Summary: As described in the opening verses of John’s Gospel, God reveals five aspects of Jesus Christ: 1. Eternal 2. Creator 3. Incarnate 4. Saving 5. Welcoming
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Today is the First Sunday after Christmas. And while the image of the baby Jesus in the manger is still fresh in our minds, John explains to us who Jesus is and why his birth was so important for us.
But the first day after Christmas, December 26, is devoted to St. Stephen, the first martyr of the gospel of Christ. His story is found in the Book of Acts, chapters 6 and 7. He was the first to demonstrate that being a disciple of Christ is not easy. It is often full of hardship and difficult choices. And it often leads to death.
Maybe not here in San Diego, but globally, more people have been killed for their belief in Jesus during the past 100 years, than in all the other centuries combined.
Stephen stood firm against the church leaders of his time and stood for Christ. And he paid the ultimate price for it. But he also received the ultimate reward for it from God.
In today’s Gospel, John explains to us why we should have the same kind of faith that Stephen and the other martyrs have, and why Jesus is worth it.
The first 18 verses of John’s Gospel are some of the most eloquent in the entire Bible, and it is packed with theological insights. This morning I’d like to expand on five aspects of Christ that John mentions.
1. In the beginning… (Verse 1)
Verse 1 starts with “In the beginning…”
But at this time of year, we sometimes think of Christmas as the beginning. The birth of Jesus. The start of a great work by God.
But it’s not the beginning; it’s really somewhere in the middle.
John began his gospel with the words “In the beginning” for a reason.
Those are the same words that open the book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, which every Jew was very familiar with.
And he referred to Jesus as “the Word” or logos in Greek. The Greek term logos was also used by many philosophers to mean “reason,” the force that structured the universe.
By calling Jesus “the Word,” John calls him the embodiment of all God’s revelation in the Scriptures and thus declares that only those who accept Jesus honor the law fully. Jewish people considered Wisdom and Word divine, but distinct from God the Father, so it was the closest available term John had to describe Jesus.
John also understood that “the Word” or “logos” meant something very specific to his Greek and Hebrew readers of the time. The Old Testament and Jewish picture of God was of him creating through his preexistent wisdom or word.
According to the standard Jewish doctrine during John’s lifetime, this wisdom existed before the rest of creation but was itself created. So by declaring that the Word “was” in the beginning and especially by calling the Word “God,” John goes beyond the common Jewish conception to show that Jesus is not created.
Plato, who was a key Greek philosopher, believed that Earth is a shadow of the perfect reality in the heavens — that behind everything is a perfect thought, or logos.
Philo, a famous Jewish philosopher, took it a step further, saying that behind the perfect thought must be a perfect thinker.
And John brought it all together, saying that logos … the Word … God… is not a philosophy, but rather a being combining both the perfection and the thinker.
2. All things came into being through him … (Verse 3)
Since Jesus is God and has been since before creation, he is responsible for whatever is created. As John says in verse 3, “All things came into being through him…”
That means that Jesus is the creator, and that everything else is a creation. As difficult as it is to believe that the universe was a random occurrence — and many people do believe that — it becomes even more difficult to reject a creator when you really look at how huge it really is.
Let’s think big for a moment. Commentator Jon Courson points out that our sun — such a key factor of life in San Diego — is so big:
• 1,300,000 of our Earths could fit inside it
• But 64 of our suns could fit in Anteres, which is a fairly tiny star in our galaxy
• And 110 million Anteres could fit in a big star like Hercules
So Hercules, that one single star among many others in all the other galaxies, is large enough to hold:
• 110 million Anteres