The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 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 bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. – John 1:1-18 ESV
These 18 verses that open up the book of John are the only material that precedes the launch of Jesus’ ministry. It is John’s introduction, very different than the other Gospels. John does not go through the whole story about the angel, the manager and the Christmas story. John begins his story with Jesus as an adult. This section is commonly referred to as the “prologue”.
We will see as we go through this Gospel that John has an overriding goal to clarify the identity of Jesus. John writes later, in chapter 20, about his intentions;
These are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. – John 20:31 NLT
Basically, John is not interested in being a detached observer and chronicler of the life of Jesus. He is trying to persuade his readers of the truth of Christ so that they might become His disciples. We must understand that he is writing to believers of Jesus, but we all know that there is a difference in believing and following. John is passionate about who Jesus is and how people need to follow Jesus, not just believe. Therefore, before he enters into the overview of Jesus’ life and ministry, he composes a quick look at Jesus’ ultimate credentials.
Much like when we meet someone for the first time, we ask some basic questions; “What’s your name?”, “What do you do?” and of course “Where are you from?”, John cuts right to the chase and lets us know these basic questions.
Who is He?
In our English dialect we use the name Jesus, but in the time of the writings of the book of John, written in Greek, we would have seen the name as Yeshua. So Jesus (Yeshua) is his name, but who is he, how do people refer to him? What is his title? This is very important as one gets introduced.
The New Testament has many different titles for Jesus. The most frequently used name is “Christos” or “Christ”, which is the New Testament name for “Messiah”. That is why many times we read that Jesus is “The Christ”, literally meaning “The Messiah”. The title Christ is used so often that many people assume it is his last name. That he was named, Jesus Christ. Actually, his name is Jesus, his title is Christ. Thus, “Jesus Christ” is actually an affirmation or declaration that Jesus is the Messiah.
The second-most used title of Jesus in the New Testament is “Lord”, which is at the heart of the earliest Christian creed: “Jesus, is Lord”. The word “Lord” is the translation of the Hebrew word “Adonai” meaning “Ruler” or “Master” and is distinct from “LORD” which is the translation of the divine name “Yahweh”. This can get confusing, capitalized, not capitalized, Adonai, Yahweh. Just remember that when it is all capitalized, it means God, Yahweh. It emphasizes that God is eternal, unique, unchangeable and always actively present with his people. It expresses God’s role as Israel’s Redeemer and covenant Lord.
In simple terms, Lord is the ruler of our lives. We can have many little “l” lords, but there is only one divine Lord, capital “L”.
Son of Man
The next-most used title, far behind Christ and Lord, in terms of frequency is “Son of Man”. Even though it was not used that much by the authors in the Bible, it was the reference that Jesus gave himself most often. “Son of Man” was used roughly eighty times in the New Testament. If we were able to ask Jesus “Who are you?” He most likely would answer, “I am the Son of Man.”
When we hear Jesus refer to himself as a the “Son of Man” our first thought may be about his humility, because it seems like he is identifying with our humanity. As true as that thought is, it is not the primary emphasis.
When Jesus called Himself the Son of Man in front of Jewish people of the first century, they understood that He was identifying Himself with that person who was defined and described in the Old Testament book of Daniel as a heavenly being who comes from the very throne of God on a mission to judge the world.
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. – Daniel 7:13 NASB
So when Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, He was describing Himself not only in terns of His activity but of His origin. He was telling His hearers where He had come from.
There were times when Jesus was specific about His origins. For instance, He said on on occasion:
For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. – John 6:38 NLT
When the Pharisees challenged and questioned Jesus about his relationship to Abraham His response was provoking:
58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:58-59 ESV
The Jews immediately picked up stones to put him to death because they understood His message – Jesus was equating Himself with God, who had revealed Himself to Moses as “I am who I am” in Exodus 3:14. Even when Jesus healed the paralyzed man He dropped a hint of His identity.
5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” – Matthew 9:5-6 ESV
Hopefully, now you can see that Jesus’ reference to being “Son of Man” was more than relating the us in humility. His declaration as “Son of Man” were statements by which Jesus openly declared that He had come from heaven.
John’s prologue was intended to accomplish much of the same goal – before John gave us his record of the earthly visitation of Jesus, he told us where Jesus was from.
An Echo of Genesis
John begins his Gospel with an immediate reference to the first lines of the bible.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God – John 1:1 ESV
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1
This seems like a neat way to start his Gospel, but it had more ramifications and references than are initially thought. This opening verse of John, more than any other passage in Scripture, is foundational for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Trinity, the belief that God is one in three persons. In verse 3 John goes on to write:
All things were made through him – John 1:3
Jesus in now identified as the incarnation of that member of the Trinity for whom, by whom, and in whom all things were made. In this extraordinary state John says: “The One I’m going to tell you about, the One in whom there is life, the One in whom I want you to believe, is the One who created you in the first place. Nothing was made apart from Him.”
Jesus himself later refers to his preexistance with God in chapter 17:5 & 17:24
Life and Light
As we study through the Gospel of John, we will see two words appear again and again. Those two words are life and light, and it starts out right here in the beginning of the prologue.
4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5 ESV
The use of Life and Light through the Scripture are used to describe the natural fallen condition of this world, referring to it in terms of death and darkness. When some individuals experience a conversion, some refer to that as “seeing the light”. There is even the old song “I saw the light”:
I wandered so aimless life filled with sin I wouldn’t let my dear Saviour in. Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night praise the Lord I saw the light. I saw the light, I saw the light, no more darkness no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight praise the Lord I saw the light. Just like a blind man I wandered along worries and fears I claimed for my own. Then like a blind man God gave back his sight praise the Lord I saw the light
I saw the light…
I was a fool to wander and stray straight is the gate and narrow’s the way. Now I have traded the wrong for the right praise the Lord I saw the light. I saw the light…
For me, when my conversion took place, it was like the “lights were turned on”. I was able to see life in a different perspective. I saw that there was life in Christ, that He gives eternal life. On the flip-side, life outside of Christ is a biological life, but there is no ultimate life – there is only darkness and spiritual death.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. – John 1:6-8 ESV
John moves from his declaration of who Jesus is, to how the ministry started. In verses 6-8, John is clearly referring to John the Baptist, who was sent by God as Jesus’ forerunner, to introduce Him to the world. Later in verse 15 it clarifies John’s mission:
“This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” – John 1:15 ESV
Later in the chapter one we will see where John comes in contact with Jesus again and makes a grand reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Son of God and from these brief encounters, John knows that when Jesus was before him, He was different. That the one before him was the messiah.
Exposure and Denial
Right in the opening prologue of John, he makes it clear who Jesus is. What his intentions were and how He was received. The people in His day heard met the man, heard His teachings, and yet made the decision to turn away.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:10-11 ESV
We have learned and will continue to see the painful facts that the exact people Jesus came to save, rejected Him. In chapter 3, Jesus, himself, refers to this opening statement from John. It is a response that is not unique to the time of Jesus. Today, thousands hear the truth, yet turn away. Even in our own walk, the Word will shine brightly into our own sinful lives and put a spotlight on something that needs attention, and what do we do? We turn to the darkness, ignoring the truth and pretend that our sin does not matter. We must hear Jesus’ own words on this.
19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – John 3:19-21 NASB
Do you have some areas of your life right now that are being pointed out to you that you are avoiding? You are turning from the truth to the darkness? Today you can turn to the light without fear. Let the light heal your wounds.
Good News of Hope
Even though that clear judgement is before us, it does not put us in desperation. We have learned in our studies that the true hope that we have is the opportunity to be adopted into God’s family. To be included as His children.
To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12 NLT
This is the good news of the gospel, the great hope that John wants his readers to know. John longs for them to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. It is by our own decision when we turn to the Light and accept Jesus as our savior that we have the eternal blessing to become children of God.
- R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary). Kindle Edition.
- Nicholas Thomas Wright. John for Everyone. Kindle Edition
- Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.