Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Word Made Flesh

December 30, 2012
Christmas II
Fr. Philip Eberhart

 

 

The Word Made Flesh
  Audio File
 

 

Our gospel passage for this morning is one of the most beautiful and classic texts of all of scripture.  From it we understand in glorious terms WHO Jesus Christ is, WHAT He has done in His incarnation and HOW we can be a part of the work that is ongoing in and through us today.

 

There is so much here I want to dive right in.

 

WHO IS THIS JESUS?

 

John the beloved disciple was one of Jesus’ inner circle – one of his confidants, if you will.  And from that intimate place with the Savior, John writes to us, a gospel that is very different from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

 

John was written with a kind of poetic and mystical flare as well, and it captures a side of Jesus, the Savior, that the other gospels don’t.  This begins from the first words, where, just like the first words of the Old Testament Torah, John begins at the beginning!

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

John gets right to the point:  Jesus, the Christ, is God.  The God of creation.  The God over the universe, from Whom all things have come, exist and hold together today.

 

John wrote his gospel in the latter part of the first century we’re told, and a great many gentiles had come into the faith by that time.  Here John uses a concept from Greek philosophers and expands it with O.T riches – The Word.  For the Greeks, the Word (logos) was an impersonal force that brought order to the universe – not unlike The Force of our modern day Star Wars movies.  The Word, as John uses it though is very specific, and much richer, as it encompasses all the writing of the Old Testament in regard to the Law – all that God has spoken for our benefit and direction.

 

Here, John uses the Logos of the Greek system to capture their imagination and expand it to see in it the light and the life of the one and only Son of God.  This one and only Son has now come, being made flesh and bringing to light the life of God, given to man. 

 

WHAT JESUS HAS DONE

 

John describes the work of the Word in terms like Life (ZOE) and Light.

 

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

John uses the greek word for life, ZOE, which is the spiritual life – the life of God – rather than the life of the flesh, BIOS.  The force of the words remind us that God is the One, through Jesus the Word, who breathed the breath of life into us.  He is our creator and sustains us, at the level of our very breath!

 

And John continues, in v. 14 with these wonderful words:

 

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

 

John uses the images of the Tabernacle here, from the ancient history of the Jewish people, when God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, as pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  Jesus is said here to have come and “tabernacled” with us.  Jesus dwells with His people, just as He did in the early foundations of this People of God.  Now God is re-forming a people for himself – and He comes once again, this time in FLESH.

 

For John this was something not to be missed or underestimated!  In his first letter, he begins similarly…

 

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning,[a] whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.(NLT)

 

John is adamant that we understand that this God has become a flesh and blood person just like us.  Not an apparition of some kind, not a day-dream, but a flesh and blood, sweat and tears, dust and thirst, kind of man!

 

This is the heart of grasping the meaning of the Incarnation – the en-flesh-ment of God in our midst.  John and Peter and James and the other disciples walked and talked with this man, Jesus.  They ate with him and laughed with him – they watched him live his life, as no other.  And later they wrote these words:

 

… we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

 

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

 

Even Paul, who didn’t walk with Jesus in person, but had an encounter with him after the resurrection could write:

 

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[e]
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.[f]
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

 

HOW CAN I BE A PART OF THIS?

 

John tells us clearly that we are meant to be a part of all this as we come to believe and become “in Christ.”

 

Step 1: Believe and Receive

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

John acknowledges that we can encounter Jesus, and yet not know Him.  This was the plight of the Jews at the time of the incarnation of Jesus, to which John refers here.  But its not just the Jews who suffer from this kind of myopia – the whole world is blind.  What John describes is the spiritual blindness and unwillingness to see Jesus for Who He actually is.

 

We are willing to say he was a great, perhaps the greatest teacher of all time; His words ring through the ages as the most humane and gracious words spoken by man. Some even call him a prophet – more than just a teacher, but one sent from God! 

 

But these do not capture the truth that John is presenting here. 

 

The Very God of Very God – The Great ‘I AM’ of Moses encounter – the One who called Abraham and promised – The Creator from the beginning!

That GOD – YHWH – became a man!  As incomprehensible as it is, it is the TRUTH to which John points with almost every phrase.

 

And we are simply asked to believe in His name, Jesus.  To put our trust in this man, sent from God – this One and Only Son – and thus to be born from above, John would later tell Nicodemas.  Here in the prologue, he hints at it as well:

who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

 

You can be “born of God.”

 

But its not just mental assent to a proposition – saying yes, Jesus is the Son of God.  Trust is much more.  Assent is saying you believe that the chair will hold you up – Trust is sitting down on it.

 

Those who believe, must receive! 

 

When we receive someone, say into our home, we let them come in fully.  If I don’t want to accept or receive what a salesman has to sell me, I go out of my house and talk on the front steps.  If I’m buying something of value, I invite the agent or representative into my home, and we sit at the dining room table or in the study.

 

Jesus wants to have an intimate, person-to-person, heart-to-heart relationship with you.  You must receive Him into your life.  He is both Savior AND LORD.

 

And here is the promise:

to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

 

Step 2:  Power to Become

 

What God is after here is you, lock, stock and barrel!  You, all of you, warts and all.

 

You see, the project is you!  And you, and you, and you, and you and and and and…

 

Each of us has been given an amazing gift when we come to believe in Jesus Christ and we receive Him into our lives as our Lord and Master.  We have been given the Power, the Right, to become Children of God – Sons of God, Daughters of God.

 

It’s interesting to note that the phrase “Sons/Daughters of God” is a Hebrew phrase, that indicates a character transformation – a change in the inside reality of who and what you are.  We hear James and John referred to as the “sons of thunder” or sinners who are unrepentant are sometimes referred to as “sons of perdition.”  The phrase captures the force of character that is inside a person – its both who they are and the way they behave.

 

So we have been given, now in Jesus, a new power and right.  The power to become “sons of God.”  The power to become like God in our character and action.  To become!  Say it with me, “Power to Become!”

 

But this is not a “once it happened and now I am” reality!  This is the ongoing project of God in the world – in our lives.  This is the project that Paul refers to in Romans 8 – that the whole creation is waiting to see – the “revealing of the Sons of God!” 

 

This is the direction that God is taking “all things that work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purposes!”

 

It is the transformation of character that follows in verse 29 of Romans 8:

 

“For God knew his people (you) in advance, and he chose them to become like His Son…”

 

This is the project and meaning of your life and my life.  There is no other project or task that God has for you to “do.”  He has something for you to be first!  Like Jesus!

 

We need to make Jesus our “magnificent obsession!”   If you must be OCD please be OCD about JESUS!!!  Let Him fill your field of vision, let Him capture your imagination, let Him dominate your thoughts and dreams. 

 

As we move once again into a new year,

 

let Jesus be your greatest love, your highest ambition, your only hope! 

 

Let Jesus be your last chance, your deepest pleasure, your shining example. 

 

Let Him be your course of study, your advanced degree, your promotion in rank. 

 

Let Him be your job security, your abiding place and your all in all.

 

Let us pray:

 

 

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me a sinner.

 

Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

 

 I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 

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