At Christmas we see the lights, the Christmas trees, the decorations, the food, the Christmas parties, and Santa at the mall, but the clearest picture of the reason for the season is the Nativity scene. In the center of the nativity scene is the baby Jesus. For one to truly appreciate Christmas they must understand the importance of the baby. In John 1 we find verses that help explain why the baby had to come.
To understand John 1 we must be familiar with the culture and John’s time in history. The writer, John, had been one of the closest followers of Jesus Christ. He had belonged to the group of 12 disciples who lived and ministered with Jesus during his three years of public ministry. By the time of the writing of the book of John it was late in the first century. Jesus had ascended to heaven 60-70 years earlier. Most of those who had known or heard Jesus in person had now died. John was one of the few remaining eyewitnesses. The book of John is his record and his testimony to the work and the person of Jesus Christ.
John had spent three years with Christ. He knew him well. They had traveled together, ate together, and lived together. John had been at Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and empty tomb. It was in these times that John saw who Christ really was. It is the same for all of us. Those who are closest to us know us best. We can’t fool them. They can testify to our true character. This is what John does in John 1:14. John reminds his readers that he has seen Jesus Christ. He knew Him. After all the time that He spent with Christ this is John’s firsthand testimony. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Other men’s weaknesses are discovered by those who are most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ. Those who knew Jesus best were even more convinced of His diety and his glory.
John wrote this gospel while he was a church leader in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was located in present day Turkey. By this time, at the end of the first century, Gentiles now outnumbered Jews in most of the churches. That was causing problems.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, which had at first been given to the Jews, was presented through Jewish symbolism, prophecy, and vocabulary. A Jew would be familiar with phrases like, “a promised Messiah who would sit on the throne of David forever”, or “a sinless sacrificial lamb who was offered for our atonement.” Concepts like these had been imbedded in Jewish religion and culture for centuries. But to the Gentiles, and especially the Greeks of Ephesus these Jewish phrases and terms meant nothing.
Because of this John needed a different way to present the gospel, but in a way that could be understood by both the Jews and the Greeks. The Holy Spirit led John to explain the same gospel of Christ in a new way.
In John 1:1 it reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The use of “the Word” would have been familiar to both the Jews and the Greeks. It was the Greek word “Logos” and was used in both Greek philosophy and Jewish religious thought.
The Jews were first introduced to “the Word” back in Genesis. Throughout the creation narrative in Genesis 1, through the spoken word God brought creation to pass. In Psalm 33:6 they read, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Psalm 107:20 states, “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. In Psalm 119:89 we find, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”
The phrase “the word of the Lord” is found 261 times in the Old Testament. This repeated use of “the Word” shows us how God worked in this world and amongst mankind which He had created. The use of “the Word” encapsulated the power of God, the person of God and the presence of God.
To the Jew, John´s use of “the Word” was proclaiming that this power, person and presence of God had now come to earth, in the form of man, in the one known as Jesus Christ, of Nazareth. It was an amazing truth for the Jews, but how could John also communicate this same truth to the Greeks.
The Greeks on the other hand saw the orderliness of creation and believed in the “Logos” the word, a divine working behind it all. The consistency of the tides, the seasons, and the laws of nature told them that there was a God in control of nature and that it was not random. They saw proof of this “Logos” all around them in nature. It was the reason or evidence of God. It was similar to Paul’s writings in Romans 1:19-20 that say, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
To the Greeks this idea of “Logos” was the connection or the bridge between an infinite God and the world of mankind. Because of this, when the Greeks heard that Jesus was the “Logos”, it made sense.
This “Logos”, the reason and presence of God, had now come in the flesh. Before they had known God from afar, but now he had come to have a relationship with them and to dwell among them.
John 1:1 tells us that Jesus Christ, the Word, the “Logos”, was with God, and was God. It was a testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was indeed human, but at the same time fully God. It is a difficult concept to understand, but we see it even in Jesus’ own words. Jesus was not created at his earthly birth almost 2,000 years ago. Jesus has always been. He was and is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. He was with the Father before creation ever happened. Jesus says it in his own words in John 17:5. “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” In John 17:24 He says, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He, the Word, had always been, but now He was taking upon Himself the flesh of man and coming into our world as one of us. As we read in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
This is what we see when we look at a nativity scene. As we read in Matthew 1:23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Jesus, the Word, God in the flesh, had now come to dwell amongst men.
A word often used to describe this is “incarnation.” It literally means, “the act of being made flesh.” We see it described in Philippians 2:6-8. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus was born to die. He took upon Himself the form of man so He could die as a man for the sake of mankind. As we read in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Hebrews 9:22 then declares, “under the law. . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Jesus had to be flesh and blood to die for our sins.
There was no other way. For Christ to die for our sin he had to become one of us, under the law. All mankind are under the law, destined to be judged according to God´s righteous law. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All. . . except Jesus. Only He could stand under judgement, under the law and not be condemned, because He had no sin (Hebrews 4:15b, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Only He was fit to die in our place. Our sin was committed by mankind in the flesh so it had to be paid for by mankind in the flesh. In His humanity He was one of us, but He was holy. In this way He could be the unblemished, sacrificial lamb who could atone for our sins. Our sin is also against an infinite God so it requires and infinite sacrifice. In Christ, the God-man, both demands are met. A human yet holy, infinite sacrifice.
One would think that salvation would be enough of a blessing, but in Christ´s coming in the flesh we gained even more. As a man Christ can empathize with our lives.
He, too, needed sleep (Luke 8:23), food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), and physical protection (Matthew 2:13-15; John 10:39). He perspired (Luke 22:43-44), bled (John 19:34) and even cried (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7-9). He felt joy (John 15:11), sorrow (Matthew 26:37), and anger (Mark 3:5). He knew temptation, pain, humiliation, rejection, betrayal, and suffering. He loved and was loved. As we read in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are.”
Jesus healed the ostracized leper by touching him. Jesus cried over the city of Jerusalem who refused Him. Jesus washed feet of those who followed Him. Jesus blessed the children who came near Him. Jesus granted salvation to the thief who hung next to Him. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him.
He was not an unknown savior who healed from a distance. He draws near and dwells with us. He has come so that we might know Him. Many claim that God is unknowable, but to those who seek Him, through Christ, He can be found.
In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. . .The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus.
In John 14:9 Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus responded: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father”. In Colossians 2:9 we read, “For in (Christ) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
In Jesus we see God´s mercy and His righteousness. We see God´s grace and His wisdom. We see God´s love and His kindness. We see God´s patience and His compassion. We see God´s strength and His courage. We see God´s might and His gentleness. For all who seek to know God, the first place to look is in the life of Jesus. He is the exact representation of the Father. . . in the flesh.
It gets even better. Jesus did not just come to be with us, the Spirit of Christ now dwells within us. As shown in the words of Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“We are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
For those who are in Christ there will be no moment that He is not with us. In our regrets of yesterday. In the struggles of today. In the uncertainty of tomorrow. Christ draws near and ministers to us. He is with us, in us, for us. He has bridged the gap that could not be traversed and now we have been reconciled to God.
He took upon Himself our guilt so that we could receive His righteousness. He was bound by man so that we could be freed by God. He took on the form of man so that we could be made in the image of God. He came to be like us so that we could become like Him. He came to our home so that we could one day return with Him to His.
He is Immanuel, God with us. He is God incarnate, in the flesh.
He now calls us to display the gospel, “in the flesh” as well. Just as the world needed Jesus so they could see what God is like. The world needs us so they can see what Jesus is like. It is not just praying or preaching, even though both of those are essential. Once we are emersed in prayer for those around us we are called to care for those around us. It is through our Christlike love that God will draw them to Himself, preparing their hearts to hear the gospel.
As we find in Ephesians 5:1-2, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
Scripture calls us to be reconcilers, lights, ambassadors, and witnesses. It is entering into our culture and our relationships with purpose. Seeking to love others with a love of Christ. It is entering into the lives of others as Christ did with us. It is messy, emotionally draining, time consuming, but blessed. Blessed are the feet of those who bring good news (Romans 10:15).
Incarnational ministry means that the gospel must be consistent through both our words and our deeds. It must be on display in the good and bad moments; When we are prepared and even when we are caught off guard. Even when life squeezes us, expressions of the gospel should come out.
We are to be reconcilers because we have been reconciled to God. We are to live out the “one anothers” of scripture as an expression of love for both God and our fellow man. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Love as we have been loved. Bless others because we have been blessed. We are a gospel people called to display the gospel “in the flesh.”
As we love others as Christ has loved us, we will be their first glimpse of the salvation that they can find in Christ.
As we think back through what we have considered today our minds are drawn to the nativity scene and a timeless Savior who humbled Himself by taking on flesh and entering our world.
He is the Word of God from the Old Testament, and the Word whose has shown Himself throughout all of creation. He is the sovereign God who spoke the universe into being, and at the same time has drawn near to us. He is Immanuel God with us. He is the Spirit of Christ in us.
Through His death and resurrection, we were reconciled to God. Through His life we are able to see what God is like. Through His example we are equipped to enter our own world and live like Jesus so that others might be saved.
Will you consider picking up your Bible and reading through the gospels once again? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the story of Jesus. As we come to know Jesus more, we will know God more and will understand better how we are to live like Jesus in the world around us.
Today, humbly draw near with confidence, knowing that in the midst of our need we will find grace and mercy. During this Christmas season may we celebrate anew that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”