16th December 2016
The whole world will soon be celebrating Christmas - the coming of Jesus, but most people don't really know who Jesus is. In his Gospel, John begins to tell us who Jesus is by saying:
John calls Jesus "The Word".The Greek word here is logos. It's translated in most English Bibles as "Word" but it could be translated "Sentence" or "Utterance". My preferred translation is "Message". In the beginning was the Message, and the Message was with God and the Message was God.
As Hebrews 1v1 tells us, God speaks to us in various ways. For example, He sent us messages through the Old Testament prophets. He gives us the Bible. Sometimes, when you're praying, you'll know God is speaking to you by His Spirit. You may not hear Him audibly, but you will sense Him speaking, nevertheless. But the most dramatic, life-changing way God speaks to us is by coming to earth in the person of Jesus so we can see what God is like.
Jesus Christ is God's clearest and most powerful declaration to us of who God is, because Jesus is God. God wanted you and me to know what He's like, so He came to earth in the flesh, as a man, to show us what He's like.
Jesus walked, and ate, and slept, and preached, and befriended people, and got cold and hungry, and was betrayed. All sorts of things happened to Jesus, just like they happen to us but sometimes more severely. And in every case, Jesus showed us how to react, how to respond to every situation. Jesus came meek, humble, gentle and wise. Jesus came full of love, full of compassion for those who are suffering, because that's who God is.
Jesus came to earth so that we could know what God is like. And Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us who God is, because they tell us about Jesus.
John begins by saying "In the beginning was the Word". Jesus is eternal, both backwards and forwards. He's from eternity and he's to eternity. Before God invented time, God existed. Of course he did, because He had to exist in order to invent time. And Jesus, the Word, is God.
Back in the time when John wrote this gospel, he didn't have the theological language to talk about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. But he knew that Jesus was with God and that Jesus was God. Which means that God is a bit more complicated that most people realise. And later on, John talks about the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Trinity is in John's gospel, even though the word isn't used. I know the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is difficult but John puts it so simply: Jesus was with God, and He was God.
Jesus Christ is the creator of heaven and earth. As the first few words of the Bible say "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". And Jesus is God.
Obviously, God cannot create life unless life is within God. Jesus created life because life was in Him. Both physical life and spiritual life comes from Jesus.
As Romans teaches us, if we study creation with an open mind, we will learn a great deal of truth about God. If you stare into a sunset, or a night sky, or an ocean, or a baby's face, if you have eyes to see, you will see God, or at least you will see God's handiwork, and know that there is a God.
But in particular, Jesus Christ has spiritual life within Him. And that spiritual life is Light to us. "Light" here means understanding. You can't see anything in the dark, so you need light to see. Jesus is the light. Jesus enables us to understand. That's why he's called the Word - the Message.
We can understand God much better by looking at Jesus than by thinking about theological ideas. In John's day, people could look at Jesus and see God. When Jesus healed lepers, when He raised the dead, when He fed people who had no lunch, when He forgave people who needed forgiveness, we saw God in action. And now we can we can read about Jesus and see God.
Jesus is the light of the world, and without Jesus there is no light. We cannot understand what God is like without Jesus.
And we cannot understand what man is like, without Jesus. I say this because man is a creature invented by God, for relationship with God, given life by God, given insight from God. We cannot understand the creature without understanding the creator who made him, and the creator's motivation in making him.
And we cannot understand what right and wrong are without Jesus. I say this because right is whatever God says it is, and wrong is whatever God says that is. We can make up our own definitions but they aren't very worthwhile compared to God's definition.
As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4v6, we were all in darkness until God opened our eyes to see the truth. It's a gift from God to understand who God is. It's a gift from God to understand how to be in right relationship with Him. We can't work it out for ourselves. Jesus gives us his light so we can see. There is no other way.
Some translations say "the light has not overcome it" but I think this is a better translation - the darkness has not understood the light, or received it, or grasped it.
There's a lot of darkness in the world, not just in terms of people being unkind, but in terms of people not knowing who God is.
Logically, if there is a God and you don't realise it, your grasp of the universe is pretty flawed, isn't it? And if you acknowledge there must be a God - as there must be since we can't be here by accident - but you don't know what He's like then, again, you don't have much grasp about the nature life on earth. If you don't know who made it, and why he made it, and what he wants from it, and how he wants to equip it, then what chance have you got of understanding it?
There's a lot of darkness about and all the light you'll ever find is in Jesus. A lot of the darkness has rejected Jesus. A lot more of the darkness has never realised that He's come, or why He came, or who he came for.
He came for you.
There's a lot of darkness, and the darkness has not grasped the light. There's a lot of well-meaning people in the world. We're all sinners, we're' all imperfect, we all say and do the wrong things sometimes, but there are a lot of well-meaning people - Christians and non-Christians - in the world. And so many of these well-meaning don't understand why they exist, why God made them, what destiny God wants to give them - to live for ever in His presence in heaven. So many people don't understand.
John is now writing about John the Baptist, who started to preach before Jesus began His ministry. John proclaimed, "Repent for the kingdom of God is near" (Matthew 3v2) and "After me will come one who is more powerful than I" (Matthew 3v11) preparing the people to believe in Jesus when He came.
John the apostle tells us "He himself [John the Baptist] was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." As well as being true of John the Baptist, that's also true of every church, and every pastor - every human organisation or agency. We are not the light. Jesus is the light. Any church that says "Come to us, because we're the answer" or any pastor or preacher who says, "Come to me, because I'm the answer, I'm the light" is woefully mistaken.
And, of course, any religious organisation that does not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord is woefully mistaken.
All we can do is point to Jesus and say "He is the light". The purpose of a pastor or a church is to be a signpost to the truth, and the truth is Jesus. If we point to anything else, we've missed the point. If we point to ourselves, we're guilty of serious arrogance.
I am not the Word. You are not. Your pastor is not. Your favourite TV preacher is not.
Jesus is the Word. We learn from Him.