John 1:1-18 The Coming Word

Preached Sunday 19th December 2010 (pm)

Click here to download the Bible study in PDF format.

READ John 1;1-18

John unveils the great mystery of the incarnation.  I heard a radio presenter on a chat show asking about the meaning of Christmas, and saying, very honestly I thought, she didn’t have a clue.  Various people rang in; they said mostly it was about being with family and people you love; one or two said they went to church at Christmas.

However, John tells us in one short sentence the meaning of Christmas: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” [John 1:14].  God wants to spend eternity among the people he loves.  The Word, as John calls him, who was with God in the beginning, and who was God, entered human history about 2000 years ago as a baby; his name was Jesus Christ.  This is why we celebrate Christmas (even though Jesus wasn’t born on 25th December!)

God becoming a human being is known as the incarnation.

QUESTION: What does the word ‘incarnation’ mean?  What is the difference between ‘incarnation’ and ‘reincarnation’?

Although we have a rich Christian heritage in this country it has been greatly eroded by secularism, and today people are far more likely to know about Eastern religious view of reincarnation rather than the Christian incarnation (which are very different.)   For Christians the incarnation is about God, who is Spirit, becoming a human being.

The enormity of the incarnation overwhelms the mind.  C.S. Lewis referred to it as “the Grand Miracle.”  Dorothy L. Sayers observed that, “from the beginning of time until now it is the only thing which has ever really happened … We may call this doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating, we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish … but if we call it dull then what in heaven’s name is worthy to be called exciting?”  A poet summed it up, “Lo, within a manger lies, He who built the starry skies.”

  1. 1. The coming Word reveals God

READ John 1:18

God is a self-revealing God and he wants to make himself known to us – to you.   There are some things we can say about this revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  First it is very, very ordinary.  The Word became human flesh – an human being (see John 1:14).

God came to earth as an ordinary human being.  Some artists try to set Jesus apart from ordinary humanity by painting a halo over his head.  But by all accounts Jesus was very ordinary.  Isaiah said, “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” [Isaiah 53:2b]: very ordinary.  For most people Jesus was son of Joseph, the carpenter.  It is true there were some events in his life which broke with normal human experience, such as the Father speaking from heaven, and his miracles.   But most of his life was ordinary human experience.  Yet, says John, this humanity of Christ became the vehicle of the divine revelation: “he has made the Him known.”  His humanity didn’t conceal or in some way obscure the revelation of God; rather it was it was the means by which the revelation of his deity was conveyed.  Jesus himself said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  Jesus Christ reveals God in a way we can understand.

The second thing we notice is Jesus Christ is Word who became flesh.  This Christmas I dare say you will be going to the odd party and meet people; you may even meet someone for the first time.   It is possible you might just stand there and stare at each other, but it’s more likely you will get into conversation, and it’s through the conversation, through words, you get each other better.  We reveal ourselves to others through our word, and this is how God reveals himself as well.  This self-revealing nature of God, the Word of God, became a human being.  We don’t just relate to God through a book; we relate to God through the person of Jesus Christ who is God and who has made him known.

QUESTION: Do you know what it means to relate to God through the Living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ?  If not, ask God to make this clear to you in your understanding.

  1. 2. The coming Word recognises our need

READ: John 1:5

Jesus Christ, who is the light and revelation of God came into a word of darkness and sin.  We live in a world of sin and evil and its consequences.  We live in a world of suffering, darkness and confusion.  Our temptation is to blame God – we want answers.  But God doesn’t just give us a nice little reasoned argument why there is suffering; in the incarnation he becomes willing to share the in the evils of mankind.  He suffers hunger, tiredness, betrayal, ridicule, rejection, suffering and death itself.

In the words of the 4th verse of Once in Royal David’s city:

For He is our childhood’s pattern:

Day by day like us He grew;

He was little, weak and helpless;

Tears and smiles like us He knew:

And He feeleth for our sadness,

And He shareth in our gladness.

The words of this carol underline a profound theological truth: God is a suffering God.  Our sin is painful and hurtful to God; through the incarnation God became a fellow-sufferer with us, in order to deliver us from evil.  He experienced all the trails of human existence.

One of the big stories of the year was the rescue of the Chilean miners; they became buried under ground in darkness.  We can only imagine the fear and terror they must have experienced when the rocks caved in.  Can you imagine the Chilean government saying: we would just like you to analyse the situation and work out why this happened; and why did God allow it to happen?  Of course they didn’t do that!  They immediately set about rescuing the miners, and it was this they were commended for.  So for anyone who would challenge God for allowing sin and evil, they should measure that charge against the teaching of Scripture that God himself in Christ became the victim of evil so that we might be rescued from it.  The coming Word recognises our need.

QUESTION: How does the incarnation help you relate to God?  How does the incarnation teach us to relate to other people?

  1. 3. The coming Word redeems humanity

READ: John 1:12-13

One of the great things about Christmas is singing the carols which are so full of excellent theology. Part of the third verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing tells us the reason for the incarnation:

Mild, He lays His glory by;

Born that men no more may die;

Born to raise the sons of earth;

Born to give them second birth.

Jesus laid aside his glory; He was born to die that men no more may die.  He was born to redeem us, to save us, to rescue us from our sins through the cross and his resurrection.

We have a problem.  We usually find it very difficult to admit our problems, especially this one.  The problem is our sinfulness which has separated us from God; we are all sinners.   And because we have sinned and done wrong the responsibility for repairing of our relationship with God is ours; it should come from our side, from within humanity.  But our sinfulness and our fallenness imply that we don’t have the ability repair the relationship.  Try as we might, we fail.  It’s only God who can save us / put thing right; but it’s only we who should do it.

The coming of the Word made flesh brings healing to this divide, and was an act of God’s great love.  As divine Christ had the ability to rescue us from our sins through the cross; and as human Christ could become our representative before God his Father, to redeem us.  This is the wonder of the incarnation, the Great Miracle!

QUESTION: Try and explain in your own words why the incarnation was essential for our salvation.

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