John 1: When Jesus got some guts

A sermon condensed as small as possible

Posted on February 28, 2017

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory

John 1:14

Word

What John does not say is, ‘God became flesh’. That is far too vague and open to interpretation. Especially in his culture when there are hundreds of ‘gods’ & some of them have even taken human form in the past. If you said ‘god became flesh’ to a greek, they’d as easily think of Hercules or Julius Caesar. Instead he uses the term ‘WORD’. This ‘WORD’ is, for John, the best way of explaining who Jesus is, in relation to God the Father. 

If I asked you to say the word ‘elephant’, you wouldn't be able to say it without thinking of one in your head. The word and the thought are the same. One is invisible (in your head), the other is a verbal representation of that invisible thing. And that's the concept behind John's 'Word'. This 'Word' is identical to God, different only in the fact that it is a visible revelation of that which is ordinarily invisible. [Col 1:15]

When the Church affirms that the ‘word became flesh’ we mean that the entire revelation or disclosure of who God is, what he is like, has become flesh in the person of Jesus. Jesus, is the primary source of our understanding of what God is like. Of what His temperament is, His character, His motives. Whilst God has revealed himself through other ‘words’ in creation and through history these are temporary or impartial or at least not fully understood [John 1:10-11] But when we look at Jesus, and the way he behaves and acts, when we see his temperament and character and motives - we are witnessing, as it were, the true outward expression of the invisible qualities of God.

So we need not struggle to know who God is. He does not need to be a stranger to us. We do not pray to someone theoretical or abstract. We look to Jesus and let the person of Jesus direct us to God the Father. 

Flesh

Becoming flesh was not a transformation, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Nor was it a superficial costume change, like putting on a spacesuit. This was the eternal 'Word', becoming flesh: adding to itself the properties of total humanity.

It is important that we uphold the fact that when Jesus came to us at Bethlehem, he did not cease in any way to be that creative life giving ‘word of God’ mentioned in verse 1. And at the same time, he totally became flesh in every way that we are. Nothing was taken away from his Godness, but because of his infinite power, he was able to add to it full humanity. (Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably - Chalcedonian definition)

The Church has sometimes struggled with the flesh of Jesus. We are happy to have a saviour who is the LORD on High and Judge of all the world, but to have a saviour who is frail and lowly and just as human as we are can seem worrying for us. 

But the Word has become flesh. He did not become a super version of humanity. He took on the same human nature that we have. He did not become some pre-fall innocent human as we might imagine - for he was limited just like us. He faced sadness, sickness and death, in all the ways that we do. [John 4:6] He was hungry and poor and weak and, crucially, he was tempted to sin, in all the ways that we are.[Heb 4:15] He is not merely God with us, but God like us. This is the incomprehensible and scandalous truth of the incarnation.

I wonder whether we struggle with embracing the reality of Christ's humanity because his body holds up a mirror to ours. We can’t pretend to be better than we are in front of this God, for he became what we actually are. False pretense is of no use because he too has experienced the utter depths of humanity.

Jesus took on our flesh. He is not surprised or overwhelmed by how ‘human’ you are. Jesus took on every aspect of humanity, so that he might redeem it, and cleanse it of sin - Every part of us, can be forgiven and restored by Jesus.

These two words (word and flesh), and the truth they contain have startling implications for us. As we come face to face with Jesus, the word become flesh. We see the exact visible representation of the all powerful creator God, and we also see the man who has truly met us, right where we are at. Because of this, and only because of this, we can and should confess our sins to him, because he is able to forgive and cleanse our heart and also understand our very human soul.

For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. 

Gregory Nazianzen