Let’s go right to God’s Word this morning. John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The world we live in doesn’t see Jesus for who he is. At this special time of year we, and the world around, us begin to celebrate Christmas. We begin to hear Christmas music everywhere and the decorations that have been in the stores since Halloween remind us that a special day is coming. It’s also clear that the world celebrates something it really doesn’t understand. The world doesn’t really understand who Jesus is. The world doesn’t know what to do with Jesus.
I was reminded of this truth when I read about what happened in Denver Colorado this week. Listen to this quote from an article in the Rocky Mountain News this past Thursday, December 2.
[Pastor George Morrison's] church was barred from entering a Christmas float in Denver's Parade of Lights this weekend.
Morrison wanted to enter a float featuring multicultural Christian themes and a Merry Christmas message. Parade officials told a representative from Morrison's church, the 4,000-member Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, that religious messages aren't allowed because they might offend others.
The Parade of Lights is produced by a private nonprofit organization…whose goal is to promote the "improvement and enhancement" of the city.
[Partnership Vice President Susan Rogers] Kark said the parade hasn't allowed religious-themed entrants for at least the 10 years that she has been its director.
"Many things have changed as we look back 30 years, in terms of being sensitive to fact that there are other traditions" that may find religious displays offensive today, she said Wednesday.
Kark reiterated the parade's position that several groups are being allowed to march as examples of ethnic diversity.
Those include the Two Spirit Society, which honors gay American Indians as holy people, and an Asian group that performs dances to ward off evil spirits at the start of the Chinese New Year. Kark said they will not be expressing religious messages. 1
I think it’s clear that the world just doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to believe who Jesus is. We hear folk say, “remember the reason for the season”, and you and I have probably said that at one time or another. We’re beginning to see the lights and decorations, including the nativity scene appear in our neighborhoods. We know that most peoples schedules will be jammed with festivities and shopping this month, and we see things like what took place in Denver this week and we have to realize that the world just doesn’t get Jesus. The world is missing the point of why Jesus was born.
What I’d like for us to see as we begin this short series of studies is what the world misses during all of its Christmas celebrations. And even though the world doesn’t get Jesus, God’s plan remains and will unfold in His timing. Even though the world doesn’t understand, let’s make sure we understand and let’s be courageous in helping others understand.
We’re beginning a four-week series in John 1 today. And what John does for us here in these first few verses is describe who Jesus is. He helps us understand who Jesus is, why Jesus came and what Jesus is about.
Some might say, “what’s the big deal about Jesus?” And we’re going to answer that question in our studies.
But let me make it clear right now that Jesus is completely central to the Christian faith. The world wants to take Christ out of Christmas. The little cartoon I saw this week is sadly all too true for many today. It showed a couple walking down the street together and in the background are three signs. One says, “Happy Holidays”, the next says, “Seasons Greetings” and the third says, “Merry Winter-Break” and the caption read, “I think it’s the holiday formerly known as Christmas.”
Though Christmas is not a Biblical tradition, without Christ there can be no Christmas. The world wants to take Christ out of Christmas but there can be no Christmas without Christ, just as there can be no Christian faith without Christ.
Let’s understand today who Jesus is. We’re just three weeks from Christmas. But the most important thing isn’t how many days you have left to shop. The real question is, do you understand who Jesus is?
Let’s be certain as we enter the Christmas season that we do understand who Jesus is. And let’s be certain we can make it clear to others who Jesus is.
So let’s dig right our study of God’s Word. Let’s talk about John and his gospel for a moment. John spent three-and-a-half years with Jesus. He spent much time with Jesus and was very close to him during that time. And you might think that John would be quick to write about Jesus after spending so much time with him. But the Gospel of John was actually one of the last books of the New Testament to be written. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke had been written and widely circulated and all the letters of Paul and Peter had been written. And while the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke cover pretty much the same ground from slightly different perspectives John’s purpose in writing this book is different. 2
John wants us to know who Jesus is. He tells us why he wants us to know who Jesus is in John 20:30-31.
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Right from the beginning John sets out to make this clear—that you need to know that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.
So John begins in verse one by making it clear that Jesus is God. And he does this with three statements.
First He says that in the beginning was the Word. The Word was already there at the beginning. Before earth and sun and moon and sky and all things that were created the Word existed.
You might be thinking, “Well that’s good—the Word existed before everything else—but what is the Word?” The Greek for Word is logos. Logos has several meanings but usually means a statement or that which is said or it can mean speech or the act of speaking. But John goes further here and adds to the meaning of logos, which he helps us understand in these introductory verses to the book of John.
Logos means words, speech, thoughts and ideas communicated. And what John is saying about Jesus is that He is the words, thoughts and ideas of God communicated to us in human flesh. Jesus also existed at the beginning with God—of course he was not called Jesus—he is called the Word. That’s what we see in the second statement in verse one that the Word was with God. And not only was the Word with God but John’s third statement is that the Word Was God.
And to clarify for us what he says in the three statements of verse one he sums it all up and reviews by saying in verse two that He was in the beginning with God.
One of the primary things this helps us understand is that Jesus is God. He is God’s communication to us in human form. Jesus represented for us the mind of God in bodily form. Jesus, the Word was also with God before creation existed and the Word, Jesus, was God.
What we may have trouble understanding, and this is difficult, is how can a fleshly being who came to earth as Jesus Christ be God? If God the Father is God how can the Son be God? And if they are both God how can the Son be the father? And I think what we need to understand is that God is a distinct person and Jesus, the Word, is a distinct person but God and the Word are so one in purpose and so one in action that they are one.
I think John’s third statement about the Word is most helpful—the Word was God.
Jesus is God and yet there are some religions that don’t believe that Jesus is God. They say He was only a god. But if there in only one God (and there is only one God) and God is God and Jesus is God, then Jesus is part of God’s personality. We also know from the scriptures that there is also God the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer. So what we need to grasp is that there is one God who chooses to represent himself in three distinct personalities.
Is that hard to grasp? It is, and many through the ages have tried to define God for us but it still seems a difficult thing to grasp. But what I also know is that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways are not my ways and as the heavens are higher than the earth so His ways and thoughts are higher than mine. (Isaiah 55:8,9)
So though I may find it difficult to grasp how this works I also believe it with all of my heart and have complete faith that this is true because this is what God has revealed to us in His Word. That Jesus existed at the beginning, He was with God, and He is God. And that’s what John is making clear in the first two verses. Without a doubt, Jesus is God.
There’s more. John tells us some more about Jesus. Verse 3 says, all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
It’s interesting how closely John 1 resembles Genesis 1. In Genesis 1:1 it says that, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And in John 1:1 we learn that also, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And in verse 3 of John 1 we learn that all things were made through Him (this is Jesus), and without Him nothing was made that was made.
This is what’s amazing about Jesus, the Word, it’s that not only did He come to live on earth as a man—God’s message in human form—but the Word was also present at creation speaking creation into existence. Without the Word there is no creation because without Him nothing was made that was made.
The news gets even better because John explains for us in verse 4 what Jesus has that is essential to us. There are two things that Jesus has that we need. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Jesus gives us life. In Him was life. Jesus is the source of all life. Plant life, animal life and human life—it all originates with God. But not only is Jesus the source of physical life he is the source of spiritual life.
In John 11:25, 26 Jesus said to Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…
To us physical life is very important. We do all we can to help ourselves live longer. We’re careful about what we eat, we exercise, and we try to put ourselves in healthy surroundings. We drive cars with seat belts and air bags. We wear helmets when we ride bicycles. To us our life here on earth is very important, but Jesus did more than give us physical life He also makes it possible for us to live a spiritual life with Him in eternity.
And that’s what we see in the second half of verse 4, and the life was the light of men. The physical life is important to us but to God the spiritual life is what is important. So Jesus, the originator of life came to be the light that gives us true, eternal life.
Light in the Bible is often used as a symbol of God. The opposite of light is darkness and in the Bible darkness often indicates sin, death and separation from God. So Jesus came to lead us into the light of life in Him and away from the darkness of sin and destruction and an eternity separated from God in Hell.
And what’s true of all light is true of this light. We see it in verse 5. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. A better way of translating the last half of verse 5 is found in the ESV where it says, the darkness has not overcome it. The word John used can be translated either way but he only uses it in other passages in the sense of overtake or overcome. 3 So we could say literally what’s true of light is true of this light—the light keeps shining in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
And this is what’s so wonderful about Jesus, the Word.
The World is missing the big picture. The world around us doesn’t get Jesus. It’s not that Jesus was just a good person. It’s not just that he lived a good life. It’s that Jesus is the living Word and the living Word is God and without this living Word nothing would exist, this living Word was there at creation. And this living Word is alive and is the light that gives us eternal life and that light cannot be overcome by darkness—it cannot be overcome by evil.
The World may have no room for Jesus in Christmas—they may have room for Him as long as he stays in his cute manger—but what the world doesn’t get is that they can’t escape Jesus because He gives them their very lives. The world can try to get rid of Jesus but it can’t escape Him because His living light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish the light.
Jesus shines in the darkness. That’s good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness. God’s people shine in the darkness. God’s church shines in the darkness. And the darkness cannot overcome or extinguish the light.
We can know this because the life of the light is in Jesus Christ, the living Word. And the Word is God the creator and the created cannot overpower the creator. We can know that the light will pierce the darkness of the world.
What does all this mean for us? How does this apply to our lives today.
I learned recently of a Godly Chinese woman who for many years has been on the run evading the police and for her family’s safety she can only arrange to see here husband once a year. Her crime is that she has been distributing thousands of Bibles without state permission. When she was told that her heroic story would be carried to America, she found humor in that and replied “don’t tell them about me, tell them about Jesus.” 4
The wonderful truth about the Word is that in the Word is the life and in the life is the light and the darkness of communism cannot extinguish the light of the Word.
Though your neighbor or a dear friend or a family member my reject Jesus, or resist your attempts to witness to them about the love of Christ for them and though there may be those who ridicule you for your belief in Jesus Christ you can take heart in knowing that the darkness cannot and will not overcome the light.
You can take heart when your neighbors resists your witness for Jesus Christ because as Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus was called the Word because He is God's message to man. God’s message to man is one of hope and forgiveness and life. Let’s help others see the truth so that they may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they may have life in His name.
Will you tell others about Jesus? Will you be an instrument for Christ, piercing the darkness with the light of God’s Word? Will you help carry that message to the world you live in? Will you be a living light pointing others to Christ?
1 By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News December 2, 2004, http://rockymountainnews.com/drmn/religion/article/0,1299,DRMN_61_3368325,00.html
2 Who is Jesus, Ray C. Stedman, Catalog No: 3831, March 20, 1983
3 Expositors Bible Commentary
4 The Voice of the Martyrs, Dec. 2004, pg. 2