Summary: God, being too high for man to understand, has explained Himself by becoming a man and dwelling among us. An intro to a series in John.
James Cash Penney was a teenager working in a grocery store in Hamilton, MO. He enjoyed the work and was planning on making it his profession. One day, he came home and laughingly told his dad how the owner of the store was mixing lower quality coffee with the better quality coffee and selling it for the premium price. But his dad didn’t laugh, and he had to quit the job. He came that close to being a grocer for the rest of his life.
In 1899 he opened a butcher shop in Longmont, CO. It failed almost as quickly as he opened it. Later on, he opened a dry goods business that saw some success. Then came 1929, and the business became unstable - so did James. His worry over his business got the best of him, and he contracted a bad case of shingles. He was put in the hospital. They gave him tranquilizers to calm him, but still he worried. One night, he started writing farewells to his wife and son and friends. It was the next morning when he heard singing from the hospital chapel next door: "No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you." He went to that chapel service and left a changed man. Finally he realized "God really does care for me." He regained his health, and taking his new outlook on life, his business thrived. When he died in 1971, Penney left an empire of 1,660 J.C. Penney stores, with an annual income of $4.1 billion for its owners.
I enjoy rags to riches stories -- the guy who works his way up from the pits - it offers us hope. But the story of John 1is a most unusual change of status story. It’s a rags to riches story. It’s the "out of the ivory palaces" story. We wouldn’t have done things the way God did.
This morning, we’re introducing a new series about being forever changed. It will take us through the first 1/2 of John’s account of the life of Jesus – “the gospel acc. to John,” or simply “John.”
Taken as a whole, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar in many ways. They’re sometimes called the “synoptic gospels” – because they see the life of Jesus “together.” John is unique.
Matthew, the tax collector, writing to a Jewish audience, starts out with genealogies and historical data: “I want you to get the lists right. Jesus is the King.”
Mark doesn’t mess around. He gets right to it with his in-a-hurry Roman readers. He skips all that background stuff and goes straight to the point. “The gospel of Jesus...” - boom. “I want you to see that Jesus is a doer.”
Luke, the doctor, is a researcher. He’s done all the studying and investigating. In his Illegible handwriting he starts out by assuring his intellectual Greek readers that he has done his homework. “I want you to see that Jesus is for real. What He says is true. What you’ve heard about Him is true.”
John, on the other hand, goes clear back to the beginning. “I want you to see that Jesus is more than a man. This is an eternal being here. I want you to read this and know Jesus.”
At the start, John invites us to step back in wonder at the mystery of God becoming flesh. Go ahead and try to explain that to me. We come up with a big word for it – “incarnation.” That’s a word to say that God became flesh. That’s it. We can’t really explain a lot about it. We can’t explain how God can become human and still be God. We can’t explain the process or all the implications. Still, we can stand in wonder at the mystery. Without really explaining “how” John starts his gospel by telling us: The Word became flesh. Be amazed by it. Sure, you can’t explain how, but you can pause for a moment and chew on the thought. And even if you can’t tell me all the technical implications about the incarnation – for instance, what was Jesus’ blood type? – we can still leave the pages of this book better knowing Jesus. That’s what we’re going to have as a goal as we go through a series from the gospel of John -- that all of us would better know Jesus – not just know about Him, but know Him.