The End of a Long, Long Wait – John 1:1-18

Have you ever had to wait for a very long time for something hopeful to happen? Whatever that hope may be, if the wait was extended even over many years, surely there were times you thought it would never come to fruition. False alarms of aroused hope crushed you too many times to actually anticipate that the dream would ever find reality.

I have a niece in Texas, who along with her husband has endured the pain of childlessness. Though possessing a deep longing for children in their home, the hopes even of adoption looked as grim as the medical realities already absorbed. There were false hopes of potential opportunities, but the statistics seemed insurmountable and as unending as the hoops through which to jump and the curves to navigate … it all combined together to laugh in the face of any dreams of a family.

But in the darkness of this extended sadness, a call came from an expectant woman in Minnesota who had seen their profile and who hoped that possibly my niece and her husband could be the parents to adopt her little boy. A light broke through the darkness. Hope had arrived, yet many details needed to be accomplished. And in the course of time, they were able to travel to Minnesota and take home a new little boy to begin their family.

Since Adam and Eve and the consequent fall of man into the death sentence of sin, the world languished in darkness. Prophets spoke of a messianic hope to come. But years turned into decades; and decades became centuries, even millennia … but nothing … just darkness.

Oh, to be sure, there were false messiahs who claimed to be something or somebody. Still nothing … until this eccentric fellow named John the Baptist showed up wearing animal skins and munching on locusts. He was not the light to penetrate the darkness, but he was the forerunner who told the world that the light of life was soon coming.

Our passage today is one that is so full of theological significance; it is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that volumes have been written on these verses. Let me just grab n’ go with a few big ideas, along with a single biggest idea in terms of our series of sermons / readings / devotionals.

Note that the opening paragraph identifies Christ as divine, as creator, as eternally existent with God. He is the embodiment of life and of the light that could penetrate and eradicate the darkness of sin.

One would think that the world of humanity who had been so long-enslaved by sin would welcome this light and life – especially the nation of whom God had chosen to be his own peculiar people. They had been the conduits of truth and the promises leading to an expectation of divine intervention. But, no, most of them did not receive Christ nor welcome him. Yet those who did – Jew and Gentile – found themselves to be born again … not because of race, nor even of human effort and desire, but because of God’s infusion of LIFE.

The eternal Word had become actual flesh, and the writer John and his other contemporaries were witnesses of this truth and of the glory of God that had been revealed through the person of Jesus Christ.

John says that it is true that no person has ever seen God the Father, but the Father God is revealed in Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus was seeing the physical representation of God’s nature. The Greek word that is translated by the final four words of our reading today – has made him known – is the term from which we get “exegesis.”  This is the process we speak of when we say that a pastor/teacher is digging into the text to understand and then explain the full meaning of it. So … Jesus “explains” God and the details of his nature and character.

And it is this verse 18 that is the springboard for our series title “God Up Close.”  To see God in detail, one only needs to see Jesus in the same way … and that is what we desire to do through this series. We want to look at all the varied venues and vignettes in which John brings us an intimate view of our Savior. To know him is to know God. To know him and believe and trust in him is to have life. To follow his example is to walk in love and in the light. And that is what we all desire.

John 1:1-18    The Word became Flesh

1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

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Putting on Skin (John 1:1-18)

In his book Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yacconelli relates a story about a little girl meeting her baby brother for the first time.  “Baby, what does God sound like?”  she asked.  “Because I’m starting to forget.”

What do you think of when you hear the word “God?”  If you ask five different people, you’ll probably hear six different answers.  Maybe the question has even been a source of frustration—if God would just reveal Himself, then maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult to believe.

But that’s the radical nature of the gospel.  See, the gospel doesn’t just tell us that God exists.  No, the gospel tells us that God speaks.  Throughout the scriptures, God communicates through His Word.  When He spoke through His various prophets, it was because “the Word of the Lord came to Isaiah” and to Jeremiah and so on.  And, in the fullness of time, the Word of the Lord literally became flesh.  Listen to John’s description in John 1:

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John is describing what is known as the “incarnation.”  The eternal God of the universe took on human form in the person of Jesus.

But why?  There are actually many reasons—the primary one being God satisfying His own need for a man to offer a perfect sacrifice for sin.  But there’s another reason as well.  In coming to earth in the humble flesh of Jesus, God shows a willingness to identify with the plight of mankind.  In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the devoted father Atticus Finch reminds his daughter Scout that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge others.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” he tells her. “You’ve got to put on his skin, and walk around in it.”

And that’s what God did.  He put on our skin, and walked around in it, so that we have a “high priest” who can “sympathize with our weaknesses…yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  If the God of the universe can do this, how much more can we try and see things through the eyes of spiritual outsiders.  If we are called to relate the gospel to our culture, we need to look no further than the humble example of Jesus.  To love our world is to see things from their point of view—in the hopes and confidence of the power of the gospel to speak through us to produce radical and lasting change.