worked through Joseph. That is why He was with Moses. That is why He showed the world what a king could be through David, as a glimpse of the even greater king that was to come.
More importantly, God is interested in you specifically. He wants you to be His son or His daughter. He chooses you. He came as the God-man for you, just as He came for me.
So it is this morning that the invitation still stands. Jesus is God, completely other than you and me. Jesus is human, completely the same as you and me. He has come into the world and has invited us to choose Him, to call on Him, to receive Him as the God-man He is. And when we do, oh when we do, He gives us the right to become His own children. Children born of God himself, chosen by God himself to be His own.
Jesus was despised and rejected, just as Isaiah had said He would be. But He was not despised and rejected by all. Some chose to believe and accept Him. What about you? Do you reject Him, or do you receive Him? Do you stay dead in your sins, or do you become born of God to a newness of life? Do you choose to know the one who has made himself known, who is making Himself known to you if you will but open your eyes and see? The choice is yours.
 Colossians 2:9