The Word of Light and Life
The Gospel of John is where we’re going this morning. We’re going to look in chapter 1. We’re going to start a series today called Light Over Darkness, Light in the Dark, or Light Up the Dark. The reason we’re doing that is because John focuses on that theme. When you come into the Christmas season, I think it’s kind of expected that you’re going to turn to the Gospels. Christmas season, it’s gospel story time. So we turn to the Gospels. But traditionally, it’s not usually the Gospel of John that we turn to.
We usually turn to Matthew and Luke. Let me give you a little explanation and backstory as to why. Gospel of John if you’re new to the scripture, maybe you have not looked into the Gospel of John before. Gospel of John is unique from all the other Gospels. It was written by the Apostle John. It was likely the last Gospel written. But what makes it unique is that the other three Gospels are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. It means the together Gospels. The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, if you’ve ever read them, if you decided in your life, “You know what? I’m going to read through the New Testament. I’ve never read through the whole Bible. I’m going to read through the New Testament.”
You’re like, “I’ll just start from the beginning.” You start with Matthew and then you get to Mark, and then Luke. You’re like, “I feel like I’m reading the same stories over and over.” It’s because you are. That’s why they’re called the Synoptic Gospels. They share the same stories. And then it begs the question, why in the world do we have three books sharing the same stories? Well, the reason is is because of the audience that’s addressed. You’ll notice as you read the stories, not all the stories are the same. There’s a lot of similarities between the first three Gospels.
But what is unique about them is the audience to which they’re written to. That’s why the four Gospels become necessary. Matthew was addressed to the Jews and, being addressed to the Jews, the predominant thing that you find is he quotes a lot from the Old Testament. The Gospel of Mark is written to the Romans. Romans are considered people of action. So when you read the Book of Romans, it uses the word immediately a lot. “Immediately, Jesus did that,” and, “Immediately Jesus did this.” And then when you read the Gospel of Luke, Luke was written to the Gentiles.
It’s written by Dr. Luke. Luke pays particular attention to Jesus’ interaction more with the Gentiles than with the Jewish people. So when he’s telling a story that maybe it’s similar to Matthew, you might find that they highlight Gentile interaction more than any other. But when you get to the Gospel of John, the Gospel of John is considered the Gospel to the world. While the other three Gospels when you read them, you think Christmas story, most often people turn to the Book of Matthew or the Book of Luke, the Gospel of Luke, because it tells very detailed into the Christmas story. It tells us what happened.
But what makes John unique is that John doesn’t so much tell us what happened, especially here in the beginning, but rather what he tells is why it matters. John’s Gospel is written to the world. Martin Luther so much appreciated John’s Gospel that he said this, “If opponents to Christianity would destroy all the Bible and save for us John and Romans, the church is going to be okay.” The Gospel of John is a powerful book in the life of a believer. John chapter 1 is sort of the firework show to begin all of that, what it means for us to know this Christ who’s come, especially as we think about this Christmas season.
It gives us such a powerful picture of Jesus. So we’re going to title this this morning, Begin With the Word of Light and Life. The reason we’re titling it this is because these are some of the powerful phrases that John uses to express who Jesus is. So let me just ask it like this in the form of a question. If you were to introduce Jesus to the world, what would you say? Or maybe more importantly, how would you start? When you start with the Book of John, John does this in an incredible way. When you first read it you may wonder why in the world he does it like this.
But as you get into the understanding of why John begins the way he does, you see that this is a powerful message. It says in John chapter 1 verse 1, look with me here, “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 apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Where does John begin? In the beginning. Isn’t that great? When you start introducing someone there’s a couple of things you want to know. What’s their name and when were they born?
You’re ready to tell a story about someone like, “What is their beginning? What is their name and when does it all begin?” It was a long, long time ago. This is where John starts, in the beginning. What makes this so incredible is not just that John wants to start from the beginning, it’s why he chooses to use this word. When you think about John 1, “In the beginning,” and then you consider all the scripture, this phrase that John uses to start off this Gospel really unites all of the Bible because this is how Genesis starts. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.”
And then when you begin into the New Testament, John starts the story the same way, “In the beginning.” This idea of beginning is important for us because it’s going to speak to character of who Jesus is, His identify for us. What this phrase, beginning, helps us understand is that Jesus is unique from all other humans that have walked this Earth because Jesus is more than just human. Oftentimes when you think about this word, beginning, we think of it in sequence of time or in a place of time. There’s a beginning of a line. There’s a place or a certain point by which you think things exist in the beginning.
But what’s unique about Jesus in the story and you see in verse 3 that all things came into being through Him is that Jesus doesn’t just have a beginning, but rather He is the beginning, meaning when we describe time and places or a particular time on a clock, that’s a pretty common way. But when you’re dealing with Bod as the source, Jesus exists before there is time, space, or matter. You don’t think in terms of beginning in this way, but rather Jesus Himself is the beginning of all things and He created all things and is pointing to the eternal nature of Christ.
It says this to us, “Jesus, one, is pretty old because He is eternal.” You can’t fit all the birthday candles on His birthday cake. But He’s also young because He’s ageless. My mind can’t even comprehend that. He’s forever eternal. He’s ageless. Yet He’s as ancient of days, the scripture tells us. How does that work? I don’t know. But that’s who He is. He’s eternal. The moment your mind can grasp what it means to be eternal or to know eternity, it’s no longer eternal. It’s no longer eternity. This is Jesus. Not only that, the beginning carries with it this idea of being new.
Genesis 1, “In the beginning,” God’s doing something new. He’s creating the Earth. John 1, “In the beginning,” this is to grab our attention to say, as if to retell the story that God’s about to, once again, do something new. This becomes an invitation for us to find a new beginning with him as if to almost say, “When you go to read the Gospels or when you go to read this book, just let God take with you on this journey a blank slate. Let Him just start from the beginning of painting a picture in your mind exactly who He is.” Our pursuit in life shouldn’t be about what I think Jesus is or what others say Jesus is.
Our pursuit in life should be to answer the question, “Who does Jesus say He is?” “In the beginning,” he starts the story. But then what’s so strange is then how John goes on from here to describe Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word.” Out of all the ways that you could choose to describe Jesus to people, why Word? Such an interesting phrase that John picks. You got to remember, when John is saying this he’s not just frivolously writing whatever comes to his mind. He’s very intentionally choosing to describe God this way. What does that mean, “In the beginning was the Word?”
When you think about this choice that John uses, in the Greek the word is logos. Some people pronounce it differently. I will tell you I’ve heard a few different people pronounce it different in Greek, logos. I know some people don’t care about the Greek. But for those of you that like to look this up in your lexicons and determine what it is, there’s a Christian company out there called Logos. I called them one day and said, “Hey, I hear people saying this word all the time. How do you pronounce this word correctly?” They said, “Well actually, sir, it’s either way.”
That’s what they said. They talk more like Charlie Brown’s mom. “Okay, okay, whatever.” But logos or logos, it doesn’t matter. But what it means is the word. But this idea of word is very powerful in John’s day. This is why when you read John, you realize that John’s not writing this to a particular audience, but he wants the entire world to be introduced to this Jesus because he chooses this word, word. When you think, “Okay, Jesus, first of all, was a Jew.” What does this word mean to the Jewish people?
Well, when you think about the idea of God’s Word or the Word to Jewish people, the idea of word is very powerful to the Jewish mind. “In the beginning,” Genesis starts, God speaks and life begins. That’s how Genesis starts. God speaks and life begins. God has the ability by the breath of His mouth, but to give life and to take life. It is a word of power. In the Book of Exodus, if you read the King James Version, Book of Exodus chapter 4, the first time this phrase is used it says, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” When the prophets would come in the Old Testament and they would give a declaration of what God wanted the people to know, they wouldn’t go by their own authority, but rather by the word of God because they knew the word of God possessed the power. It wasn’t them. “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
So when you find in the beginning of the story when God chooses or when John chooses to use this word, word, to represent God, he’s delivering this powerful and personal message of the Lord to the people. But not only that, this idea of word had a representation to Greek philosophers. It was actually a major point of debate among Greek philosophers. They carried this idea that there was this force behind the universe. The way that they described this force was this abstract proposition. It was, in their words, the way that they described it was the word, word or logos.
It’s where we get in our language today the word for logic. There is this force behind the world and they would debate as to what this force was that determined all of life. So the philosophers, it started with in the fourth century before Jesus, BC, that they would begin to debate this idea of the word, the logos, the logic, the force behind all things to the point, by the time Jesus is on the scene and John’s starting to write this Gospel, that this phrase starts to become bankrupt. People become jaded over it and even begin to argue that there really is no ultimate word behind everything.
But then John shows up. John blows everyone away by saying, “The logos isn’t an abstract proposition. But rather, the logos is a person.” John chooses the title, word, to identify Jesus because John, he wants the world to meet Him. So he’s saying, “Look, in the beginning was the Word. Greek philosophers, yes, there is this force behind it all. In the beginning was the Word. But look, it’s not a proposition. It’s not this philosophical debate. It’s a person. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning and the Word became flesh.” The Word becomes flesh.
When you think about this idea of word in this personal way of Jesus, a person’s word becomes the clearest and ultimate revelation of who they are in a personal way. I think in your neighborhood, some neighbors you might know in a personal way and some neighbors you might know of. What makes the difference between how you have a relationship with a neighbor and how you might just know of them but not really know them? The answer is you’ve interacted. You’ve communicated. You’ve expressed words. It’s the personal way by which you get to know someone. This is what John is saying to us about the Lord that God has revealed Himself to us that you could know Him.
His Word is His authority by His power, not just an abstract idea, but a personal relationship coming to you in the flesh that you may know Him and delight in Him for all of eternity. This is how John expresses us the page and the beauty of what this Christmas season is all. “In the beginning was the Word.” Who is Jesus? Verses 1 and 2 teaches us, well, He is eternal. He is the beginning. He is the Word, this special revelation, the most unique and particular way by which we could know God. Not only that, He is God. Notice it doesn’t tell us in Greek that He is a god.
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” It doesn’t say to us that He is a god. If it said to us He was a god, then there would be multiple gods. But rather, what it tells us is that He is the God. He is God. So Jesus, eternal, the Word, He is God. In the same phrase, we find the triunity of this relationship is God. It said, “And the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus is triune. What does that mean? When you think about this idea of who is God and Jesus and God, I know for some people it becomes confusing to think about the Trinity.
Well, to a degree, it should just blow all of our minds and be able to comprehend this. I would just say the thought of the Trinity in scripture is apprehendable, but not fully comprehendible. What I mean by that is because we are dealing with the mind of God and understanding Him as triunity, we should expect in diving into the idea of who God is that there are some concepts of God that should just blow us away, that He is both the ancient of days and He’s the fountain of youth. We said that earlier, in His eternality, the identity of who He is, He is both old and young at the same time.
When it comes to the triunity of God, it is apprehendable in scripture but incomprehensible fully in our minds because we’re dealing with the very nature of God. When we talk about the word, trinity, in scripture this is very concisely what we mean. The Bible says there’s only one God very clearly. The Bible says multiple times there’s only one God. The Bible says all three persons are God and all three persons are equal to one another and distinct from each other. That’s why when Jesus is baptized, the Father speaks, the Spirit descends. You could see all three there because they’re equal to one another yet they’re distinct from each other, because all three God and there is only one God.
When we say the word, trinity, that’s what we mean. We’re acknowledging scripture says those things. Now, comprehending it? Eh. Apprehending it? Yes. Jesus is God and Jesus is with God. The reason I think John pulls this out, he tells us just a little bit later. I love how the King James says this. If you have the King James translation in verse 18 it says this, “That He is in the bosom of the Father.” Now that’s a weird way to talk about a relationship. “He is in the bosom of the Father.” But a few things this is communicating to us about God, about Jesus and the Father is their relationship is in perfect harmony, that God creates us as beings to love because we’re made in His image.
From the beginning, God has been in perfect relationship as triunity. God and the Father, Jesus is in the bosom of the Father. What that phrases means for us, you ever sit on the couch, watch TV with some friends, maybe watch a movie with friends? How many friends are you like, “Are you comfortable in that seat?” “Yeah, I’m comfortable in my seat.” “You want to come sit in my bosom?” There’s some boundaries there. But what it’s trying to communicate to us is this intimacy of relationship, perfect relationship that God has had in triunity, which is great because the greatest commands in the Bible for us, “Love God. Love others.”
We’re made in His image and we are also relational beings. Had God not been in perfect relationship yet created us in a relationship with Him to love as He is loved, God Himself would be lacking. So what it’s saying is in the triunity of God, because He has perfect relationship, within Himself, He is not lacking at all. He didn’t create you because He needed you. He created you because He Himself is love. The expression of love is to give itself away. God is not lacking anything. He is perfect harmonious relationship within Himself and you being made in his image long for the same.
It’s a reflection of the triunity of God in you. He is triune. Verse 3 identifies for us, “All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has become into being.” He is eternal and He created everything, all things, all things it tells us in this passage. Jesus made all things. Colossians 1:15-17 tells us, “He created both the physical world and the spiritual world. All things came through Him.” In Revelation 1:18, “The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All things find their substance in Him.” We see He’s eternal. He is the Word.
He is God. He is Creator. Verse 4 and 5, look at this, next passage, “In Him was life and the life was the light of mankind and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not grasp it.” Skip on to verse 9. Verse 9 says, “This was the true light that coming into the world enlightens every person.” Two ideas of Jesus here, He is both life and light, life and light. The word, light, for us is juxtaposing itself against the idea of darkness, meaning there’s two places, to be in the light or to be in the darkness. What it tells us here about the darkness as it relates to Jesus is that the darkness doesn’t grasp it.
Verse 5, the very last phrase, “The darkness doesn’t grasp it.” When you think about this word, grasp, but what it really means is to master. This darkness could not master the light. This word, master, grasp, it really has two definitions. I think in this passage that John means both. It could be either/or, but I really think it means both, that the darkness could not grasp it. Now when you think about mastering something, there’s two ways to do that. You can master it intellectually and the comprehension of what it is. John’s saying the darkness could not understand the truth of who Jesus was.
Or you can master it physically. You could conquer it, to dominate it. I think John’s saying the same thing about Jesus, that the light came into the darkness and the darkness could not conquer it, could not comprehend it. It could not conquer it. But Jesus stood true as the light. What that means for us today is when you think in terms of light and darkness, that we are both hostile to God and clueless. In our culture today, I think we even see this pushing in a particular way, this idea of contrasting light and darkness. There’s this idea being taught in our culture today that there is no such thing as really light and darkness, that this philosophy or belief of monism is what we’re articulating, where there is no really right or wrong.
It’s just the things are. We just blur the lines and make everything be the same thing. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Let’s all just go together. We have no concept of truth or right and wrong. So we just move forward in this monism way. But what you see in scripture is dualism. There is light. There is darkness. Who Jesus is matters. We’re going to elaborate a little bit more in verse 12 on this. But who Jesus is matters. When you think about even in terms of world religions, if you just display the idea of Christian and Muslim, do you realize in both religions, leading religions in the world, both of them teach about a Jesus? But they can’t both be true.
They can both be wrong, but they can’t both be true. In fact, I would throw in there a third idea. There are what Muslims say about Jesus. There are what Christians claim to say about Jesus, and then there’s what Jesus says about Jesus. Quite honestly, I really don’t want to … A lot of times I don’t want to listen to what Christians say about Jesus because sometimes as Christians we just claim the title of Christian and we just make Jesus up for whatever we want Jesus to be. The most important question is who does Jesus say He is? He is life and He is light.
When you think in terms of life, I think what’s important to recognize here is Jesus doesn’t just have life, but He is life. There’s a big difference in how you view that because this is what I find sometimes in Christian circles. I think we sort of propagate this in America is that we come to Jesus to get our Get Out of Hell Free card and then we just go on with the rest of our lives. Jesus saved me. Now it’s whatever from that point on, apart from Jesus. But it’s to help us understand that Jesus doesn’t just give life but that He is life. Erwin McManus said this, “Human history can be summarized as a desperate search for life. But what if life doesn’t start with a purpose, but a person?”
Jesus Himself is life. That’s why a relationship with Christ matters. When you think in terms of heaven and hell sometimes we think, “I just want to be in heaven because that’s the good place.” But the thing that makes heaven such a great life-giving place is not the location, but Jesus Himself. When you look at the story that John lays out in John 1:1-9 that we looked at together, I think what John is ultimately saying if we just step back from this and just took a big picture for a moment, I think what John would say here if he paused is to say, “I hope you see how great Jesus is. I hope your faith in Jesus is big enough.”
I don’t think we really as people ever run the risk of seeing Jesus as too great. I think we always run the risk of devaluing who He is in His glory. John really he starts off, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God,” communicating to us, “Look, this is a message for the world. This is the Word. This is for everybody.” And then he just starts this firework show of everything that Jesus is, just trying to say to us, “Look, He’s big enough. He’s glorious enough. He’s great enough. In fact, He’s more than enough.” How big is your Jesus?
What’s interesting as a church having online presence with messages and blogs and things that we write, we actually get a lot of messages and phone calls that come our way just all over the United States and all over the world. I usually get a few emails or calls a week on people wanting to ask questions about things. Almost every week I feel like I give this one common answer. Something happened in someone’s life where they had a stumble, they fell. And then they’re concerned with where they are in Jesus. My answer’s always the same. It’s to get your eyes off self and start looking at Jesus.
He’s big enough. When He says, “It is finished,” He meant it is finished. When He was hanging on the cross, He was thinking about you. It is finished. This God is more than enough. Verse 10, 11, and 12 I think brings that home for us. He says, “He was in the world and the world came into being through Him and yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own and His people did not accept Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God to those who believe in His name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Look what Jesus does here. Verse 10, “He was in the world.” Verse 11, “He came to His own.” And then he gives us this invitation, “As many have received Him, He gave the the right to become the children of God.” So what he’s saying here is not everyone’s a child of God. Not everybody’s a child of God. Some people find that offensive. “I deserve heaven and everyone’s going to heaven. It’s all about heaven.” But what makes heaven heaven is Jesus. It’s His house. Think the owner of the house and the maker will let you in His house when you don’t want anything to do with Him, but just want to take His house? I think that’s called robbery.
But rather what you see in this story is Jesus becomes personal so that you can embrace Him and enjoy Him in this idea of eternity with Him forever. As we wrap our heads around God becoming flesh, as life and light, I think what John wants us to remember is that there is a war of death and darkness. “In Him was life and life was the light of man. The darkness doesn’t comprehend Him.” Jesus comes in this world and He wages war against the things that destroy our soul, both death and darkness, even to the point in Matthew chapter 27 as Jesus is hanging on the cross. Matthew 27, give me a click and read it. I don’t have it on my notes.
Matthew 27 says, this is verse 45, “Now from the sixth hour, darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.’ That is to say, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” Jesus takes on the darkness and defeats the darkness so that you can appreciate and walk with Him who is the light. It’s hard to care about the light when you feel lost in the dark. It’s hard to see the beauty of the light when you’re trapped in the darkness. I mean I could even use that in a practical way.
It’s hard to appreciate the light of generosity and being able to care for people in need of light when your electric bill’s about to be turned off. You think in your life when you don’t have and you’re lacking and you’re about to have your electricity turned off and in that moment of darkness, it’s hard to think about things of generosity and light and goodness because all you feel is trapped. But when light comes in, when someone pays your bill, fills your cup, when your life overflows, you’re not only able to appreciate the goodness of the light that you have or the electric bill that’s paid or whatever it might be.
You can think beyond yourself because your own needs are met. That’s what it’s saying to us in this passage of scripture, that God wants to pull us out of darkness and let the light of God shine in our lives, not just simply to end with you, but to radiate through you. There’s a battle between light and darkness. The goodness of who Jesus is is where we find our cups filled out to live on behalf of that light in the world because He satisfied us. It’s more than enough. That’s what John’s saying. He is more than enough. Maybe it’s worth us asking what part of our lives do we hide in the dark, not wanting to come to the light?
Hiding in the darkness of God rather than the light of Jesus keeps us from the goodness of who He is, showing that we don’t grasp the greatness of what He possesses. We find our lives bankrupt. But when you see the story of John, Jesus comes to us in a personal way and into a world that reveals the goodness and the glory of who He is so that in our lives we can embrace not what others say about Jesus, not even what Christians might say about Jesus, but what Jesus says about Jesus and on that blank slate, embrace Him as a child.