|THE WORD BECAME FLESH
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 22, 2019
Before we get to John 1 - we have a short Christmas Quiz.
#1 On the way to Bethlehem, Mary rode on:
A. A Camel
B. A Donkey
C. Joseph’s shoulders
D. I have no clue
Answer is D - the Bible doesn’t say.
#2 Jesus was born in a:
B. Guest Room
C. Main Room
Most probably - the answer is C - the word in Greek that gets translated “inn” - actually describes a guest room. That would have been on the upper level of a house belonging to Joseph’s relatives. That because of the census - the guest room was full of… guests.
So rather than shamefully turning Joseph and Mary out onto the street - Joseph’s relatives probably invited them to stay in the main room of the house - lower level - where Jesus was most probably born.
Some of you are way ahead of me on this. The point of the questions is to point out the obvious. To get us thinking. There are some great traditions and things that get blended into the birth narrative which may or may not be true. Which may be really great images and feelings and traditions.
But - come December 26th - all that tradition and holiday happenings and feelings at all can leave us pretty empty. In the day to day of what we need for life we need more. Truth is huge.
John is writing about Jesus. Who Jesus is.
We’re going there this morning because - in the day to day of our lives we need - we crave - the life that God offers to us through Jesus - and because there are people around us who also have deep needs and - whether they understand it or not - they also need Jesus.
And because there is truth here about Jesus - not assumptions and images that we might associate with Christmas - but truth that is just down right exciting realty changing truth that’s well worth our taking the time to marinate in and praise God for, Truth to base our lives on and why we can respond to God in faith.
Here’s the big picture of where we’re going to this morning: Who Jesus is and what that means... for us.
If you are able - would you stand with me as we come together before God and His word - and read with me our text for this morning:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.
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.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.’”)
And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, Who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.
Verse 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
Who is He? He is Jesus. John describing Jesus being THE Eternal God.
To get John’s description of Jesus we need to do a short word study here. [pun intended]
“In the beginning” in Greek literally reads “in beginning.” There’s no “the” in John’s wording.
Meaning we can think back as far as we can imagine going back. In the indefinite expanse of timeless existence before anything began - space - time - matter - atoms - before anything began “the Word” was.
“Was” is in the Greek imperfect past tense meaning: It just was.
Put simply: God is His own eternity. God is.
Which is a mind popper for those of us who have a beginning point and an expiration date. For some of us that end point reality check is getting noticeably closer.
“Word” translates the Greek word “logos.” Heard that?
Hang on to something.
“Logos” in the Greek way of thinking could have a number of meanings.
The Greek philosophers used “logos” to describe the logical order of the natural laws of the universe - like gravity - mathematics - morality - and more so what was behind the scenes that made all that work.
To the Greeks the universe would be pure chaos without this impersonal divine whatever - that they called “logos” - that somehow gave order to all that potential chaos.
In some ways - like the force. Star Wars. How many of you have seen episode IX?
John is declaring that the “logos” - this ordering “word” - existed before the natural order of the universe - before any beginning point in the eternal past the Word was already existing. The Word had no beginning. The Word has always existed.
Meaning that the Word - “logos” - is not a part of the creation but the Word is what gives existence and order to the creation.
Point being that the word is not some impersonal force - made up of midichlorians or something - that exists within what exists - but that the Word is a very real eternal Divine person that intentionally creates and gives order to creation.
Still hanging on to something?
In Greek, John uses the preposition “pros” for “with.” Meaning - face to face - eye ball to eye ball - two persons intimate with each other.
John further defines that “withness” by saying that “the Word was God.”
Meaning the Word and God coexisted together.
Which is a depth of intimacy that’s greater than any human relationship. Even a husband and wife. It is an essential complete oneness of nature and essence.
Nature meaning what God does. How God acts. And essence meaning Who God is.
Meaning that everything that is true of God is also true of the Word. Has been true - is true - will be true.
And just in case we’re still a tad fuzzy on what that means… anybody feeling fuzzy? John drives his point home in verse 2: “He - not it - He [who’s He? Jesus] was in the beginning with God.” Literally: “He was in beginning with the God.”
John is choosing his words very carefully. Leaving no room for misunderstanding.
Are we grabbing John?
In that eternal existence before time - Jesus and God were together and they were the same Being. If that’s a mind blower - it is. The only One who understands that is God.
Chuck Swindoll commenting on John’s statement writes this: “While the Father and Son are distinct ‘persons,’ sharing the same nature and attributes, they also share the same essence. And by ‘essence,’ Father and Son exist as one Supreme Being.” (1)
John describing Jesus - point one - Jesus is THE eternal God.
Then in verse 3 John emphasizes that Jesus is the Creator of what has been made to exist.
All things were made through Him [Jesus], and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
Everything that exists can be put into one of two categories. Which are…? “Not Created” and “Created.” Not Created means whatever exists that wasn’t created. Created means whatever exists because it was created. Pretty straight forward. Right?
By definition - the only thing not created is… God. Right? The one God who existed before creation.
Are we together with John?
The reason anything exists is because He - the One not created - He made it to exist. Jesus Who was not created - Jesus - God - made what was made.
That is critically important for us to be clear on.
In John’s day and in every day since then - even today - there are people who acknowledge that Jesus was an amazingly unique person in human history. But beyond that, things gets a little fuzzy.
Many religious people will claim that Jesus was a created being. That the Father brought the Son into existence. And then Jesus created everything else. Or, maybe Jesus was a spiritual being who took on human flesh. Maybe Jesus was an enlightened teacher or a human that achieved some kind of divinity.
Even people claiming to be Christian - Jehovah’s Witnesses - Mormons - will stop at the full divinity of Jesus. Jesus is not coequal - not co-eternal - not coexistent with the Father in eternity past. Jesus is not THE God.
All that fuzziness may acknowledge Jesus as baby born in Bethlehem - with all the cultural add ons - but it leaves us way short of any true hope for our lives.
John is very clear - before anything existed Jesus - God - who is THE Creator - exists - and He Jesus created everything that was made - even us.
John goes on in verse 4 describing Jesus our Creator. Jesus is the source of life and light.
In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men.
Two images: Life and... light. We need to be clear on how John is using those two images.
Genesis begins with God the creator speaking creation into existence - and God filling that creation with life - vegetation - sea creatures - birds - land animals - creeping things - and finally God gives life to... man - male and female created in God’s image.
John is saying that in the beginning Jesus - God - created humanity and gave us life. Jesus is the source of all life.
How many of you are alive this morning? Some are not sure yet.
John writes, that life is the light of men.
Light is something that happens when we go into a dark room and flip on the light switch. Hopefully.
Light can also be a symbol of enlightenment - gaining truth or wisdom - understanding. The light bulb coming on in our brain. Hopefully.
Light also has to do with where we’re at spiritually.
Hang on to something. What does John mean by light?
In Genesis 1 we’re told that God the Creator creates the heavens and the earth. The earth is without form and it’s empty. There’s darkness over the face to the deep. But, God is there. Then God speaks and creates light and separates light from darkness. Day and Night - evening and morning. Day one. We’re together?
Then God goes on to start forming the earth and creating living things - plants and trees.
Then - day four God creates stars - the sun - the moon.
Day five - God creates life in the water and birds in the air.
Day six - God creates critters and creatures and... man. Still together?
Question: If God creates the stars and sun and moon on day four - where did the light come from on day one? God.
Flash back: The same place it comes from in Revelation 21 where John is given a vision of the New Jerusalem. Remember this? From when we looked at Revelation.
“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God [Who God is - His nature and essence] gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb [Jesus].” (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).
Before God creates light - God has filled all of creation with the light of His presence. That’s light. Every atom - every subatomic particle - everything that’s a created thing - is filled with the truth of Who He is so that everything in His creation would testify of Him - Who He is.
Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of... God”
Creation is all about... God. To God alone be the glory.
John goes on: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We get this. Yes? If not... keep hanging on to something.
The first Adam - then each one of us - have individually and personally confirmed Adam’s choice to sin. Which is true of all of humanity. We’re fallen. We’ve rejected God and the life that He’s given us. In a very real sense we live in the darkness of our own depravity and death.
John tells us that the light - the glory of God - the truth of Who God is - God Himself - THE eternal “logos” - has come to us - in the darkness of our own depravity to restore us to the truth of life in Him - to know what it means to live real life in His light forever.
Then John writes that “the darkness has not overcome the light.”
“Overcome” translates a Greek word that can mean “to seize” or “to attack” or “to overpower” Or it can mean “to comprehend” - “to understand.” Probably John means both.
Even if, we don’t get it. Even if we don’t comprehend it - understand it. Even if we resist it - reject Him. Even if - to the mind darkened by sin - the truth of God is pure nonsense. The virgin birth is fantasy. The resurrection is foolishness. A cultural myth at best.
Jesus has still come to us - His creation. His work in His creation cannot be stopped - overcome - by the darkness of our sin clouded depraved thinking.
John the Baptist - verse 6 - John the Baptist who Jesus called the greatest of all the prophets - John was given the unique role of preparing the way and pointing to the Messiah - Jesus - Who is the very light of God piercing the darkness of this world. God working out what God purposefully has chosen to do in His creation.
The work and ministry of Jesus cannot be overcome by darkness. Jesus - incarnate and crucified and resurrected and returning - Jesus has overcome darkness.
Jesus is our only hope. He’s the only source of the life and the light that we desperately need in the darkness and depravity and death of our lives.
Verse 9 - Who Jesus is - Jesus is the way to relationship with God: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. 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.
When we’re plugged into the grid - PG&E - or a solar panel - that connection provides all the energy necessary so that we have at our disposal what we need to illuminate every dark corner of our homes.
We know the grid is there. All that’s offered to us by that grid is available. But as people living where we live we can choose to not flip the switch. We can choose to live in the dark. The light is available. But its not compulsory. No one is going to force us to flip the switch.
Now that Jesus has come no one can claim ignorance. To believe or not to believe is not a question of intellect or comprehension - what we know or don’t know. It’s a choice of the will. When we choose to remain in darkness we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Jesus - on the night of His betrayal and arrest - Jesus told His disciples: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:22)
The source of life and light has come. We have to make a choice.
John tells us the Jews made that choice. Jesus’ own people did not receive Him. They rejected Him. Got the Romans to crucify Him.
John writes - verse 12 - but others have chosen to flip the switch of faith. To receive Jesus is to believe in His name - Who He is and His saving work on our behalf.
John writes that - when we choose to believe in Jesus - God gives to us life as His child. God gives to us not a physical birth of the flesh - 9 months of pregnancy and a delivery - or a birth because of something we will to make happen - our own efforts a spirituality and righteousness. But a spiritual rebirth that comes only because He - God - wills it to be so.
When we receive Jesus by believing - by faith - God wills to give us the right to be His children. We become heirs of His eternal promises - forgiven - restored in our relationship before Him - to life in His life and light - for now and forever.
That is down right exciting reality changing truth - certain hope - that is well worth our taking the time to marinate in and praise God for - especially today. Amen?
Finally - John describing Who Jesus is - in verse 14 John tells us that Jesus is the incarnate God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word - God the eternal Creator - Jesus - became “flesh.” Jesus chooses to set aside His prerogative to use His divine attributes and takes on what it means to be human. God incarnate - in carne. God in the flesh of our humanity. (Philippians 2:6-9)
Meaning that everything that God is - Jesus is. Everything that man is - Jesus is. Minus the sin part.
Which is a mind blower. Yes?
Back in John’s day they had trouble with that because one of the prevailing beliefs of the time was that anything that we could see was inherently evil. The great hope of humanity was to escape from this evil - foul - physical reality.
In other words - our bodies are evil. We need to deny the physical in order to get reconnected with their idea of god - logos. Death is liberation from all this crud - the prison of the evil physical flesh.
So, God becoming a man - taking on human flesh - was just weird - inconceivable. None of their gods would ever do that.
So they came up with ideas like Jesus only seemed to be in the flesh but in reality He was some kind of divine apparition. He only seemed to do things like eating and drinking.
Point being that in John’s day they had a problem with Jesus’ humanity. In our day we seem to have a problem with Jesus’ divinity.
But both are still true.
John declares the truth - whether we understand it - comprehend it intellectually - or not isn’t the issue. We can’t anyway. Jesus is fully God and fully man. When we see Jesus we see the Father. Jesus reveals the Father to us in the material world in which we live.
Verse 15 - Same truth John the Baptist testified of. John the Baptist - pointing at Jesus - John told the crowds: “This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.’”
Which can seem confusing because John was born before Jesus. And John precedes Jesus in ministry.
But John was conceived to testify of Jesus. Even in the womb - when Mary visited Elizabeth - John moved. John testified of Jesus.
John’s ministry at the Jordan River was about preparing people and pointing people to Jesus. The light of the world. The Lamb of God.
John’s testimony was all about Jesus being God come into the flesh and blood of our humanity to deal with our depravity and sin.
In verse 16 John - the apostle - John writes that in Jesus, by God’s grace - not because we deserve it but because God chose to do it - in Jesus, by God’s grace, we received God’s fullness. Because - verse 18 - Jesus has made the fullness of God Who is unseen - seenable - knowable to us.
God had revealed Himself through Moses - dreams and visions and burning bushes and mountain tops getting blasted - pillars of fire and clouds - and angels coming as messengers.
But in Jesus - God at the time of God’s choosing - God steps into the flesh and blood of bone and sinew of humanity - able to be touched and heard and even crucified.
Meaning that God did not remain some abstract - out there - unknowable divine Being.
John describing Who Jesus is - John takes us from the eternal Word to the incarnate personal Jesus - dwelling among us - revealing God - His life and light - in the day to day reality and drama of our lives.
If people we share with struggle to know God and what He’s like - if we have trouble understanding God ourselves - which we do. All we need to know about God and what it means to know God and have a saving - restored from sin - relationship with God - all we need to know is found in Jesus.
Merry Christmas. Happy Incarnation. The Word has become flesh.
Processing all that - for what we can take away with us this morning...
What John writes prompts a number of questions that we could be asking ourselves. Briefly - let me suggest just two:
Question number one: How well do you know Jesus?
What Scripture reveals about Him. Not just what we hear about Him from others or what’s out there on Facebook.
But - in what John writes is this truth - that the only key that opens the door to understanding life is Jesus. Jesus is THE Word that orders all of creation - that brings together what life is all about - that declares to us what it means to be known by God and to know Him.
So, how are you doing at pursuing Jesus? Knowing Him more intimately? Being devoted to Him? Loving Him with the totality of who you are?
Probably most of us - myself included - could do better at that.
And maybe this morning as you’re hearing about Who Jesus is and the need to chose to trust Him as your Savior and to pursue your relationship with Him - maybe you have questions what it means to trust Him as your Savior - or what it means to be pursing Him. Please come talk with me after the service. The coffee will still be hot. This is way more important.
Second question: How well do those around you know Jesus?
What will you do this week to share Jesus with others? To encourage others to know Him more deeply? Not the cultural Jesus. But the Jesus Who is God who has come to save us and give us life.
Be intentional - individually or as a family - especially in these days of celebration - maybe as a part of your celebration - your traditions as a family. Read Scripture. Read the accounts of Jesus birth - especially Matthew and Luke.
Take time to thank God for His coming to us - for His choosing to know us and to - by His grace - to allow us to know Him.
Because this is just down right exciting realty changing truth that’s well worth our taking the time to marinate in and praise God for - today and every day. And way too huge to keep to ourselves.
1. Charles R. Swindoll, “Insights On John: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights,” Zondervan, 2010, page 26
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.