John 1: a mic drop on grace
Our family loves going to the theatre. We love movies.
You know that feeling when there’s a film you’ve been looking forward to for a while and it finally hits the theatres? You’re sitting there and the moment the production house logo comes up accompanied by an epic score, you get this “here we go!” feeling. For me, the 20th century Fox score is a thing of legend. Probably because the first film I ever saw in theatres was Return of the Jedi when I was 10.
John 1 reads like the opening movement of a symphony. John intentionally wrote it to arrest the attention of his original audience and draw them in. “In the beginning” was John’s “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.”
JOHN GETS OUR ATTENTION …
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
The immortal becomes mortal. The Creator is clothed in the clay of creation. John affirms Christ’s deity & celebrates His humanity all at once. The Eternal Word will be heard through a human voice. The God who thundered on Mount Sinai will cry in a manger.
The prologue to his gospel opens with “in the beginning” intentionally. The listener immediately thinks of Genesis 1:1. The premise of John’s gospel is this:
If you want to know what God’s like, look at Jesus. If you want to know how God feels about you, look at the cross.
Then John call Jesus, “the Word”. Why? None of the other gospel writers did this and John doesn’t do it anywhere else in his gospel. This is totally unique in the prologue.
‘Logos‘ is the greek term for ‘word’. It was commonly used and commonly understood.
Philosopher Heraclitus (535-475BC) used this common term ‘logos’ as a defining principle. He acknowledged that the cosmos and the order of the universe had a logic to it. What was that logic? The Stoics later expanded the use of the term ‘logos’ to refer to the divine ordering of the universe.
By the time John wrote this, another philosopher, Philo (25BC-50AD) used the term ‘logos‘ to express the means God used to create the cosmos from chaos.
Then John comes along and blows the philosophical conversation wide open by claiming that the order, the logic and the reason for the universe is neither a principle nor a process – it’s a Person.
The Creator God is the Redeeming God.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” ~ John 1:9
John walked with Christ, watched Him die and witnessed His resurrection. We cannot. To know what John knows, we need to be enlightened.
This “light” does not belong naturally to us. It is not inside us. It is outside us – coming to us. John asserts that spiritual enlightenment is not discovered through our efforts, it is given in God’s grace.
In the original language for this text, John intentionally avoids using the Greek nouns for ‘knowledge’ and only the Greek verbs for ‘knowing’. He’s intentionally provoking his readers to consider that behind this ‘light’ is a ‘Life’.
The enlightenment we seek that will bring rest to our restlessness is not found in the knowledge of something, but in knowing Someone.
While it is both true and good that God’s law instructs us, Christian faith is not primarily about having a knowledge of God’s precepts. It is primarily about enjoying and glorifying the Person behind the precepts.
As the original audience read this for the first time, eyes growing wider and wider as the text crescendoed – John dropped the mic on God’s grace.
THE MIC DROP ON GRACE
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ~ John 1:12-13
By God’s grace alone, His light came to us and enlightened us while we were in utter darkness, though we did nothing to deserve it.
Left to ourselves, we would grope around in our spiritual darkness, trying to satisfy an eternal craving with temporal trinkets. Our toys, our careers and our status. Sex and power. None of it ever really being enough to satisfy us. Apart from His grace, we would be like people drinking sand in the desert, desperately trying to convince ourselves and others that it’s satisfying our souls.
As the radical nature of God’s grace crashes like cymbals in a John Williams score, our modern minds can get distracted…
‘Hold on, John! Children of God are born of God and NOT the will of man? John, John, John. Maybe the light didn’t come into our darkness first. Maybe we recognized our darkness and then we reached out from it and chose the light. That fits my philosophical box, so that’s probably what you mean.’
I can remember my fragile North American ego trying to rewrite this text many times as I was working out my theology. I loved how “grace alone” sounded, but I wasn’t too keen on what it implied. What it implied was that we didn’t make the first move in faith – God made the first move in grace. Grace ‘alone’ was a direct threat to my inner control freak who enjoys polishing my merit badges.
His grace makes our faith possible – we don’t self generate it. So … do we choose to place our faith in Christ? Of course we do. The bible says two things simultaneously and unapologetically: God is sovereign and man in responsible. Both of those things are true – thus the point of the prologue is this: God has free will and He used it to save us when we were still in our darkness before we even knew we needed saving. Yes – He’s that good.
Jesus is not like the kid in gym class who nervously waits on the bench, hoping to be picked by us.
He is the death-proof saviour of the world. By a word of His power, He is holding the universe together. He created us in grace and He redeems us in grace. He is the light that came into our darkness and gave us His best when we were at our worst. The reason we called on Him was because He was already calling us. We love Him because He first loved us.
When we marvel at His great grace, it makes us both humble and confident. We didn’t contribute anything to our salvation, we aren’t more deserving of grace than anyone, therefore we share the gospel humbly. Salvation is hinging God’s grace alone, not the eloquence of our speech, therefore we share the gospel confidently.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
What God wanted from the beginning is precisely what He’s doing now and in the end, will do forever. He wants to dwell with us.
God dwelled in the garden with man. After man sinned, God dwelled with His dysfunctional family in the desert surrounded by His 12 tribes. Then God the Son became flesh and dwelled with His 12 disciples. After His ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who now dwells in everyone whose faith is in Christ alone. In the end, when God restores all things, and death meets it’s death, God will dwell with us forever.
“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God,who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” ~ John 1:16-18
Jesus is the Word, which means that what He came to do is what God has to say…
We’re so sinful, He had to die for us.
We’re so loved, He wanted to die for us.
If you want to know what God’s like, look at Jesus.
If you want to know how God feels about you, look at the cross.
John 1: the mic drop on grace.