29 December 2012

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." (v. 1)


Today's verses are amongst the most famous of all New Testament writings, and rightly so for they offer profound theology in the form of beautiful poetry. One can only imagine the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to John as he wrote the words - how amazed was he by what he was writing, how aware that he was writing words that would echo throughout time ever after as fundamental to global Christian belief? Of course they were not words that came without preparation. The person who wrote these words was, many scholars believe, the same John as the 'beloved' disciple who was one of the closest companions of Jesus - and so his writings come out of a life of devotion. Yet they were also fed from a life of study. If we explore the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (and also the books of the Apocrypha) we will see that John has informed his work by spending time considering the way that wisdom is given a personality in these writings, and that when he uses the description of Christ as the 'Word' he seems to referring to the ancient pictures of wisdom; wisdom that was from God, wisdom which was much greater than mere human understanding. Add to this the fact that the ancient wisdom writings paint similar pictures of wisdom as does John of the 'Word' (such as being involved in creation, being light in the darkness....) and we see that John writes from both devotion and study.

Yet John's intention was, as we know from elsewhere in his Gospel (see John 20:31), to evangelise rather than educate. So within his theology and poetry there is good news. He speaks of John the Baptist preparing a way for the light (Jesus), but not to merely inform - but rather to convince and convert. He promises that to receive Jesus and to believe in his name (verse 12) is to become one of God's children. And perhaps most incredible of all he declares that the Word "became flesh and lived among us" (v. 14). See the first verses of 1 John (the epistle) to see how excited by this John remains. Finally (verse 18) John lets us know why the incarnation is so crucial to human existence; he declares that it is God the Son who makes the Father known. Without Christ, we cannot know God.

To Ponder

  • How well do we allow both study and devotion to inform our understanding of Christ?
  • What does it mean to both believe and receive the light?
  • How does the incarnation challenge our mission? How well does the Church 'live amongst' those God seeks to reach?