14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And I’m back.
Interesting month. The end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I’m hopeful.
The Word, the complete expression of God’s being, attributes, and character, became flesh. The eternal, all-powerful, supreme being that was incomprehensible to us, that was so high above us that it would be impossible for us to grasp Him, became one of us. You can see why some of the early Christians had trouble conceiving of this. You can see why the Jewish religious leaders of the day had trouble accepting this.
To them, God was the pillar of fire, the burning bush, the One who spoke and the universe came to be, the One so above the material realm that He created that He forbade any attempt at all to make a likeness of Him because it degraded and distorted His being.
This God, this holy God, who spoke only through prophets and then only indirectly, became flesh and dwelt among us.
It is an absurd, awesome, nearly incomprehensible thing. God decided to reveal Himself to us and He chose a way we could understand the best: by becoming one of us and living a human life the way He expected us to live.
I’m not the kind of person who responds well with book learning and lectures. I like reading. I like school. I enjoy it. But for me to really grasp how to do something, I need someone to show me how to do it and then walk me through doing it myself. That’s what the Word is to us. He is the expression of God’s being and an expression of the life that God expects of us: one in perfect harmony with His being and character.
15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
John the Baptizer’s testimony and the call back to the Law of Moses both show that the Law and the Prophets were the lesser revelations of God. The Ten Commandments were a partial revelation of how we should conduct ourselves and the nature of God. They were first reportedly written by God the first time, and by Moses at God’s command the second time. The Prophets were indirectly given revelation from God through signs, dreams, visions, and impressions. Both were given through humans with their own limited understanding, prejudices, and faults. They were, to apply Paul’s analogy, seeing through a mirror darkly.
Christ existed before both. He was in the beginning with God. There was at no point in history or pre-history a time when God existed that the Son did not also exist as the exact representation of God. The greatest revelation to us is the person of Jesus Christ. He is God in human flesh. God whom we could see, touch, speak to, hear, watch, and follow in His footsteps. He is the perfect revelation of God. He is the Word made flesh.
And how does John the apostle describe Him? Full of grace and truth. The very act of the incarnation is the supreme act of graciousness, as the eternal becomes mortal and the incomprehensible takes the greatest pains to become understandable. And full of truth: there is no falseness, no flaw, nothing that mars the revelation of God. His words are true. His actions are a true expression of God’s character. His sacrifice is the pinnacle of God’s feelings and thoughts toward us.
To know and understand the Word is to know and understand the Father. So with this introduction, we begin John’s memories of his time watching, hearing, and trying to follow in the footsteps of the Word and what exactly that means for us.