The Word became flesh
Let me invite you to turn in your copy of God’s Word or in one of our pew Bibles to the Gospel of John. We’re continuing through our series called “Come and See.” Come and see Who Jesus is. Come and see what Jesus did. Come and see what Jesus is doing. Come and see what Jesus will do.
We’re looking at this idea of just come and see – to experience the life, the love, and the forgiveness that Jesus offers to all of us. And so, we have the “come and see” invitation so that the purpose of the Gospel is so that we would believe in Jesus and follow Him.
This will be our third week looking at the first 18 verses, the prologue of the Gospel of John. John is introducing us to this idea of who is Jesus? Who is He? And the answer to this question will be the lens in which we read and study the entire Gospel. And a lot of what we’re seeing in these first 18 verses will be revisited and revisited.
The Gospel of John is simplistic. It’s so simplistic that a child could understand it, but yet the content is so theologically deep and rich that you could spend a lifetime studying the Gospel, and so, John is very redundant. He hits these topics over and over and over again so that we would understand who Jesus is because he wants us to believe in Jesus.
He’s introduced us to this phrase “the Word.” In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word which we have already defined as Jesus for the sake of our sermons, but the original readers didn’t get that until verse fourteen that we will look at today, but the Word, what we have seen, has always existed.
There’s never been a time when the Word was not. The Word is God; it is divine. It is in perfect harmony with God because it is God. The Word was the agent of creation. Everything, every little detail, was created through the Word. Everything! The snow was created through and by the Word. I know y’all’ve heard this before, but is it not really amazing that no two snowflakes are alike? No two fingerprints are alike. That’s the Word – creating everything to be uniquely special and valued.
We saw that the Word is life. It gives life. It gives new life because it is the light of man. The Word gave life in Genesis, and the Word gives us new life today. Now up to this point, up to these first 13 verses – and we’re going to review just a little bit about the Word and what logos means because I don’t want you to miss what’s going on here, up until verse 14, Jews and Gentiles, for the most part generally speaking, agree with everything John is saying. It might be some minor differences here or there, but they understand. They’re like, yeah, John.
For the Jews, the Word, this logos, was God speaking through the Old Testament, God speaking in Genesis to create things, and God speaking through the prophets. And for the Jewish people, God’s Word, God’s spoken Word through these prophets, was powerful and impactful. For the Gentiles, remember John is writing in Ephesus, the Greeks understood logos to be this ordering principle, this thing that held everything together, this thing that created. It was a philosophical principle, not a person, and it really wasn’t a god. It was just a principle that they lived by.
You ask a Greek what created the world and they would say logos, that’s our ordering principle. And so up to this point, it’s been kind of abstract. It’s been talking about the divine nature of God speaking or the divine nature of this ordering principle, and then John in verse 14 says something that’s going to blow their minds. What he says in verse 14 will shock them to the core.
And both groups kind of will probably have a problem with what he says. So here’s what he says in verse 14.
The Word, again we haven’t used it since verse one, so verse 14 says
John 1:14-18: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.’”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, Who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him.
These are the climax verses of the prologue because these are transformational verses. This Word, this abstract principle, this deity, has now been made flesh. It’s one of the most impactful statements in all of Scripture. The Word became flesh. Now people in that day didn’t have a problem with Jesus’s deity. Everybody, whether you believed in Jesus or not, they didn’t really have a problem accepting He was a god or God. It was Jesus’ humanity that they struggled with.
There were groups then, and there are actually groups today who they say that Jesus simply came or that the Word Jesus came and dwelt in a man. That He wasn’t a man, but He came and dwelt in a man. Others said, well Jesus just appeared to be a man. What He really was was a ghost walking around, an apparition. These people thought that because they had this hard time believing that God, you know, this divine, all creative, all powerful one would become like us as a man. I mean, why? Why would God become us? But we see very clearly that
Truth #1 – Jesus, the Word, is fully human.
Everything that He does – that word “flesh” – it could not be more clear, and there are other Greek words he could have used, but he used “flesh,” which here’s what flesh means: blood, skin, soul…everything. Every aspect of the human body is summed up in the word “flesh” and John is saying, look, we saw Him. We were there. We saw Him. We walked around with Him. We heard Him speak. We smelled Him, which we don’t really think about that, but they didn’t have deodorant. You know that, right? So, they smelled Him as a man. I don’t know if you ever tried to smell a ghost. But they don’t smell like anything, yeah? If you don’t know, watch paranormal. They don’t smell. Yeah, don’t watch paranormal. They smelled Him. They touched Him. They did everything but taste Him, so they got four of the five senses.
He was really in the flesh. He was a man. He wasn’t just some apparition. He wasn’t just simply a spirit that came and picked a guy to dwell in. The Word became flesh. Jesus, God, left heaven, and became a man. Paul affirms this in Colossians 2:9 – For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ.
Now, I’m going to give you a theological phrase that you’re not going to forget. There are people who don’t like this phrase, but this sums up the theology of fully human. It’s “God in a bod.” You can write that down. It is God in a bod. God took on a body. There is a time in history when the Son was born as a human. Now Paul also goes on to say in Philippians that Jesus emptied Himself, assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when He had come as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.
Now you might be thinking what many of the early readers were thinking. Why would God do that? Why would God leave heaven and take on flesh? You ever notice how easy it is for flesh to bruise? You ever know how painful it is? You ever notice that when something hurts your flesh, it causes you to say things that you normally wouldn’t say? Like I think I’ve told the story of me cutting the tip of my thumb off and teaching my daughter how to cuss all in the same day. When you hurt the flesh, it hurts. TJ threw a shield at Jennifer and hit her in the face. It hurt. He felt really bad about it. He’s going to be mad at me for sharing that cause that happened like yesterday, but it hurt. I can see him telling her now. He’s like, I’m going to kill him, but it hurt.
Why would God do that? Why would He leave heaven, perfect heaven, free-of-pain heaven and become a man?
1 – Jesus became human to dwell among us.
Well first, the scripture says that He wanted to dwell among us. He wanted to dwell with us. He wanted to pitch His tent in and among humanity. That word “dwelt,” the instant moment that John said “dwell among us,” the Jewish readers would have instantaneously recalled the events of the Old Testament.
Remember, Jewish people knew the Old Testament up one side and down the other. They knew it. More than us. Sometimes, me included, sometimes we struggle with understanding the New Testament because we’re really not familiar with the Old Testament like we should be. They would have instantly went back to Exodus. They would have instantly in their mind thought about this tabernacle. The tabernacle was a traveling church. It was a traveling mobile temple.
As the Jewish people wandered out through the desert, they had a traveling temple, and God dwelled among the people in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Later, that tabernacle would become the temple where God would, in His form, dwell in the Holy of Holies.
The problem with this dwelling among them is there were a lot of rules and regulations before you could enter the Holy of Holies. You had to purify yourself to enter and meet God. It was a very spiritual, very restrictive place. And so, we see that God dwelt amongst His people in the tabernacle.
But now in John 1, we see that He is dwelling among His people as one of them. Now, why would He do that? This is some profound truth that I want you to hear. Jesus became human to relate to us.
2 – Jesus became human to relate to us.
By being fully human, Jesus experienced life. We have a hard time thinking about that sometimes. Jesus experienced life. He experienced birth. He experienced playing with His siblings. He experienced growing up with a mom and a dad. He experienced going to school. He experienced being a teenager and it may have looked a little different, but He went through puberty like any other male. Bless His heart. But He experienced puberty. He learned a trade. He was a carpenter because His dad was a carpenter. He experienced sadness. Remember the shortest verse of the Bible? He wept. He experienced joy.
Now I’ll say this one, but I’ve got to put a biblical word in front of it. He experienced righteous anger. He got angry. At the very minimum, He got angry in the temple when people were taking advantage of other people. He got angry. He experienced a wide range of human emotions. He experienced pain through the beatings and the slow, agonizing death of the cross. He experienced the temptations. He came to Earth to relate to us so He could understand what we go through. He came to sympathize with our weaknesses. His flesh was just like our flesh. His blood, His soul, His heart. He was a human. And He can relate to us, and He can sympathize with our weaknesses. Through the temptations, He can sympathize with our struggle with temptations, but yet as fully God, He didn’t give in to those temptations. As fully God, He didn’t give in to the things that we often give in to, so through that weakness and through the temptation that He is experiencing, He is creating and He is victorious over that. And so we also see He set the example for us.
3 -Jesus became human to set an example for us.
How many of you remember the most popular Christian phrase from the 90s? It was four letters. Actually it was four words, but we summed it up to four letters, cause we’re simple people. WWJD – what would Jesus do? I mean, whoever came up with that made a lot of money. I think I bought like 7 necklaces, 4 bracelets. It was always what would Jesus do? What would Jesus do when your boss is being a jerk? What would Jesus do when your kids are driving you crazy, huh? What would Jesus do when your parents are driving you crazy? Yeah, would Jesus talk back? Probably not.
What would Jesus do? He set the example. He showed us how to live with compassion. He showed us how to live with grace. He showed us how to love other people. And by the way, in the current climate that we live in as a society, we would do good to say what would Jesus do? We would do good to say how am I going to respond to someone who may not really agree with me?
Well, Jesus responded with love, although He corrected, don’t get me wrong, the religious leaders of the day. He confronted, but He did it with love. He did it with the idea of hoping to reform them, even though He knew they wouldn’t be. How do we respond? Look at Jesus’ life. His teachings are an example for us to follow and strive to follow Him.
4 – Jesus became human to die for us. This axis is the ultimate reason that He came and became a human. He came to die. That baby in Bethlehem that we just celebrated became the Christ of the cross. The baby in Bethlehem became the Christ Who hung on a cross. And as He’s being nailed to that cross, it is your sins. It is my sins that are nailing Him there. That cross is for us. That punishment is for us. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. It is our sin. It is our rebellion against God. It is our natural ability to disobey and run away from God that put Jesus there.
That’s why He came – to die for us – to be the sacrificial Lamb of God, so that it why Jesus says on the cross, “It is finished.” So that once and for all those who believe in Him and follow Him would be forgiven of sins. That’s why He came. To die. To lay down His life for us, for you and for me. Every time that hammer hit that nail into His hands and feet, it was the sins of the world that was hitting Him, not the Romans, not the Jews. It was the sins of the world that was putting Him there.
Your sins. My sins. He took our place. And He had to become a human to do it. An apparition couldn’t do it. He had to become a human. He had to be what we call the second Adam. When Adam was created, Adam gave into sin and gave into the temptation and separate us from God. Jesus again came as a second Adam, overcame the temptations, resisted the temptations, and yet was still punished, even though He did nothing wrong. He was the perfect Lamb of God.
And you may be thinking, well that’s why He came as a human. But why would He ever die for us? Why would God send His only Son? I’m not sending my son to die for you. Why would God do this? Well, that’s in the second truth.
Truth #2 – Jesus is grace and truth.
Jesus is grace and truth. It is by God’s grace that Jesus became human, and Jesus embodied that grace and that truth. John points out that the Law was given through Moses. The Law, the 10 Commandments, the Levitical Law, the laws of the Old Testament were not given to save us. They were not given to say, hey, if you just do this and do this and do this and do this, you’ll get to heaven. No, the Law was given through Moses to show us that we can’t live up to God standards. That’s why it was given. God didn’t give us the Law as some kind of bondage or some kind of change to hold us back or rob us of a good time.
The Law was given to say hey, this is my standard. I am a holy God. I am a just God. I am a perfect God. You, if you want to have a relationship with Me, have to follow all of these things. But I’m showing you this so you understand you can’t do it. And some of you might be thinking well I am a pretty good person. I’ve never killed anybody. Have you ever talked bad about somebody, because Jesus says if you slander somebody’s name, it’s like murdering them? It’s character assassination. At the very minimum you’ve told a lie. The very minimum you’ve given false testimony. We all have. I probably did it today. I don’t know. We all do it.
We look at the Law and what we recognize is I can’t live up to God’s standards. And that’s where we see the grace of God in Jesus. See grace is a gift given to us that we do not deserve. A gift given to us that we have not earned. And yet God freely says, here is my Son, a gift to the whole world. A gift to say I love you so much that I will sacrifice my Son so that I can have a restored relationship with His most precious creation.
John Piper sums it up very beautifully. God is gracious to us and true to Himself. Therefore, when the Son, when His Son comes, He is full of grace and truth. When Christ died, God was true to Himself because sin was punished. And when Christ died, God was gracious to us, because Christ bore the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. That is the grace and truth of a fully human and fully divine Savior. So, these first 18 verses teach us very importantly Who Jesus is.
Jesus is eternal. He’s divine. He is creator. He is life. He is light. He is fully human. He is grace and He is truth. Many of you or some of you are probably familiar with a guy named John Newton. John Newton wrote many songs for his church, but he had help. There was a man named William Cowper, who often would help him write. William Cowper was a wonderful poet. He wrote songs like There is a Fountain Filled with Blood and God Moves in Mysterious Ways. But yet, this William Cowper battled his entire life. His entire life, he battled with darkness and depression and self-condemnation. William Cowper thought that he could never live up to God’s standards. He really thought that God would abandon him because he was not perfect, and on January the first of 1773, John Newton understood that his friend William Cowper was in desperate need of understanding the message of God’s grace.
Cowper was on the verge of suicide because of his self-condemnation and depression, and so in the midst of that spiraling downward experience, John Newton wrote a song for him. That song is Amazing Grace. John Newton wrote the song Amazing Grace. He hoped that these words would relieve Cowper’s fear of spiritual blindness, leading him out of the dangers and snares toward the security of God’s grace.
Don’t you understand something this morning? We’re all going to struggle with sin. We all struggle with these times of doubt and depression, but God’s grace is sufficient for us. God’s grace is sufficient to save us. And so when we read those words, “Through many dangerous toils and snares, we’ve already come. Twas grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.”
That’s what Jesus is doing. He’s leading us home, so never forget that grace flows freely from God through Christ Jesus. And if God was willing to send His Son to be born as a man and to die like a criminal for you, that grace will never be withheld from those who follow Him.
If your faith in Jesus is strong and secure, then God’s grace will be abundant and overflowing in your life and God will lead you home. And God will carry you home because of His grace.
During this time of invitation, as you reflect upon these first 18 verses, ask yourself who is Jesus to me? Is Jesus my Savior? Have I made the decision to follow? Have I taken the steps to say yes, I accept you as Lord and Savior? I confess my sins to Him and Him alone, and I will follow Him the rest of my life. If you need to do that during this invitation, you come and you pray. I’ll be here and pray. I’ll pray with you. You can pray here. We have deacons who will pray with you.
It’s a time for you to respond, but maybe you’re at a point too where you’re like, I’m ready to take the next step and be baptized. I’m ready to go further and follow Jesus’s example into those waters. This is a time for you to respond and come. If you’re ready to be baptized, then you come, and we’ll pray together and we’ll talk about it and we’ll celebrate that decision.
And maybe you’re ready to join this church. You’ve been checking it out. You’ve been visiting and you’re ready to say God’s doing something here, and He is, and you want to be a part of what God has or God’s calling you to be a part. Again, this is your time to respond.
I’ll be down here at the front. The altar is open for you to come and kneel and pray. And maybe you’re just sitting here today and you’re like, I’m just going to worship. He is worthy of our worship.