John 1:1-5, 10, 14
So we’re finished with the book of John, so let’s look at a passage from. . . the Gospel of John?! The reason for this is that for the rest of the year we're going to talk about my favorite subject—Jesus Christ. Specifically we’re going to focus on the nature and work of Christ. As you read today’s passage, you can see that John’s telling us a lot about him.
As always when we discuss a subject this heavy, I approach it with fear and trepidation. Actually I approach it with a lot more fear than normal.
Here’s why. After the 1st century A.D. and all the original apostles and their immediate associates died off, we depended on Scripture to help us understand. And as sure as night follows day, the Enemy always steps in to corrupt and pervert what God has done. A lot of self-proclaimed “teachers” came forward and taught heresies. One in particular was a guy named Arius, who claimed that Jesus was just a created being. To be sure, he conceded that Jesus was the highest and greatest of created beings, but not divine. But the church’s greatest leaders and teachers opposed him. So it went back and forth and back and forth for about two hundred years, until the church leaders got together in councils to figure out what the Bible teaches about the nature of Christ. They came up with the Nicene Creed, in which they hammered out—as best as they could—who Jesus is.
My point is that it took the church about two hundred years to work out who Jesus really is. That’s why I’m going to be veeeeerrrrry careful about what I say about his nature, who he is in his essence. We say that he’s divine and human. What does that mean? How are those two compatible? The Bible never lays out for us exactly how his divine nature and human nature coincided within one body. When discussing this, it’s way too easy to flirt with--and finally fall into--heresy.
So what does today’s passage tell us about the Lord Jesus?
• John very purposefully uses the term “In the beginning,” which brings to every mind familiar with the Old Testament the first verse of the Bible. That’s an intentional parallel to the creation story: Moses told us that the Lord created everything seen and unseen, and John makes it clear that the Son was Co-Creator at every step.
• John seems to make a contradiction or at least a paradox here. The Word is God, and the Word is with God. How can this be? Let’s focus on the first part: Jesus is, in himself, one in essence with the Father. Everything the Father is within himself, the Son is. The Father is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, and so is the Son. The Father is worthy of all worship and so is the Son. The Father has always been. There’s never been a moment ever in which the Father was not. That’s also true of the Son.
• But the Word is with God. This is referring to God as in God the Father. The Son is distinct from the Father. That’s why Jesus could pray to the Father and address him as “You.” The Father had a plan from eternity past, and the Son freely chose to submit to the plan. It was not the Father who died on the cross, it was the Son. They're one in essence, but distinct in personality.
• In him was life. What does this mean? This means he has life in himself. That’s something that nothing in all creation could ever claim. Each of us--from the mightiest angel and brightest star down to the smallest amoeba—derives our life from another, and ultimately all life is from God. But as God, he has life within himself, and he can give that life to whomever he chooses. All of us are dependent on him, and he’s dependent on no one else.
I really really really hope I haven’t made this boring for you. If I have, the fault rests entirely with me instead of the source material. The point of this, as with John’s prologue, is to inspire worship and commitment to Christ, not intellectual stimulation. Knowing more about him should drive us to our knees.
Lord Jesus, I praise you first and foremost as the eternal and all-powerful Son of the Most High God. Just like the Father, you deserve all worship and praise and thanksgiving. But it starts with praising you for who and what you are.