A Study of JOHN 1:1-18
“No one has ever seen God, but God, the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known” – John 1:18
God reveals His true self to us through Jesus Christ so that we can grow in our knowledge of what He can do for His people. He wants us to be buoyed by trust in Him when trouble inevitably arrives in our lives, not beset with doubt. By revealing Himself through Christ, God irrevocably changes our lives. This divine exposure is the central theme throughout the first 18 verses of the gospel of John, which serve as an introduction to the entire gospel. God exposes Christ through John the Baptist, and through the presence of Jesus on Earth. Christ in turn exposes God to all who receive Him. The text contains four “levels” of exposure, each of which brings a new revelation about Christ and God. Indeed, thanks to Christ’s presence among us, we gain a deeper understanding of both God and Jesus – thereby gaining the power to turn our lives around.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
Jesus Christ created the universe, and this we learn from the text in the part that says,
–“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
But to understand how God exposes Christ as the agent of creation, we must look at Genesis 1, whose first verse says,
– “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”
Throughout Genesis 1 the words “God said” appear nine times, and after each instance, another aspect of creation comes into being. Thus, we can see that “The Word” – Jesus Christ – spoke creation into existence.
The creation account gives us another piece of information about Jesus, the agent of creation. Verse 2 says,
– “Now the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity) was hovering over the waters.”
Before speaking creation into existence, there was nothing. The Earth was essentially dirt and water, but Christ, the agent of creation, took nothing and made it something.
Christ exposed his creative power to the world. This served as a message to all who feel that they are nothing, or that they have nothing to offer. To all who are unable to see their potential, or who have been told they are nothing and will never be something, Christ says,
– “ I can make you something.”
Jesus is able to speak into our lives. He transforms them by adding meaning and giving them shape. The words Christ speaks into our lives reach the empty and dark places of our soul. These are places we have tried to brighten through relationships, careers, family, friends – and sometimes also through drugs, alcohol and sex. None has brought lasting fulfillment or enrichment. After a time, they all leave us feeling even emptier because they are temporal. Relationships and careers end, leaving us with only memories. Family and friends die, leaving us with a void. Mind and mood altering substances produce synthetic highs that end in devastating lows.
It is only “The Word,” that can fill the emptiness, take the nothingness in our lives and make it something.
Although, not everyone is in a place of feeling hopeless, there are those who have hope, but lack a plan to move forward. The second verse of Genesis 1 says the Earth was formless and empty. So while nothing occupied the Earth, it did exist. Thus, Jesus, the agent of creation, is also able to take something and make it something else. This is good news for all who are looking for a second chance. The idea that God, in Christ, can step into our lives and turn things around, or create a new you in the same environment, is astounding. There are many who have discovered the regenerative power of God in Christ during their darkest hour. With God, there is always room for a second chance. Just ask Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and many others.
Everything has a starting point and an ending point, but with God, the start of something new signals the end of something old and the end of something old signals the start of something new.
Sickness and disease is not the end, even if they lead to death. They are a new beginning. Divorce is not the end, but a new beginning. Being fired, downsized, retiring, or taking a buyout from your job are not ends, but new beginnings. The end of a relationship or the death of a loved one is not the end, but a new beginning. Whereas you may feel as though you have come to the end, God in Christ says, no! You are starting something new.
I refer again to Genisis 1 to show how God exposed Jesus as the light that gives life to the world. The apostle John describes Jesus as,
– “The light of men”
– “The light that shines in the darkness.”
The very first thing God created was light. This is very interesting, especially when we consider light preceded all living things.
Before the animals inhabited the fields, before the birds took to the skies, before the fish were in the sea, and before humanity came on the scene, there was light.
Science has shown that without light, most living things would die. If the sun stopped shining, the Earth would freeze and be in darkness. The sun also makes things evident, allowing us to see our environment. Sunlight helps us to make sense of our world by exposing it in plain view. Thanks to it, we can detect shapes, objects, colors, and movements, and distinguish between things.
John’s references show that Jesus provides brighter and more powerful light than sunlight. Jesus helps us to see spiritually as well as on a material level.
Before giving my life to the Lord, I believed life was one big party. However, I soon discovered that the party has to end. I believe, as the Scriptures point out, that God wants us to have life, and to have it abundantly. Abundant living is more than having all of our needs met and living comfortably. For many people the ideal life is to live comfortably, and be able to enjoy it. This is a good ideal. However, God has so much more in mind for believers. The question is, can we see some or most of what God has for us? From God’s vantage point, we are more than human beings. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
A life that is lived totally in the flesh, or based on human reasoning and rational, is, at the end of the day, a life lived in darkness. It is one-dimensional living.
Much of the pain in our world exists because of people trying to enhance their human experience. Some spouses seek comfort from individuals outside the marriage. Some ambitious people stop at nothing to climb the ladder. Some religious fundamentalists do likewise to prove they are right.
Someone asked me how God could allow innocent babies to be killed. My response, people are still living in darkness. When you do not understand the value of life, or that life is a gift, you approach life recklessly.
A blessing of growing older is we get wiser. Some do not use their wisdom, but with age comes wisdom. We come to view our human experience through a different lens. The lens of wisdom is shaped by experience, and experience very often has left us scarred, battered and bruised – but wiser. How often have we heard, “If I had known then, what I know now, I would have done things differently?”
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says,
– “Remember the creator in the days of your youth.”
Jesus, the light of men, helps us to navigate our environment. If we had only discovered Christ a little earlier, it would have saved us a lot of heartache, pain and suffering. At the very least, we would have been able to deal with our experiences in life differently.
The light of Jesus brings humanity out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance about God, and translates into living that is fruitful, prosperous and pleasing to God.
The principle of Jesus as light operates much the same way as sunlight. Jesus illuminates the environment around us, enabling us to see, and the more we see, the better we can improve the quality of our human experience.
God exposed Christ to humanity by sending John the Baptist. Everyone needs a John the Baptist, and we all need to follow his footsteps. John, himself, was not the light, but he pointed people toward the light. In Corinthians 1:15, the apostle Paul states that all people who come to know Christ as Lord and Savior do so by way of receiving the gospel message.
– “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved.”
We must remember that John was sent from God.
– “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.”
There are going to be people God has sent directly into our lives. Their purpose is, in part, to deliver a specific message from God. These individuals can take the form of a pastor, a co-worker, a close friend, even a stranger. We need to recognize they are divinely sent.
There are two people I know have been sent by God for the express purpose of whipping me into shape so that I may minister in God’s kingdom. One is my future wife, Jillien. The other is Brother Edwards – our fellow parishioner.
Jillien came into my life when I was pretty much set in my ways. My ideas about God and kingdom-work had been shaped by my tradition and culture. God used her to expose me to Christ in ways that I never imagined. Up until I met her, faith was a transitory thing; some days I had it and some days I did not. God used her to show me that God is either everything, or God is nothing at all, and if you can trust God in the small stuff, you can learn – key word – how to trust God in the big stuff. God used her to show me how to align myself with fellow believers who were more mature than I, and follow their lead. That is why they were there.
Brother Edwards came into my life when I was entering a different cultural environment from the one to which I was accustomed. God used him, and still does, to challenge me to be mindful of my audience when presenting the gospel message. If the goal is to bring people to the place of belief, and it is, then I need to speak in a language they will understand. God is also using Brother Edwards to forge me into being a better homelitician and pastor.
So everyone needs a John the Baptist. We all need someone God-sent to expose the depths and mysteries of the gospel, and point us in the right direction. The text says,
– “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
So we must guard against seeing those who come into our lives as our saviors. Their role is to point us to Christ, or in the direction we need to go to learn more about Christ. They themselves are not Messiahs.
We must also realize that, as we grow in our own understanding, God is able to use us in the role of John the Baptist – to expose others to Christ through our witness and testimony. We cannot keep it for ourselves.
Finally, God makes the ultimate sacrifice and allows Christ to reveal Himself in human form.
– “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
Motivated by love for people and creation, Jesus Christ stepped down from heaven and became human to personally show not only His love for God, but also God’s love for us.
This is one of the starkest differences between the Christian faith and all other religions; we serve a God who gets personal. Our God lives and desires to enter into a personal relationship with His creation – so much so, that God meets us where we live.
God lets us know that whatever we go through, He will go through it with us.
He will never leave or forsake us. He wants to be with us through good times and bad. He will give us strength when we are weak, courage when afraid. Whatever we lack, He will supply.
Christ came to Earth so that we can access the fullness of God’s grace, and receive one blessing after another. There is more than what we see, but we have to be willing to go deeper in our relationship. As we do so, God, through Christ, exposes more and more of Himself to us. God exposes more of His love, more of His compassion, more of His mercy, and more of His forgiveness.
It is clear from this text that God has gone to great lengths to expose Christ to the world, and yet the response even today is lukewarm, at best.
The text indicates that, even though Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness,
– “The darkness has not understood it.”
Here we see one of the obstacles to having a deeper understanding of Christ. There are some things people are exposed to, but do not fully understand.
I recently came across an article about a military chaplain in the Dutch army serving in Afghanistan who openly admits she does not believe in God. She describes herself as a humanist and articulates her position by saying,
– “Humanists do not believe in anything they cannot prove.”
To her credit, she admits there are things she cannot explain.
I teach math, which is unbelievable considering how poor a math student I was. However, I was determined to learn, and while I do not know everything there is to know on the subject, I have learned enough to teach others. My ability to teach is tied directly to the time I spent studying and learning about the subject. My mind was closed to understanding math as a student because I considered it both too difficult and having no value. I took a pedestrian approach to an academic discipline – learn just enough to get by.
But it is really a question of the way we see things that determines the way we approach them. A mind that views some thing as hard and difficult to understand will be less likely to engage the subject than an open mind.
It is likewise difficult to understand spiritual things using human reasoning and logic. Spiritual principles operate in a different realm. The Bible is very clear in saying we cannot see God in a material sense, and we will never know the mind of God. Toward the end of the Book of Job, Job engages in a discussion with God about God’s justice. After God makes His case as the Almighty and sovereign God, Job responds by saying,
– “Surely I have spoken about things I did not understand.”
Some things we will never fully understand about God, but evidence for the existence of God is overwhelming if we just open our eyes.
Ignorance is the reason darkness cannot understand light. But understanding of light’s power and necessity will help us see farther than we can while ignorant. The light of Christ helps us to see beyond the physical realm we inhabit – we glimpse into the spiritual sphere where God lives.
A failure to recognize Christ – or rejection of Him – is also a hindrance to our gaining a deeper understanding of God. The text says,
– “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
The symbol for American jurisprudence is a woman holding a scale while blindfolded. It is a shame that we cannot go through life blindfolded; if we did, we would avoid many of the social and cultural markers that cause us to reject people. A reason people rejected Christ was because of his being different. Christ spoke and lived differently, and treated people differently. Such behavior challenged the status quo. Different does not mean deficient. Christ offered people a broader perspective of God’s kingdom than what they previously had learned of it.
Christ exposed God and God’s kingdom as a place not for the pious, but for the broken and those in need of God’s grace, mercy and love.
Sunday 3 May 2009
May God Bless You