Summary: The word in Genesis. The word in John. Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus.
IN THE BEGINNING
John 1:1-4, 14; 43-51
Today, I want to begin a short series that will look at some interesting people and their encounters with Jesus. I’ll begin by asking a couple of questions: What are some of your memorable encounters with Jesus?
What is your relationship with Jesus today?
In the OT we find Solomon when he dedicated the temple in 1 Kings 8:27 asking, “… will God indeed dwell on the earth?" As we look at the scope of the Bible we recognize that is a good question, indeed !
We know that John is echoing the words of creation in Genesis 1:1 but it might be puzzling to some to learn that John is saying “in the beginning was the Word.”
As we reflect on OT history we know that the relationship of his chosen people was not a continuous lovefest. The children of Israel deserted God in the tabernacle as well as the temple. They were fascinated and intrigued by the religions of their neighbors. As we look at their disobedience it is sometimes hard to understand their lack of faith. But, we too, have skeptics today.
Luc Ferry, the French philosopher cites John’s prologue as the turning point in the history of thought. I find that statement astonishing considering that Ferry was a proponent of secular humanism .
Early Greek culture, believed that the universe had a rational and moral order to it and this order of nature they called the Logos. It seems that John intentionally used the Greek term Logos and says this about Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:1-4, 14 NIV
Long after King Solomon’s question a marvelous thing happened. After centuries of doubt and wonder God’s glory is revealed through the pen of John to Jew and Gentile, alike. This was a watershed moment in history.
Like the Greek philosophers of the day (and unlike many contemporary philosophers today) John affirms there is a telos, or purpose to our lives – something that we were made for – that we must recognize and honor in order to live well and freely.
John proclaims to everyone that we are not here by blind chance or random evolution. The Bible, as God’s inspired Word insists that the meaning of life is not found in some human equation or principle or abstract rational construct. John declares that the meaning of life is found in a person – the person of Jesus Christ.
Philosophers of the day thought it was insanity. And people today continue to dismiss Jesus and God’s Word as reality. But, these words of John struck like lightening into the ancient world of philosophy.
John’s message was a revolutionary message. If Christianity were true, a life of meaning and purpose was not grounded in philosophical contemplation and intellectual pursuits, which excluded the vast majority of the people in that day.
John heralds the person of Jesus and a life-changing relationship with him as God’s Son that was available to everyone and anywhere, regardless of race or gender. This opened up a whole new concept in a world of nationality and exclusion.
John contrasts the philosophical teaching model of the day, where students attached themselves to teachers and followed them around each day. With Jesus, his message was different and it was available to everyone.
The Synoptic Gospels deal largely with ministry and parables. John’s gospel introduces us to several different people. Furthermore, some of our most memorable Gospel phrases are not found in the Synoptics, but only in John: “In the beginning was the Word.” “Behold the Lamb of God!” “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I am the vine.” “What is truth?” “It is finished!” “So send I you.”
By some estimates about 90% of the material found in John is not found in the Synoptic Gospels .
Even in Jesus day there were skeptics and doubters. Notice Nathaniel’s encounter with Jesus;
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” - John 1:43-51 NIV