Text: John 1:1-9 and Ephesians 1:3-14 9
1. The context and the big picture
Mark introduces Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew places Jesus in the context of Jewish history by his opening genealogy and birth narrative. Luke sets Jesus at the intersection of Judaism’s pious hopes and the Roman Empire’s march through history. As valid and interesting interpretation and adjuncts to Jewish, Greek or Roman history as these introductions may be, they all allow the reader to say,
“All that’s very nice, but Jesus doesn’t really concern me and my life and the way I live in the New Year ahead.”
However in John’s gospel there is no baby in a crib, no family scenes but rather John plunges into huge concepts and ideas built around abstract terms as part of his scheme to paint a picture of Jesus that is very different from that found in the Synoptic gospels. John sets Jesus in the context of the creation and its meaning. To do this John introduces use of The Word, The Logos, and ideas built on
Jewish and Greek thinking and philosophy. Important to note that since John is writing to both Greeks and Jews he uses their own philosophical term as the starting point for his message.
Today I want to focus on John’s use of “The Word” as a title for Jesus the Christ.
v1 When the world began, the *Word (Jesus) existed already. The *Word was with God. And the *Word was God himself. v2 The *Word was present with God at the beginning of all things. v3 God made everything by means of the *Word. The *Word caused all things to exist. v4 He gave *life to everything that God created. His *life gave *light to everybody. v5 The *light continues to shine in the darkness. The darkness has never understood the *light. And the darkness has never made the *light” disappear.
These verses are incredible aren’t they for they indicate that reality is dependent upon Jesus…The Word
The meaning of life and truth are somehow connected to Jesus.
No one can accept John’s picture of Jesus and then walk away saying,
“That doesn’t matter to me.”
It is not just some interpretation or adjunct to Jewish Greek or Roman history…it’s about fundamental meaning of creation, about the reality and meaning of our existence…our world view…its big stuff…it is of universal interest.
So much hangs about the use of the concepts behind the use of “The Word”… as a title for Jesus.
The Greek word for “Word” would be written in English letters as Logos (from which we get logic, logo, and related words). However Jesus is rarely called “The Word” outside this prologue. It is interesting that UCA uses it in the way John does…Gordon and Steve are “Ministers of the Word”.
Let’s do some work: To describe Jesus as the Word of God… points to some
· A word is a message, a communication. Jesus is the communication of a message from God. · A word expresses the thoughts of the innermost person. Jesus is the expression of the heart of God. · A person’s word is a statement of that person’s nature or character. Jesus is the perfect expression of the nature and character of God.
In Jewish thought a word was a powerful and effective thing. · Words accomplished things. Genesis 1 describes God as creating
simply by means of a word.
· To say a blessing was to create a blessing.
To call Jesus the “word” was to attribute to him the ability to make things happen. So in a Jewish world The Word
But the Logos also had profound meaning in the Greek world. Since John is writing to Greeks, he uses their own philosophical term as the starting point for his message. From their observation of order in the external universe and human rationality, they believed there must be some universal “reason” which under-girds reality and provides meaning for the universe. They sometimes called this “cosmic rationality” (or Ultimate Reality) the logos.
Logos therefore referred to Reason and to the principle of order that held the
Universe together. In some ways the Logos was the mind of God that controlled the totality of the world. It was logos that made the world orderly rather than chaotic. Further, Logos should control individual persons. The Reason of the Universe should enable the individual to reasonably decide between right and wrong. Philo of Alexandria, writing at the very time of Jesus, described Logos as the tiller with which God, the Pilot of the Universe, steers all things.
In that sense the “Word” was an intermediary by which God related to the world and worked in it.
Thus both the Greek and Jewish patterns of thought attributed profound significance to “The Word.”
In both cultures the Word was associated with God in the creation or maintenance of the world. In both the Word was almost a substitute expression for God Himself. The first affirmation v1 When the world began, the *Word (Jesus) existed already.
The *Word was with God is of the existence of the Word in the beginning.
· By doing this the gospel echoes almost exactly the opening words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God . . . .” Thus Jesus is placed at God’s side as far back in time as the Bible goes.
The next phrase, however, refines the relationship between Jesus and God.
· “The Word was with God”. It might be better translated, “The Word was face to face with God.” The relationship of Jesus and God was more than side-by-side; it was a face to face relationship indicating far more intimacy than that of simply being co-workers.
This prepares for the final phrase, “The Word was God.” · The affirmation that Jesus is God is difficult for many today and was difficult for many first century Christians of Jewish heritage. Every Jew began every morning with these words in prayer, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one.” To claim that Jesus was God would be a very difficult idea for Jews to assimilate. · Perhaps the point that we should understand is not just that Jesus was (and is) God, but that when Jesus is seen, God is seen. The Logos provides us access and understanding into the very nature of God. [That does not mean that the Logos exhausts the being of God. John does not say God was the Logos. We struggle with the mystery of this verse. Jesus is said both to be with God and to be God. That speaks of Jesus being distinguishable from and yet identical with God. Our minds cannot hold the ultimate logic of both statements together. We believe, but there is a limit to our understanding. John could have easily said as Paul did in Ephesians 5:32, “This is a great mystery.”][Could be deleted]
My mother taught me that…”Jesus was the best picture God ever took of himself”…or more formally… ” Jesus was the best picture of God that we have”…maybe her simplicity covers and summarized all the ground I have been talking about….
2. What is the Word or Picture that Jesus painted of God?
• John also emphasised that Jesus was human. John recorded that Jesus was tired (John 4:6).
• John also recorded that Jesus needed food (John 4:31).
• Jesus was very sad when his friend Lazarus died. At that time, Jesus cried (John 11:35).
• On another occasion, Jesus became angry with the people who did business in the *Temple (John 2:15).
• And John also recorded that Jesus was *thirsty (John 19:28).
• Jesus wept [ Slide 1 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
• Jesus healed on the Sabbath [ Slide 2 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
• Woman at the well…comes to us where we are. Regardless of how we see ourselves [ Slide 3 for Sermon on John 1.pdf and Slide 4 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
• Heard and came to see our plight [ Slide 5 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
• Prodigal Son…God’s profligate, unconditional, extravagant love [ Slide 6 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
• Came and pitched his tent amongst us. God comes to us… [ Slide 7 for Sermon on John 1.pdf]
Jesus was vulnerable…Jesus was tempted not to be…be supernatural · Jesus suffered, died but death is not the end…God remains with us thru death. · God is in and is the light and power of the creative process. Not standing aside and darting in and out but always there in the midst…taking responsibility.
Most importantly Jesus shows that God meets us where we are.
3. What is our response? to these pictures of God according to “The word of God “
As we begin new year how are we going to respond…what are some of the options? Is the Jesus-the Word of God, showing in his life and the stories he told glimpses of God that you know and experience? Does it stack -up for you? Is your picture of God like that painted by Jesus? Maybe it’s not where you are at It is not where you are at with your image and experience of God…maybe you are listening for a God that is very different to the images of God shown in the stories of Jesus and his very life actions. Do you need to do some serious thinking and listening again to Jesus, as he tells about God and gives you pictures, images and insights of God. Maybe you want to read the gospels again and perhaps as Markus Borg says…”Meet Jesus again for the first time”. Can we strip back the cultural veneer of our particular Christian heritage that maybe have hidden, distorted or made dull the picture that the Word of God was putting before us. What ever your situation Jesus tells of God one key thing that God is ready and waiting to take you as you are…right now. Jesus showed us a God of abundant Love, Grace and Forgiveness…stretching out to meet us where we are and to journey with us from where we are. To travel with us every day. A God who is in the creation, groaning to see it fulfilled through relationship with us. It is a never ending story of encounter. As this new year open before us…read John and Ephesians again…read the stories of Jesus again listen as Jesus paints the best pictures of God that we have…and listen and see our loving God make new , transform, refresh, and challenge our lives and our living as this new year is dawning. The picture we have of God has a profound impact on our lives… Tell story from Signposts of Spirituality by Trevor Hudson. Can I challenge you to reflect and if necessary re-think, re-experience your picture of God as we enter the New Year. John uses The Word to help us see Jesus as the best expression of our God we have. Look to how Jesus lived and taught as the basis for your picture of God.
I urge you to check it out.