Introduction: the Gospel of John is simple and complex at the same time.
The gospel of John can be understood by the newest seeker looking for Jesus and yet still challenge those who have read it many times.
Some scholars believe that John wrote his gospel at the urging of those who treasured his eyewitness account and knew we was not only getting older but was the last witness to Jesus. He wrote what he had been sharing with people about Jesus’ teaching and miracles which became the substance of The Gospel of John. But there seem to have been those who misunderstood his narrative. They did not understand that Jesus was the Son if God and defended heresy based on John’s words. So John wrote the prologue. In this he tells us what we need to know about Jesus if we are to understand his life death and resurrection.
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[a] it.
Jesus is God – remember that
This passage tells us that Jesus was not created; he was with the Father before creation, has always been with the Father and was the agent through whom God created all things. John does not call Jesus by his name in verse 1 but uses the term “word” (logos). In this way he appealed to both the Jews and the Hellenists. Jews knew that he created by his word: he spoke and it was. The Greeks used Logos to describe the intelligence behind the order of the world. John uses it to describe Jesus.
Before you read the account of Jesus life you need to know that he is God. He is not just a teacher or a Rabbi or a guru. He is the Son of God and God the Son. In essence John makes his gospel like an episode of the cable show “Undercover Boss.” In that show the executive of a major company goes undercover and pretends to be an average worker in his own company. He learns how his employees work and what their daily challenges are. In the show, we know that the new employee is really the boss, but the people working with him do not. In the same way as we read the gospel we know that Jesus is God but the people meeting Jesus do not.
How did Jesus go undercover? Verse 14 tells us.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (skene) among us. We have seen his glory (doxa), the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (v.18)
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[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John tells us that the eternal Word of God, God himself took on flesh and became human. His glory was hidden from us by his flesh. But in the same way his glory was revealed through his humanity.
In Jesus the glory, truth and grace of God is revealed
One of the key terms in verse 14 is “dwell.” In Greek the word is “skene” and in Hebrew “shakan” where it literally means “pitched his tent.” The Hebrew word grew out of God dwelling in the midst of the Israelites encamped in the wilderness. The Tent of Meeting was where God’s presence dwelled. He glory was hidden by the tent but it was there. Now John is saying that the glory of God is hidden by flesh in Jesus, but it is still there. The sense of God’s glory dwelling in a tent was so strong that the Hebrews created a noun form of “dwell” – shekinah. It means God’s visible glory. The Greek word for dwell sounds like the Hebrew and would have added extra emphasis to the notion “made his dwelling among us … we have seen his glory.”
John wants us to know that as we read his gospel, God is revealing his glory and himself in Jesus. That revelation is what we should be looking for as we see Jesus in scripture.
In verse 18 he reminds us that no one has ever seen God, but God the Son, the one and only has made him known. He says that Jesus “is in closest relationship with the Father.” The word is literally “in the Father’s bosom.“ It pictures two people reclining at a dinner table so that one is resting in the other’s chest and they are sharing together. It conveys friendship and deepest relationship. In the modern parlance you could almost say that John says Jesus and God were best friends.
Jesus reveals God through his life, signs, teachings, death and resurrection. He has come to us full of grace and truth. What that means is that we learn both the truth about ourselves and about God’s grace. We learn that we need God. We need to be created anew. We need living water. We need new light, open eyes, resurrection life. and yet we have opposed God in every way. God came to us and we rejected him. The truth about ourselves is that we need God but we do not deserve him. Fortunately we also learn about the grace of God. Jesus came full of grace and truth, so even as we learn the truth about ourselves we understand the grace of God. He loved us so much that he gave his one and only Son. Through him we have eternal life. He is the way, the truth and the life
In this gospel we will meet Jesus. We will watch as he reveals the grace and love of God. We will see our need and rejoice to know that God’s love is greater than our need indeed even than our sin.