Text: John 1:1-18
Introduction: Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago. Yet never before or since has a person had a broader or more powerful impact upon mankind. His influence has reached to virtually every corner of the earth. Still for all that He has accomplished in the hearts and minds of well over two billion men, women, boys and girls, people are still confused about who He is. And at least in part we can understand why. After all, Jesus was never regarded by the governing authorities as anything more than a leader of a small cult. And oddly, unlike so many today who seek to establish their seat of power as quickly and sensationally as possible, the carpenter from Nazareth rarely drew attention to Himself. He preferred to spend time with His followers teaching them about His kingdom, while at the same time caring for the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Early in His ministry, He was considered an annoyance to the ruling elite as He challenged their rules and interpretations of the Law. Later He became a possible threat to their positions of power. Eventually, these men dealt with Jesus in the same manner as they did with so many others. After a sham of a trial, they put Him to death on a cross expecting that the rest of His disciples would go away quietly. But much to the amazement of the ruling body of the Jews and the Roman governor, they did not! Unlike so many movements that lose power and momentum once their leader is eliminated, this one took a different trajectory. The followers of Jesus began to spread the good news that He had risen from the dead and broken the stronghold that sin and death held over all mankind since the days of Adam and Eve. They claimed that through faith in His sacrifice on their behalf, anyone could inherit a life that Jesus described as abundant and eternal.
Over the next couple of decades following His crucifixion and resurrection, the movement spread rapidly throughout the Middle East. Within the first hundred years, it eventually it made its way to Asia Minor, and Southern Europe. It took a bit longer, but Christianity continued to expand its boarders to northern Europe, and then in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, it came to America where its beliefs formed the very foundation for our system of government (Isaiah 33:22) and legal system. Over the past two hundred years, the Christian faith has made significant inroads into the Far East, Africa and South America with the result that the majority of believers in the world now live in these places. And to think that it all started with about 120 people (according to Acts 1:15) hanging out in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would come.
Though He was only in the public eye for no more than three years, Jesus has easily become the most prominent figure in the last two millennia. His far-reaching impact cannot be ignored and begs the question: What is it about His life and teaching that has drawn so many to follow Him including millions who have chosen to forfeit their lives rather than deny their allegiance to the man from Galilee? Over the next several weeks I hope to provide multiple answers to that question in this new preaching series I’ve entitled, “Why Jesus?” This morning I want to start with the most important belief that any Christian has with regard to our leader … He is the Son of God.
There are some things we get wrong in life that, though they might inconvenience us, matter little in the grand scope of things. I think of the time when I was supposed to fly out of Houston to visit my family in Pittsburgh for Christmas. On the day my friend drove me to the airport early in the early morning, I looked at my ticket which said that I was to depart from IAH (I took that to mean International Airport Hobby), at 7:30am. I was dropped off at about 6 o’clock and immediately set out searching for the U.S. Airways check-in counter. I looked for a good twenty minutes before I finally asked one of the men dressed in some kind of official looking outfit. “Sir,” I asked. “Could you please tell me where the U.S. Airlines check-in desk is?” He answered, “Yes, I can. It’s about 35 miles north of here.” My jaw dropped and I said, “You’re kidding me.” He shook his head and replied, “Son, I wouldn’t kid you about something like that.” That was the moment when I realized that the IAH on my ticket was an abbreviation for the other major airport in the fourth largest city in America, Intercontinental Airport/Houston. I had no credit card to pay a cab and cell phones were not yet in use, so I made a collect call to my roommate who immediately left the house we shared and drove to pick me up. He broke a few land speed records in getting me to the other airport, but in the end, I still missed my flight. Not to worry, however, because that was the day I learned about flying “standby” and was able to get on the next flight to Pittsburgh where I spent Christmas with my mom and dad. I misread my ticket, but everything still worked out just the same. But there’s at least one thing you don’t want to misread. That would be what the Bible, and in particular the Gospel of John, has to say about the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth … He is the Son of God. John the apostle wrote his account of Jesus’ life because he wanted to make certain that his readers would understand that Jesus was more than an inspiring teacher or a prophet who said profound things. These options are not available to us. Not when John testifies that He is the Son of God, sharing the very attributes of God, both those that regard His being and those that regard His doing. Here’s two points the apostle makes about Jesus in the first eighteen verses of chapter one.
Who God is, Jesus is. (John 1:1-2 — In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God). Jews in the first century viewed the word of God as taking on personal creative attributes. We do the same when we speak of Mother Nature! So it reads in Genesis 15:1 — (Speaking of Abraham) And so, the word of the Lord came to Him. Now we understand that God delivered His word to Abraham. It didn’t just walk there by itself as if it was alive. So when John sees the opportunity to relate to something they were familiar with, the word of God, he speaks of the “Word” only this time he attributes to it real personal characteristics. He starts out by saying …
- In the beginning was the Word. John’s point isn’t hard to understand. He was saying that before there was anything, there was the “Word.” He deliberately uses the phrase “In the beginning…” to bring to mind Genesis 1:1 (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth), which every Jew would have instantly recognized. They understood that God is eternal (Exodus 3:14 — God identified Himself to Moses as “I Am that I Am” The name means the self-existent One who has no beginning or end) and was the Creator of all things. Now John is saying that before there was a Garden of Eden, before the earth ever spun its axis, before the universe existed, the one called the “Word” was also already in existence.
- The Word was with God. What does this mean? When we look at the Greek word for “with” (pros) and how it is used in the New Testament, we see that most frequently it refers to a person being with another person, usually in some kind of close relationship. Only once or twice is it used in any other way. Here’s why this matters: This is John’s way of saying that the WORD is a person who has been with God, yet is distinguishable from Him and that together they have enjoyed a personal relationship.
- The Word was God. This is a clear statement about who John believed the WORD to be. He was and is God, yet possessing His own qualities of personhood. Later in His gospel, John tells us why he documented the life of Jesus in the first place. It was to convince people that He is the Son of God (John 20:28 — But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name).
What God does, Jesus does. In the Old Testament, the ‘word of God’ is connected with God’s powerful activity in CREATION (Psalm 33:6), REVELATION (I Kings 16:1 — Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu) and DELIVERANCE (Psalm 107:20 — Speaking of the redeemed of the Lord — He sent out His word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction). Here John draws the same conclusions about Jesus whom He describes as the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus and Creation (John 1:3-5 — All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it). In these verses, we’re informed that He is the Creator. Nothing that has been made has come into being apart from Him. And His work of creation displays the power and wisdom of God. Illustration: For example: Did you know that one factor contributing to the earth’s ability to sustain life is the planet Jupiter? Because it is 318 times larger than the earth, its gravitational pull acts as a giant vacuum cleaner sucking comets and asteroids to itself that might otherwise strike the earth. So let’s be clear: John is not claiming that Jesus is merely the pinnacle of God’s creation (the best of what God created) or the created One who then created everything else. That interpretation is ruled out by the phrase “In Him was..”). He possesses life and gives it to whomever or whatever He wishes. The conclusion? Every living thing that exists in our universe has been created by Jesus. Then John says …
- In Him was life and the life was the light of men. This is the apostle’s way of saying that in the created order, our Lord left enough of a trail for men to be able to find Him (Romans 1:20 — For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse).
- The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Though the truth about God and His Son was plainly there for people to see in creation, they couldn’t accept it (lit. “refused to lay hold of it“). Here’s one reason why: Jews are monotheistic. That means they believed in one God. They viewed it as preposterous for anyone to advocate that Jesus was co-equal with God as His Son. So, they rejected Him and continued to embrace darkness — all the evil in the world that
Christ came to rescue us from. Illustration: Of course, this was not a very good choice for them to make. Sin (darkness) by its nature is very destructive. If you choose it over the light of our Lord, it will eventually destroy you in time. Burt Hunter, a newspaper reporter and photographer in Long Beach, California, found himself on a strange mission one foggy morning. He was scheduled to interview and take pictures of a woman snake charmer. When Burt visited the woman’s home, he was surprised to find that she lived in a very nice, upper-class neighborhood. The woman herself didn’t look someone who played with snakes. Burt couldn’t help mentioning that fact to her. “I don’t understand why a wealthy, attractive woman such as yourself is engaged in this kind of business,” he said. “It seems awfully dangerous to me.” The woman smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t do it because I have to. It’s a fascinating hobby. I really like the element of danger involved. Someday soon I plan to give it up and spend more time with my flowers. I can quit this any time I want to.” While Burt set up his equipment, the woman brought in baskets containing cobras. She confidently lifted some of the deadly snakes as he snapped pictures of her handling them. After replacing the snakes in their baskets, she cautioned, “Be especially quiet now and don’t make any quick moves. I’m going to take out my newest snake. It isn’t completely used to me yet.” The woman lifted the new snake out of its basket, then suddenly stiffened. “Something’s wrong,” she whispered to the photographer. “I’m going to have to put him back.” She opened the basket slowly and began to lower the snake into it. With a lightning-fast jab, the cobra buried its fangs into the woman’s wrist. The woman forced the snake into the basket and clutched her arm. She spoke calmly to Burt, “Go quickly to my medicine chest and bring the snake serum. Hurry!” Trembling, Burt ran to the restroom and returned with the precious vial. The woman instructed him to take out the syringe and fit the needle on. Then she told him how to withdraw the serum. Burt struggled with the unfamiliar task, his hands shaking badly. He braced his arm against the table as he tried desperately to get the needle into the vial. Suddenly he gasped. His clumsy fingers had crushed the tiny bottle. The serum, now useless, dripped through his fingers and onto the floor. “Tell me,” he urged. “Where can I get another?” In a quiet voice she responded, “That was my last one.” The woman’s agony ended when she died a few hours later. Burt’s, however, continued for the rest of his life. He often recalled what the woman had said that day: “I can quit this anytime I want to.” People make the same claim about sin and darkness. But the only way to overcome it is not by handling it carefully by walking into the light of Jesus.
Jesus and Revelation. God was and continues to be very concerned that people understand who Christ is. It is His desire that all men might believe.
- There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (John 1:6). John the Baptist was a witness of the light. He was clear in his affirmation that he was not the light, but was sent as a witness to it (See John 1:15,19-27). John was born before Jesus that he might prepare the way for the Son of God. His purpose was to bear witness of Jesus, the true light that was coming into the world, so that people might believe through him.
- The ‘world’ did not recognize Christ (John 1:10–11 — He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him). As it’s often spoken of in John, the phrase “the world” has a negative connotation. It is the element of creation that lives in rebellion to God (See John 7:7). If the world (including the Jews) is hostile and is not able to recognize Jesus for who He is, how can anyone become a child of God? John answers the question for us: (1) We do not become children of God because of human descent, i.e. our bloodlines (See Luke 3:7-8); (2) nor because of human involvement (the will of the flesh), i.e. sexual relations; and (3) certainly not because of human achievement, i.e. the husband’s will. (4) The only way we can become children of God by receiving and believing in the Word! And believing in the name of Jesus is more than acknowledging a label. It means to affirm the very nature of a person. Every time a person believes in Jesus, John goes on to say, it is because God willed it to be so.
Jesus and Deliverance (John 1:14-18 — 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. (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.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known). In the act of the Son of God becoming a human being (He pitched his tent among us), Jesus revealed the glory of God which is described as being full of grace and truth. Jesus did not just appear to be human. He was human. In Old Testament times, God dwelt with His people in the tabernacle. His glory, which manifests His goodness, filled it (See Exodus 33:18,19; 40:34). At the incarnation of the Son of God, the glory of God (His goodness) was revealed in a new and spectacular way…through His Son.
- His glory was revealed as He displayed His Goodness (See John 2:11; 11:4), the ultimate display, of course, being His crucifixion and resurrection (See John 12:23-24).
- His glory was revealed in grace and truth. “One blessing after another…” The Law given by God is an earlier display of grace (See Romans 7:12, 16), but it is now replaced by the grace (favor) and truth that comes through Jesus, the very visible Son of God who makes Him known.
Summary: Today we discovered that Jesus is the Son of God (Who God is, Jesus is) and that He does the same work as God (What God does, Jesus does). Just as God creates, reveals and delivers, so Jesus was also creates, reveals and delivers. That’s why He has so many followers! He is God the Son to whom we owe our eternal gratitude for our existence and our deliverance from the penalty of sin by His grace and goodness.
Closing: Once upon a time, an atheist was arguing with a Quaker about the existence of God. “Did you ever see God?” asked the atheist. “No,” said the Quaker. “Did you ever touch God?” asked the atheist. “No,” replied the Quaker. “Well, did you ever smell God?” asked the atheist again. “No,” said the Quaker. “How can you be so sure that there is a God?” said the atheist with a smirk on his face. “Friend, didst thou ever see thy brain?” the Quaker asked the atheist. “No,” said the atheist. “Friend, didst thou ever touch thy brain?” “No,” replied the atheist again. “Friend, didst thou ever smell thy brain?” the Quaker asked again. “No,” answered the atheist. “Then, friend, how can thou be certain to possess one?” asked the Quaker once more. I have to confess that for the first fifteen or so years of my life, I didn’t use my brain when it came to believing in Jesus. but that changed when the God who is full of grace of truth pulled me out of the darkness and into His light through Jesus Christ. I hope this message will help you move toward Jesus as the Word that became flesh.