“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. 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.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 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 1:14-18; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
This post concludes a five-part series looking at the introduction of the Gospel according to John. These 18 verses set the stage for the rest of John’s Gospel. This introduction reaches a climax here. None of John’s original readers could misunderstand what he was saying: Jesus is a man, but He is also God.
This central truth of the Gospel—the incarnation—is essential for our salvation. Because of sin, we are separated spiritually from God. We cannot do anything to solve that problem. However, by becoming a man, God the Son bridged the gap between us. He entered our world and shared our experiences so that we could share His eternal life.
He did this while maintaining most of His divine attributes, particularly His moral attributes. John ascribes three key divine qualities to Jesus: grace, truth, and glory. Jesus revealed His glory particularly several times during His life: during the Transfiguration and at His resurrection, for example. He also showed His glory by living a sinless life despite facing the temptations common to mankind. [Jesus laid aside some of His divine attributes (see Philippians 2:7), such as omniscience and omnipresence. The fact that He spent approximately 33 years confined to a small locale in the Middle East does not negate His deity.]
John writes that “The Word became flesh.” To a Jewish reader, the word would suggest the Word of God, the laws and prophecies contained in their Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. It was the complete revelation of God to His chosen people. A Greek reader would immediately recognize the logos, the Greek term for “word,” from the teachings of Plato and other philosophers. They believed that the logos is the force that governs the universe. It is logical (the English words “logical” and “logic” are derived from logos), rational, constant, and spiritual—distinct from and above the physical, material realm. To a Jew, the notion that God or His Word could become a physical entity—particularly a human being—was absurd. Likewise, Greeks would find the idea that the spiritual logos could assume any physical form to be preposterous.
Nevertheless, by becoming a man, Jesus demolished those boundaries. The logos became physical and took on a human body and biological life. The force that governs the universe became a distinct individual. He dwelled in a small town in an insignificant province, on a medium-sized planet circling an average-sized star in the outer branches of a galaxy floating somewhere through space.
He accepted a very ordinary life, facing many challenges. He was born to a poor family in a stable, not royalty in a castle. He probably spent much of His young adulthood working an ordinary craftsman’s job as a carpenter, deprived of the luxuries most Americans take for granted. Scripture tells us that He was born of a virgin; Christians accept this as a fact, but it must have been hard to swallow in His day. People probably assumed that Mary and Joseph had sex before marriage (or that Mary had cheated on her fiance). Neighbors probably whispered and gossipped about them. This accusation arose even during His ministry, when His opponents said, “We were not born of fornication” (John 8:41). In the end, He endured a brutal, humiliating form of execution. He accepted a low status in life so that He could raise us to fellowship with God. Through it all, Jesus embodied the divine nature and all we need to know about God.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:1-4).
Perhaps it seems far-fetched to us. It seemed that way to Jesus’ followers and to John as well. God supersedes our wisdom. Jesus could only reveal Him to us by becoming one of us. Laws, prophecies, wisdom writings, philosophy, etc., could only give us a glimpse of His glory.
God became man to bridge the gap that separated us from Him. He entered our world and shared our experiences so that we could share His life. By sharing our humanity, He could share His grace, truth, glory, life, and light with us.
“Jesus is not only what God is like; He is also what humanity was intended to be” [The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988)].
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