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TEXT: John 1:1-2
SUBJECT: Advent 2013 #1 The Word and God
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a fitting time to remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Was Jesus really born in the real world at a real time in a real place? The Bible says He was, and having read the Nativity Stories all of my life, they come off as credible to me. They simply don't read like Greek, Roman, or Nordic Mythology, but as something more sober. What they look like is testimony, honest men and women bearing witness to--
What we have seen with our own eyes,
What we have looked upon,
And our hands have handled.
Three of the Four Gospels tell the story of our Lord's birth, each in its own way. If you want historical detail, Luke's Gospel is the best to read; if our Lord's connection to the Old Testament is your bailiwick, Matthew is a better choice. But, if like me, what you admire most in a story is its brevity, John has got to be your favorite! The man's ability to say so much in so few words is breathtaking! Here's what I found in the first eighteen verses:
Who Jesus is in relation to (a) God, (b) the world, (c) life, (d) morality, (e) truth, (f) John the Baptist, (g) Israel, (h) unbelievers, (i) believers, and (j) the Apostles.
Ten major doctrines in a single paragraph, and not one of them glossed over! What's said of the best poets goes double for John. In him there is--
An ocean of thought in a drop of words.
Over the next few weeks, God willing, we'll dip our toes into this Pool of God's Grace, praying an angel will once again the stir the waters and make us whole.
IN THE BEGINNING
The story begins in the beginning. This is an allusion to Genesis 1:1, of course, and like so many things John says, it is full of significance.
It means that Jesus was there before the world was created; in other words, it means that He, like God the Father and the Holy Spirit, is eternal. As a human, Jesus was born on a particular day; before that day, there was no such human as He. Judea was 'full of Jesuses', but not this Jesus. As a Man He was as subject to time as we are. But Jesus is more than a Man; He is also God, and as such, He has an equal share in the Eternal Divinity.
Arius was one of the worst heretics in Early Church. While always claiming to be misunderstood, and a true worshipper of Jesus, the Fathers knew better. Christians are often muddled in our thinking and imprecise in what we say, but no who truly believes that Jesus is God could say what he did--
There was a time when the Son was not.
There was no such time! The everlasting arms that are underneath us are the arms of Jesus! Jesus is Eternal; this is what the opening words of John's Prologue mean.
But there's more to it than that. Greek scholars say that in the beginning can also mean at the bottom of all things, like the foundation of a house or the root of a tree. Tear out the foundation and a house collapses; dig up the roots and a tree dies. Houses depend on foundations; trees depend on their roots. In the same way, everything depends on Christ. Hebrews says He upholds all things; Paul calls Him a foundation and a chief cornerstone; Jesus says He is not only David's offspring, but also his root.
I suspect what Jesus said to His disciples means more than they--or we think--it does--
Without me, you can do nothing.
In Him, as Paul said, Everything holds together, our bodies and souls, the church and the world, atoms, suns, galaxies, gravity, speed, nothing stands or works or exists without Him.
Perhaps most prominent in John's thought, the words insinuate that, just as God created the world in the beginning, so now in Christ He is re-creating it, making all things new.
You may be resigned to the way the world is, but God isn't! He did not make the world to be what it is today, full of violence, immorality and idol worship. The Lord is grieved at the present state of the world, as He was long ago, when He swept it away with the Flood.
The problem with the Flood, however, is that it only partly washed the world and only for a short time. Noah and his family were 'saints', but it wasn't long until they and their children started acting like sinners, taking the world back to where it was before the Flood. God's judgment was just, but the world cannot be saved by Justice!
It will be saved by Mercy or not at all. And that's what Jesus is: God's mercy, reaching down into a defiant and dying world, and setting things right once and for all.
In the beginning.
WAS THE WORD
What was in the beginning? John tells us--
In the beginning was the Word.
A few verses down, John is going to tell us who the Word of God is, Jesus. But, before he does that, he wants us to reflect on the Word itself. The Greek word is logos, which scholars say can mean one of two things, or both. It can be an unspoken word or thought; more often it is a spoken word.
What is a thought? For lack of a better way of putting it, a 'thought is what you are'. If a man thinks one thing and does another, which is more consistent with the man himself? Proverbs 23:7 tells us--
As he thinks in his heart, so is he. 'Eat and drink' he says to you but his heart is not with you.
The verse means it is easier to say loving generous words than to be loving and generous. Good or bad, what you think is what you are.
Thus, if Jesus is God's Unspoken Word (or thought), God's character must be exactly what we see in Jesus' life! In reading His life, what one traits stands out over all others?
It is His love, love for sinners, for people who are not worthy of His attention, His favor, or His fellowship, and who still get all of the above!
As I'm sure you know, I have a special interest in the Old Testament, and it's not a new one. I have been this way all of my life. Long before I could read the Bible for myself, I was enthralled with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the other heroes of the Old Testament. This is wonderful, but not without its risks. In loving the Old Testament as I do, I'm in danger of seeing God from its perspective. The New Testament never changes the character of God as seen in the Old, but the emphasis does change.
The great revelation of God to Israel was at Mount Sinai where He appeared in a dark cloud with the voice of a trumpet that shook the ground and terrified His people. Is this a true picture of God? It is: God is this way!
But the New Testament says that's not all He is or even mainly what He is. The apex of Divine Revelation is not Mount Sinai, but Mount Calvary, where Jesus put on display God's infinite and costly love for sinners--
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The glory of God is seen in many place, but nowhere more fully than--
In the face of Jesus Christ.
If Jesus is the Unspoken Word of God, even more is He God's Spoken Word. What does a word do? Our words do a great many things, and not all of them good. But God's Word brings life to death and order to chaos.
Re-read Genesis 1, and you'll find that, as created the world was without form and void. In other words, dead and chaotic. The world had no life in it nor could it sustain life; and not only was the earth dead, it was also a total mess, with light and darkness, land and sea, all the elements run togther!
Into this dead and confused mass of material, God spoke! Ten times He spoke, and when He had nothing more to say, the earth was a paradise, everything from the sun, moon, and stars, to birds and fish and mammals, to man and woman, all was--
Things didn't stay that way for long. Adam and Eve sinned and the orderly world lurched toward chaos again. Adam was supposed to protect his, but we find him blaming her; the earth was supposed to provide for all their needs, but now it's producing thorns and thistles; animals were their servants, now they're their enemies. Family life is upside down, with brother murdering brother. Soon the world has resumed its first state with waters covering the surface of the earth.
The world is impossibly fouled up. Until God speaks a New Word! Jesus is the New Word and under His Lordship everything will become what it ought to be.
THE WORD WAS WITH GOD
Jesus is a Man, of course, but what Man can fix the mess we're all in? Noah couldn't do it; Moses couldn't; not even Solomon for all his wisdom. The problem is too big for man, one man, every man, or any combination thereof!
Unless that Man is also God. This is just what Jesus is. John says--
The Word was with God.
This means God and the Word stood 'face to face'. No man can see God and live, the Bible says, and not even the Fiery Ones who stand in His Presence can fix their gaze on Him.
But the Word can do this! Because--
The Word is God!
Not 'like God' or 'uniquely possessed by God', but--
Immanuel, God with us.
THE SAME WAS IN THE BEGINNING WITH GOD
John closes the first part of his Prologue by repeating himself--
The same was in the beginning with God.
If, as I've said, John was so stingy with his words, why would he say at the end of v.2 what he already said at the beginning of v.1? You know the answer: He repeats himself to impress the importance of what he's said.
Jesus is fully God with a full share of God's attributes, and later, we'll see a full share in God's creating and redeeming work.
I am a sentimental man, more likely to cry through Christmas carols than to sing them. If you want to link up Christmas with--
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose...
That's fine with me. But never think that Christmas is about overweight elves, flying reindeer, and excited children under the tree. It isn't. It's about what CS Lewis called--
The Grand Miracle.
To save us from sin, misery, and death, God has joined the human race! All I can urge on you is to do what John and his friends once did--
Behold His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth!
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