Reader: “The Word was with God,”
Response: “and the Word was God.”
Scripture: John 1:1-3, 10-18
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
Today’s passage of Scripture is one of the most profound in all of the Bible. Books, doctoral dissertations, debates, and countless pages of theology have been penned regarding these few verses. Building on these verses, eighty-five percent of John’s gospel is unique from the Synoptics. As many of his readers had never seen or heard Jesus speak (he is writing about 60 years after the resurrection,) John’s focus is on the God/Man Jesus, the Son of God. So he starts at the beginning of the man Jesus! The theological word encompassing this discussion is Incarnation.
Everything you can think of has a beginning point. A human life begins when the egg and sperm unite. A building begins to be built when that first shovel of dirt is turned. A novel begins when that first word is written down. Music begins when the downbeat is given and we hear the first note. A day begins when the sun comes over the horizon. A relationship begins with that first date. Faith has a beginning the moment someone puts their trust in Jesus for their salvation. This “beginning point” truth is what makes the first sentence of today’s pericope unique in all the world. John begins his gospel the same way Moses began Genesis!
“In the beginning the Word already existed! Having always existed means the Word dwells outside existence itself because he is the Creator of “existence.” Yet he chose for a period of time to dwell within the creation he made in order to redeem it. The word used is actually “tabernacled” among us. In other words, the Old Testament Tabernacle in the desert housing the presence of God above the Ark of the Covenant was replaced by the presence of God in human flesh, in which Jesus was the Tabernacle. When the baby was born in the manger, it wasn’t as if he had not existed previously. But then there was that moment . . . a beginning of the “in the flesh” Word. The Word was always with God because the Word was God. There was never a “beginning” to that relationship nor did it change when Jesus took on human flesh.
John is writing from firsthand experience as he says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” You’ll recall that John was one of the three, along with Peter and James, to observe Jesus’ interaction with Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration (Mt.17:1-13). As the encounter concluded the brilliant light and glory of God showed forth in Jesus and the disciples fell to their knees in fear and wonder.
I am wondering if the Incarnation were to occur in our lifetimes rather than two millennia ago, how would we respond? Like the Jews we would have been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. We’d have been waiting 4,000 years since the time of Abraham! And now, here was a remarkable man healing every person with an illness, he has brought back to life some people we know who have died, he has restored limbs and instantly healed people with Alzheimer’s. He talked continually about the Kingdom of Heaven and asked us to “follow him” leaving what we were doing. Would we commit our life to believing that this human being was actually the Creator of the universe and all that exists, who has never not existed and was in fact God in the flesh, the long awaited Messiah? Would you leave your job to follow him when he said “follow me”? How would you respond? What would your friends and family say? That was the call to the disciples.
You’ve figured out by now that this scenario is exactly the situation today. When Jesus came the first time, very few people recognized who he was. Even the Jews, his own people, rejected him. In our day, very few people in our world pay any attention or give a second thought to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. In their minds he is nothing more than a dead historical figure from the distant past.
But what a contrast for those who do believe! They are his adopted children. They experience a spiritual birth. Whereas the Son of God came from heaven born into humanity into a natural physical body, the natural physical bodies of human beings are reborn to a spiritual body to eventually dwell in heaven. And this new spiritual birth comes from God, not something human beings can generate.
These are all things we all know and have heard before. But for many, many people around us, they have never grasped these glorious truths. They have yet to realize that Jesus of Nazareth is not a dead historical figure from ancient history, but is alive now, transforming the lives of all who put their trust in him. During this coming year, let each of us endeavor to encourage those around us to consider contacting the One who created them. He’s always available. In his Spirit he is tabernacled among us and in us!
Music: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Caitlene
Lord Jesus Christ, the wonder of the humility and love you have shown simply leaves us without words. We kneel before you, trusting you with our lives for all eternity. This we pray through you Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, throughout eternity. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp