JESUS THE WORD
The Gospel of John obviously differs in numerous significant ways from the Synoptic Gospels, even though all four books are of the literary genre Gospel. There is a reason for this. The reason is not that John taught a different doctrine, or that his theology differed from that of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Each of these emphasizes different points, and each has his own particular agenda. The Holy Spirit led the writers on somewhat different routes. But all four Gospels have the same subject: Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. The difference also cannot be accounted for on the supposition that John wanted to supplement the Synoptics; to write about things they had not covered. It is highly doubtful that John had ever read Matthew or Luk3. I think there is some evidence that he was familiar with Mark.
John differs from the Synoptics simply because it is not designed to give an account of the earthly teaching and healing ministry of Christ as the others do in their varying ways. Therefore, there is little overlapping between John and the others. It is true that the Jesus John wrote about did His teaching and mighty works on earth. But the teaching John records –those long discussions in which He claimed to have come down from heaven, to give eternal life to those who believe on Him, to have existed even before Abraham, to be appointed by the Father as the final judge—has as its single purpose to support the claim that He is the Son of God. The very few of the Savior’s miracles recorded in Jn (just seven) are called “signs;” meaning signs of divine power. The most obvious include the feeding of the multitude, as a sign that He is the Bread of Life; the healing of the man born blind, in aid of the claim that He is the Light of the world; the raising of Lazarus, justifying the claim that He is the Resurrection and the Life. In short, John wants to write about Jesus Christ from the standpoint of His divine origin, His eternal deity. He wanted his readers to realize that “Whoever has seen [Him] has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). The few signs were written in the Gospel, among the many that He performed, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Everything in the Gospel of John points to the heavenly side of Jesus’ nature.
The above facts should be clear from the beginning, for the first words are “In the beginning was the Word….” In 1:1-18 John puts a prologue to his Gospel that tells the reader who is paying attention exactly what the book is about. His prologue introduces the whole book when it names Jesus “the Word;” logos being the Greek term employed. In the first century Greek-speaking churches a Reader read orally from a scroll of what they knew as According to John. And when this was done, every hearer would have known exactly what the word logos meant, and why it was applied to the One in whose honor they were gathered.
The Logos was an expression of the thoughts of God. Whatever thought God had, had been thought at the same time by the Son, for the Son was the very expression of the mind of God. The Logos is the means by which God communicates with mankind. The Logos does things (Isa 55:11 LXX); all creation was accomplished by the Word (Psa 33:69). So the Logos is the creative agent of God. The Logos is the bridge between the divine and the human.
John, having introduced the Subject of his Gospel as the Word of God, the Logos, then proceeds to further introduce Him in a way that will tell the reader what the Gospel is all about.
What Jesus Was (vv 1, 2). The verb here is in the past tense because the writer is referring to a past event: the creation of the universe. “The beginning” is the same beginning we find in Gen 1:1. When God created the heavens and the earth, the Word was present. He existed before time began. It is not necessary to say He is an eternal Being, because if He existed from eternity, He will exist through all eternity. If He was with God in the beginning, He is with God now and forever. That is why John can go on to say, “And the Word was God.” The writer is not undertaking a theological discussion of the Godhead, as though to say that God is God, the Word is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. The Triune God –One God in three Persons—is not the subject matter. The point is simply that what God was the Word was. They share the same nature. The first verse is simply ascribing deity to the Logos, who will shortly be identified as Jesus Christ.
“He was in the beginning with God” (v 2) is not a mere repetition of v 1. John is without doubt thinking of the OT passages concerning creation; in particular those passages that ascribe the work of creation to Wisdom personified (e.g., Prov 8:22ff). If this is the case, then the Word and Wisdom are the same, and Jesus Christ is the incarnation of both.
What Jesus Did (v 3). How much the Gospel of Jn has in mind the same teachers of error discussed in the epistles of John is uncertain. But we do know that the apostle had to deal with some who not only denied that Jesus came in the flesh, but also denied that He had any part in creating the material world. Both positions grew out of the false idea that anything material is evil; only spirit is good. Whether or not John had such in mind in v 3, he clearly put Jesus in the position of being the agent of creation. He does this both affirmatively and negatively. “All things were made through him.” There was nothing made except through Him. Again, the writer is most likely thinking of Old Testament passages like Proverb 8:30, in which Wisdom, speaking of the creation and setting in order of the world, says he was present with God as a “master workman.” Likewise, Psalm 33: declares, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made.” Many other passages teach the same thing.
Evidently this is not new Christology thought up by John, for we find the same teaching by other writers of New Testament books. Paul, again using the language of agency, says that all things were created through Him and for Him (Col 1:17). The writer of Hebrews applies Psalms 102:25 to Christ, in which the laying of the earth’s foundations and the spreading out of the heavens is said to be the work of His hands.
What Jesus Became (v 14). When we reach this verse we know for certain who John was writing about in the earlier vv. The Word became flesh. F.W. Farrar called these the “four most marvelous and epoch-making words ever written.” No Christian is likely to disagree. Just as the doctrine of creation is the foundation of all subsequent revelation, so the Incarnation is the bedrock truth on which all of the Christian system is constructed. The words are a sword driven into the heart of docetism –the theory that Jesus did not in actuality have a fleshly body, but only seemed to do so. F. F. Bruce well states this point: “Here and there the Gospel of John betrays awareness of this teaching and uses a form of words which excludes it. The writer might have declared in the present text that the eternal Word took manhood or assumed a bodily form, but no such declaration would have been so uncompromisingly anti-docetic as the declaration that “the word became flesh.”….What he is concerned to emphasize here is that God, who had revealed or expressed himself –“sent his word”—in a variety of ways from the beginning, made himself known at last in a real historical human person: when “the Word became flesh”, God became man.
The same verse says that the Word “dwelled among us.” The word “dwelled” (skenoo) literally means to pitch a tent. It is from skene, the word used in the LXX for the Mosaic tabernacle. Just as God dwelled among His people in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8), so He now dwells in the Incarnate Word. Skenoo relates verbally to Shekinah –the glory that filled the tabernacle due to the presence of God (Exodus 40:34). The glory of God thus dwells in Jesus the Incarnate Word. The reference John makes, “We have seen his glory,” may well refer specifically to the Transfiguration, where John himself was present along with Peter and James. Certainly that event was recalled by Peter much later as the occasion when “we” (himself and others) saw the glory of Christ (2 Peter 1:17).
What Jesus Gives (vv 4-13). When the Word came into the world He had made, He came with gifts that He offered to those who would recognize Him and receive Him. V 4 tells us, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” In v 9 it is said, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” His coming was not received or welcomed by the world He had made, and He was not accepted even by the people to whom He came; even those of His own nation that He had come to bless. But there were exceptions, a remnant. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Vv 12, 13).
Life. Light. Birth. These came with the Incarnate Word, and are offered –now as well as at His coming—to all who will accept them by accepting Him. John repeatedly uses this terminology throughout. And if one will take a concordance and find the specific passages involved, what will appear is this: Christ has life in Himself; that is, inherently, so can impart it to others (5:21, 24, 26; 10:10; 20:31). He is Himself life to the believer (11:25-27; 14:6). He is also the light that men tried to extinguish, but who continues to enlighten and illuminate darkened minds, just as he gave light while here to eyes that had been blind from birth.
The gifts as mentioned in the prologue of the Gospel are named within a context associated with the creative work of the Word of God. On one occasion, recorded by Mt and Lk, John the Baptist warned that “God is able of these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” But, in the beginning, what God did was to form a man from the dust of the ground. He gave that one man some of His own life by breathing into him so that he became a living soul. He opened eyes that till then had been nothing but unseeing orbs, and the newly created man was filled with light. The whole process was the birth of an intelligent and sentient creature. And as the man was made in the image of God, so he was presented with a woman made in his own image. I do not know what Adam looked like physically, but I am positive that if he were to appear today, he could win any physical fitness contest conducted. I do not know what Eve looked like, but I am sure that when she was presented to Adam, his first word was the prehistoric equivalent of “Wow”! What God created was perfect.
So it is in the new creation. When Jesus the Word came to visit this planet, he came to bring life more abundant than we can imagine. He came to enlighten our minds and hearts with truth and understanding; to fill us with joy. He came to provide, for all who will accept it, a new birth into citizenship in God’s peaceable kingdom.