John 1:1-19 NIVUK
The Word became flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John the Baptist denies being the Messiah
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
These are an often missed set of verses when it comes to Christmas. But they do have a relevance that we might not grasp at first. “In the beginning” of Chapter 1, pun obviously intended, has a dramatic and eloquent flow about it. Pretty awe inspiring don’t you think? A very poetical image and a sense of wonder about God.
The first 13 verses can be said to be a short precis of Jesus’ existence and action in the world. V 1- 5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus was there at the moment of creation. Through HIM…
And then v 6-13 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. Jesus’ life as told through the nativity and a short history of His life, His rejection by many but also His acceptance by some.
And we come to v 14 an encouragement to see what an Advent this was. A prelude to Jesus and the message from John the Baptist. v 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
John has a message
And John obviously had a message and that was an advent message which was, in fact, no different to any other advent – prepare – make way, expectation – expect a momentous event
John had a message and those that came to him were messengers – so they were similar but they inevitably clashed… They are a clash of two worlds – John was different, even weird. It cannot be overstated how John was not conforming to what was the expected norm. Even if it is a “New Normal”. John was a thorn in their sides. He did not do as they expected and was not what they wished him to be.
John was someone who shook the foundations they had worked very hard to build. Those foundations that they built their lives on. He messed with the conservative (with a small c) values that upheld their control. They were regulated, rule based and benefited from the structures they felt they had to maintain. He did not hold his tongue and that meant he was so much of a problem that his relationship with Herod eventually ended very badly indeed.
Do we conform or are we nonconformists? It is easier at times to be the same as everyone else. It always amazes me and I’m sure I’ve done it myself as a teenager. That deep desire to be an individual. A need to exert who I am on the world. To strive to be noticed and admired as such. Yet ultimately we end up dressed and doing the same things everyone else does and feel safe in the knowledge that we are anonymous.
Do we do that as Christians? Instead of refusing to conform, we actually do just that. Conform. We hide behind our religiosity, our attendance, our bible study, our rules and conform to the behaviour, attitudes and whims and wills of a world that feels safe in it’s foundations.
The same can apply to the Church. I once got very angry and self righteous when at a popular christian festival/event as I saw everything from cheap Jesus loves me pencils to kidskin bespoke leather bible covers being sold. I then had to check myself as I queued to hand over cash for something I was convinced I needed . It wasn’t a pencil by the way but I was still conforming.
The Church can equally conform to the culture around it. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing but more often than not it is. It can shape our attitudes to the stranger, dull our desire to be generous to our neighbour and we can hold, too close, things that do not matter to God and make no sense to Jesus.
Although we often describe John as weird he is an example of what we may need to be. He was definite in what he was and you can’t call into question John’s refusal to conform.
What John wasn’t
And what John wasn’t was as important as what he was. To the messengers, to John and to those listening. John was not…
The messiah – the expected one. This is an interesting question to ask John because he was very different to what they imagined, believed, the messiah would be. The Messiah would reinstate Israel’s preeminence, restore the temple and conquer the enemies of God. We are not talking, strange man, in weird clothes, eating very dodgy stuff… He didn’t really conform to their ideas of the messiah.
So was John Elijah? John was not Elijah, or so he said – If John were Elijah that would have meant that his return was to confirm their theories of who they were. Elijah’s return would be the precursor of the Messiah, in the mould of their expectations. Malachi 4:5-6 offers an intriguing prophecy: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” To this day, Jewish Seders, the Passover meal, include an empty chair at the table in anticipation that Elijah will return to herald the Messiah in fulfilment of Malachi’s word.
But Elijah’s return was a prelude to a great day but also a terrible. So John’s appearance wasn’t that. There was a message of hope and not damnation for the world.
So was he “the prophet” when you see these words read moses. – what mattered to the messengers was their heritage not their behaviour/actions and God’s desire to see righteousness. These are two very different things. We can so easily say to ourselves “ Well, my family have always been a part of this church, I give to charity and always say my prayers. So…” Now we know that these are positives and should be part of our lives, however, they do equal being a disciple of Jesus, or account for our salvation.
John was not one of the expected big three, was not going to alleviate their concerns and create a new state of Israel as they expected anyway.
They were wrong and John was going to tell them they were. The voice was going to tell them they were.
John had a message and they were messengers – there was for them a clash of cultures?
They were interested not in what John was saying but what they needed to hear. v 22 We have to give an answer to the ones who sent us. Was there a sense of frustration/concern/ they had to answer to their leaders – looking to appease them? Tell them what they wanted or expected to hear? Confirm, for their leaders’, their way of life? Justify them?
John – was not quite the same though. He wouldn’t let them box him up but continued to challenge. And so John quotes Isaiah 40:3 another prelude to the appearance of the Messiah. “I am only someone shouting in the desert, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord!” Or in another way. I am the voice in the wilderness – in the dry, barren, lifeless, unforgiving, life sapping world… a voice in an uncaring, selfish, greedy, sinful world… shall I carry on?
The context of this Isaiah verse is very important… Israel have been released from their wilderness, the Babylonian exile and perceived separation from God. Though Isaiah speaks to His people… He offers Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In the wilderness – in the dry, barren, lifeless, unforgiving, life sapping world. He brings CPR Cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Israel.
v 1-2 He Comforts. Then Proclaims the “Forgiveness of sin”and finally in
v 27-31 God brings Restoration – renewal, strength and hope. The valleys etc – flattened and all the rough made smooth – CPR
Our voice, our CPR at Christmas
We have a message. You’ve heard earlier in v 22 the Priests and temple helpers utter this short phrase ““Who are you then? We have to give an answer to the ones who sent us…”
Who is the one who has sent us? We are sent by Jesus (go into the world – the great commission) and just as John has a message so do we. We have a CPR
We can tell of our experiences. Our experience of God in our lives. What and how he has done and is doing.
We can share our faith stories. Witness to what it is like to be a loved child of God.
The stories of how we have been renewed in God’s love for us and that in humility bring hope to those we have contact with.
And amid this momentous picture of God’s love and desire to see His people restored Isaiah shows his characteristic humility in v 6 40: 6 “What shall I cry?”
In humility we can come to God and ask “what shall I cry?” “What can I say?” And God answers…. v9
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
It might seem unusual to think of John the baptist at Christmas but here is… Declaring an advent, asking people to prepare for God’s coming in Jesus. Someone calling into the wilderness around them a message of comfort proclaim the forgiveness of sins and offering a fresh start and a hopeful future.
Make ready your message this Christmas.