Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, January 22, 2022
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God With Us

John 1:1-18

The Gospel of John begins so differently than the other three. The reason for this is that each of them was written to a different audience. So each Gospel writer emphasizes different aspects of Jesus and his ministry in order to speak most efficiently to those audiences.

Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience. He puts Jesus in the context of Jewish history and shows how all of that history pointed to Jesus. Mark wrote to Romans, who idealized power and authority. So Mark emphasizes Jesus’ authority, especially over the physical world and the spiritual realm. Luke wrote to Gentiles. He puts Jesus in the context of human history, connecting him with all people, not just Jewish people.

Well, John is writing to a Greek audience. He speaks of philosophical notions that meant more to them. He has a cosmic perspective and deals with universal ideas like light, truth, and life. Jesus is portrayed as superior to the Greek gods. Of course, the Greeks had many gods that we know from their mythology: Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, and so on. But the Greeks also believed in a greater God, an unknown God, above all the others. We hear about that in Acts 17, when Paul is in Athens, and he mentions the altar to the unknown God. John portrays Jesus as being identified with this greater and “unknown” God in human flesh.

John calls Jesus the Word. To the Jewish mind, the Word of God was the agent of creation. God spoke the world into existence. Psalm 33:6, “God breathed the Word, and all the stars were born.” The Word is God’s message to his people. The Word is also used to describe God’s Law. Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” But the Word is not a creation of God. The Word is eternal with God because the Word is God. To accept the Word, to accept Jesus, is the truest way to honor God’s Law, which meant so much to the Hebrew people.

To the Greek mind, the Word was reason. The Greek for Word, LOGOS, comes into the English language as “logic,” reason. This reason held the universe together and made life possible.

The Word is eternal. The Word is with God. The Word is God. He creates. He gives life. He is light, that is, he is truth.

John the Baptist was a witness to this light. John the Evangelist doesn’t need to make a big deal about John the Baptist because he’s writing to a Greek audience. The first Hebrew prophet in 400 years wouldn’t mean much to them.

But the Word was not recognized, not even by his own people. According to Jewish tradition, God had offered his Law to all the nations of the world, but only Israel had accepted it. Now, there is a reversal: Israel rejects the Word, but the whole world has the chance to receive him. And all who receive him experience a spiritual rebirth as children of God.

The Word became flesh, a human being, and, literally, tabernacled, pitched his tent, among us. “We’ve seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” The Greek word there is MONOGENES, meaning “unique, one-of-a-kind.” All who receive him become children of God, but he is the only, the unique, Son of God. He is full of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. These words are the New Testament equivalent of the important Old Testament Hebrew words EMET and HESED, words used to describe God’s integrity and loving-faithfulness.

“No one has ever seen God.” Both Jews and Greeks would agree: You can’t see God. But the only Son is God, and he is, literally, “in the Father’s heart,” a phrase describing the deepest intimacy possible.

The scandal of this passage is God becoming flesh, a human being. In the Jewish mind, it was scandalous that other nations insisted that their kings were gods. In other cultures, when a man became king, he became divine. And the Hebrew mind was scandalized by this. So they had a hard time conceiving of God becoming a human being.

In the Greek mind, the great unknown God was an ideal God, unlike their pantheon of deities. Those gods weren’t very ideal, what with all the fighting and fooling around they did. But the unknown God was an ideal God. And in their minds, ideal things existed on a higher and invisible plane and never had contact with the “lower things” of this world. So God becoming a human being and coming down to us was also scandalous to them.

This scandal is the gospel. God became a human being. All the glory, love, and faithfulness of God were in the man, Jesus. That’s a difficult thing to receive. But God’s promise to us is that if we do receive it, then we can become children of God

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