Summary: Introductory sermon on the uniqueness of Jesus using passages from John 1 and John 20
That 23-second blurb opens a quirky half-hour sitcom called "Big-Bang Theory". In it four geeks work in a university and live a pretty much clueless life. In the last episode Sheldon, who does not believe in God runs away and goes home to Texas and his bible thumper mom. When she finally annoys him enough to pack up and move back she comments, "don’t tell me prayer doesn’t work."
God has been big in TV the short-lived show "Joan of Arcadia" had a girl make a deal with God. If her brother lived through a car accident she’d do anything he asked. It makes sense till God shows up and asks you to do the unexpected. What makes it more interesting is that God shows up as people in her everyday life. In the pilot episode she is talking to the "Cute Boy God". He’s told her he is God and she doesn’t believe him. As the conversation unfolds there is an interesting exchange between Joan and God.
Joan: Let’s... let’s say you’re God.
Cute Boy God: Joan, I am God.
Joan: Okay, well, let’s see a miracle.
Cute Boy God: Okay.How ’bout that?
Camera pans to a large tree nearby. Cute Boy God stops beneath it.
Joan: That’s a tree.
Cute Boy God: Let’s see you make one.1
As popular as God is in the media it is usually not the God whom we worship on Sunday morning. It is a God who plays well with others. It is a God who isn’t as much holy as he is nice. In my studies I’ve come to believe that John 1, like the opening chapters of Genesis are not about the "how" of creation but is all about the "why". Today’s scriptures are from both ends of John’s gospel for they answer the question, "Why Jesus?"
Today we live in a nation, culture and world much as the early church did in Palestine and Rome. In fact, I tend to stand with President Obama when he said, "Whatever we once were, we’re no longer a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers,"2 George Barna released a poll in January of 2009 that demonstrated "half of Americans believe the Christian faith no longer has a lock on people’s hearts."3 This week USA TODAY reported finding that 15% of American report no religious affiliation or desire at all. These folks are called "nones" and do not include those who are part of other religions.4
Just like in the first century we, as followers of Jesus will be a minority. Just like in the first century we, as followers of Jesus will going to be pressured combine and accommodate our beliefs. Just like in the first century we, as followers of Jesus we will be condemned for not getting along and being too exclusive. Just like in the first century we, as followers of Jesus will live among neighbors who face all kinds of claims for purpose and ultimate truth.
We’re going to be looking at seven statements in John’s gospel called the "I am" statements. They don’t give us an option of being casual about our faith. They don’t offer us an easy way. But they do offer our neighbors, that 15% of nones and those with little spiritual interest the answer to life’s problems. Our foundation for all of these statements is found here in the first chapter of John’s gospel.
John starts his gospel with the Jewish title of what we all Genesis, "In the beginning." He doesn’t continue with God, the Lord, YHWH, Adoni or even Jesus. John uses the term "logos" which we translate as "word".
This is not the Greek understanding of logos. Any first century Jew, would hear this word and think of Psalm 33 and God’s creative work. This is because it is used for the Hebrew word debar. God’s debar, God’s word is a creative, active and powerful force set free in our world. It is able to, "go forth and accomplish the divine purpose (Isa. 55:10-11)."5 This word of the Lord causes light to break forth from nothing and calls the dead back to life. It is a word that does something. And once God’s word is spoken whatever has been invoked cannot be undone. There is no going back.
Jesus is Unique
God stands outside of our time, universe and reality. He created and sustains our ongoing reality as an act of His grace, mercy and will. John tells us that it is Jesus through whom God creates all that surrounds us, "Everything was made through Him and without Him nothing was made."
Jesus is both God and yet an individual person. Some people make a big deal out of the fact that there is not a definite article before the word God. Let me illustrate with this sentence: "Homo Erectus was Man." "Man" is neither definite ("the Man") nor indefinite ("a man"), but rather qualitative. If I made this statement to an evolutionist, I would be asserting that our ancient ancestor possessed all the qualities or attributes of humanity.6