Thursday, October 23, 2008

word up

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – Jn 1:1

John doesn’t begin with Jesus’ birth narrative. He doesn’t start with stories of angels or shepherds or magi. John the Baptist doesn’t cause a ruckus in the wilderness. John’s Gospel starts “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1, Jn 1:1). John begins Jesus’ story outside the normal calculations of time. John explores how the Word – existing outside the limits of time and place – enters our time-bound world. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9).

In essence, John sets the stage. His poetry prepares us to hear the greatest story ever told. He condenses a story so magnificent that, if every detail were captured, “the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

First, John identifies Jesus with the Word – the logos. The Word exists “in the beginning.” The Word is uncreated. And what is the nature of this Word – the logos? The Logos, in the original Greek, is all about speech – about a living voice that embodies a greater reality. And for John, this Greater Reality is God. “In the beginning was God’s speech – God’s living voice.” Before anything or anyone was created, God’s Living Voice spoke. Jesus is God’s Speech.

Second, God’s Living Voice – the logos – is God and is with God. God’s Speech is one with the Speaker; God’s Speech is separate from the Speaker. I understand why people find Christianity hard. We’re still on verse #1 and John plunges into a reality that won’t fit any scientific categories. But we can’t miss John’s essential point. John is asserting that God is supra-personal. “In the beginning” wasn’t the Author at his desk, sitting alone and brainstorming, on what to create. God’s nature is relational. On the one hand, Jesus is “close to the Father’s heart” (Jn 1:18). On the other hand, “whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Both statements are true. Jesus reveals God’s relational nature.

Third, God’s Living Voice – the logos – is the source of all life. “In him was life” (Jn 1:4). The Greeks had two distinct words for life – bios and zoe. Bios is physical, bodily life. We all have that. It’s built into our DNA. Zoe is different. Zoe is an eternal life that animates and sustains the human soul. We don’t have zoe. But we need it. John’s Gospel is the story of how zoe’s Source “came to what was his own” (Jn 1:11). “I came that they may have zoe” (Jn 10:10). Jesus is the Source of life.

FOR THE WEEKEND: Meditate on the deep mysteries of John’s prologue (1:1-18). Read it several times and wrestle with John’s claims. How is Jesus God’s Speech? How does Jesus reveal God’s relational nature? How is Jesus the Source of life? My suggestion is that you have a few Advil handy.

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