Scripture: John 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me. ’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
These verses might be some of my very favorite in all of John’s gospel. Not only are they poetically beautiful, but, more significantly, they offer us an astounding statement as to who Jesus Christ is. Three phrases stand out the most to me in my reading: Word of God, the true light, and grace upon grace. Together, these three paint a picture of Christ for the church, and they illuminate the way in which he wants us to live.
When most of us hear the expression “Word of God,” I would imagine many minds envision a copy of the Bible. In any Christian group of which I’ve been a part, undoubtedly someone refers to the Bible as the “Word of God.” That language runs deeply throughout our Christian culture, and it has for as long as I’ve been alive. And on the whole, I think the language is good because of the reverence it teaches us to place on the teachings in scripture. Yet, here in this passage, we learn we might do well to expand our understanding of what exactly constitutes the Word of God. Not only is it the compiled texts that make up our Old and New Testaments, but it’s also a description of Jesus Christ, himself. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God. From the beginning, Jesus was there as the Father’s active and creative Word. This idea should take us back to the creation story in Genesis. When God spoke the world into existence, Christ the Son was the operative instrument in bringing forth life. This phrase tells us that Jesus is first of all the giver of life and an agent of creativity in the world. Jesus, as the source of all life, denounces the power of chaos and death.
In calling Jesus the true light, we begin to get a sense of how Jesus brings into existence abundant life. The light that is Christ overcomes any and all darkness. All shadows will be illuminated. This light and darkness metaphor is one that I find a little scary because it signifies that we can’t hide the darknesses within ourselves from Jesus. All things become revealed under the bright light of Christ. Eventually, humanity will be exposed, and that is not a comfortable feeling. Yet, as the true light, Jesus can’t help but reveal to us our own sins and shortcomings. Jesus shows us who we really are: sinners. And it is that very sin which keeps us from the abundant life Jesus brings.
But praise God because only through those revelations of our true nature does our own darkness become completely overtaken by the true light. Jesus gives grace upon grace. Abundant life is only possible through abundant grace. Abundant grace is what we receive when the light overcomes the darkness. This news is the best of all: Only in realizing our own depravity can we start to understand the enormous depth of grace that Christ has freely given to us. The very Word of God who has seen our guilt has also declared us forgiven and redeemed. That, my sisters and brothers, is good news. Abundant life comes in the knowledge and acceptance of this abundant grace. In abundant life we have the freedom to live creatively and passionately. We can be who we are because that’s how Christ created us to be. Live in the abundance of grace you’ve been given, and allow your life to be marked by the joy that comes with living in the light of Christ.
Christ our Lord, who is the Word of God made flesh, shine your light on me, that I might have no more darkness left to hide. Free me for the abundant life for which you have created me. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Life is meant to be a good and joyful thing.