Sermon: The Word Became Flesh

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1 Sermon: The Word Became Flesh The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-18 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

2 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, This is the one I spoke about when I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. ) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. I. Introduction Toward the end of John s gospel, the author explains what the purpose of the book has been all along. John 20:30-31 says, Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Like the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John is an account of Jesus life, ministry, death, and resurrection. But, unlike the other Gospels, John begins in a different place, and with a specific goal in mind. He wants to demonstrate to those who might not have the benefit of witnessing Jesus miracles or

3 hearing his teaching first-hand that he was who he said he was, and that faith in him brings new life to the believer. John is concerned first, and foremost, with the following questions: who is this Jesus, and why is his arrival good news? The prologue in verses 1-18 is a beautiful summary of John s theology. It offers the reader a glimpse of what is to come, and it begins with a somewhat unexpected answer to these two questions. II. The Word Became Flesh First, who is this Jesus? Matthew answered this question with a genealogy, showing that Jesus fits the profile for the promised Messiah, as a descendent of David. Mark began by showing that Jesus fulfilled the prophetic message of John the Baptist that Messiah would soon come. Luke started by telling the story of angels announcing Mary s conception and the miraculous circumstances surrounding Jesus birth. But John takes the reader back even farther than the other gospel writers. In fact, he takes us all the way back before creation. John begins his gospel with a phrase that would have been familiar to every Jew: In the beginning. This verse echoes the first words of the Genesis account of creation. But while the reader might expect to see God as the next word and subject of the sentence, John instead rewrites the narrative. He tells us that the Word was there with God in the beginning, before anything was created. Oh, and, in fact, the Word was the agent, through which all things were created, because he is, in fact, God. Not only that, but the Word is the source of all life, and all things are made clearer because of the light that he casts on everything. Even though Genesis was a Jewish account of creation, other cultures would have seen familiar things in John s description

4 of a god or gods creating everything and giving life. In Rome, there were many stories about the role the gods played in creating and manipulating life. Then John tells us that the Word of God, who created and sustains life, was coming into the world (v. 9). Now that news might be a pretty spectacular thing on its own. But Israel s history was full of encounters with God in our world, and Gentile cultures had all sorts of myths about their gods causing mischief on earth from time to time. So while it might not be considered an every day occurrence, it was not unheard of for the divine to enter into the ordinary spaces of life. What makes John s claim so different from these others is what he says next, in verse 14: The Word became flesh The idea that God would take on the same form as his creation, that the holy would become profane, was completely contrary to anything the reader might have expected. God simply doesn t do that sort of thing, does he? And if he did, wouldn t everybody know it already. How could God possibly hide in a human body? John answers these questions by telling the reader that we have indeed already seen the glory of the God, but we have not recognized him, even though he made us. And because we have not recognized him, someone else was sent to prepare the way for him. This prophet, John the Baptist, would point to the one, who is God in the flesh, so everyone should pay attention to him. And this is where John drives the message home, as he tells the story of John s testimony about the coming Messiah, about his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, and about John s declaration I have seen and I testify that this is God s Chosen One. (v. 34) III. He Made His Dwelling Among Us

5 John s first unspoken question has been answered. Who is Jesus? He is the only Son of God, with God for all eternity, the divine Word through whom all things were made. He is the very source of life and the light that brightens all of the dark places in the world. But why exactly should we consider this good news? Before the Gospel accounts were written the Jewish understanding of God s dwelling place was already radically different from those around them. In other cultures the gods were believed to be distant, magical beings that were concerned only with their own glory and who paid little attention to humanity, unless doing so would satisfy their own desires in some way. They were untouchable, unreachable, and utterly unconcerned with the fate of humanity. Many of them were cruel. All of them were frightening and unpredictable. And always, the dwelling place of the gods was somewhere else in the sky, on a far mountaintop, or in the deepest oceans. The stories said that anytime a god crossed over into human space, you could expect something tragic to happen. Worship was often focused on appeasing the gods wrath and seeking their favor instead, so that when they did come into human space, they would take out their anger on someone else. But then the One True God, Yahweh, made himself known, first to Abraham and then to the people of Israel, his descendents. He showed them that he is a God who cares about his creation, who created mankind in his own image, and who has not abandoned them to navigate through this life alone. And though he introduced himself to Israel from a Holy Mountain in the desert, he quickly demonstrated that he is a God who dwells with humanity. In the early pages of Genesis (3:8), we learn that God walked in the Garden of Eden and had fellowship with Adam and Eve. He had placed them in the garden and appointed them caretakers over all that he had made, and he was present with them, until they rebelled against him and tried to grasp that which

6 rightfully belongs to God alone. With that rebellion, humanity s relationship with God was damaged. They no longer knew him in the same way as Adam and Eve, and they no longer enjoyed the same fellowship with him. But even after expelling them from the garden, we see that God continued to respond to humanity as they brought him offerings of praise (Genesis 4). Even though humanity continued in their wicked ways, God did not abandon them entirely. Instead he saved a remnant through Noah and made a covenant with him that would extend to all his descendants, until the time of Abraham. And this began a series of events through which God revealed himself, ever more fully, to his covenant people. He first revealed himself to Abraham, then Isaac, followed by Jacob, Joseph, and finally Moses, who led God s people out of Egypt and into the desert of Sinai, where he gave his people the Law. But because the Israelites were afraid of God and begged him to speak through Moses, God chose to dwell among them in a new way. God instructed Moses to have the Israelites build him a Tabernacle. It was a sanctuary that could be carried from place to place as God s people continued on in search of the Promised Land. It was the place where God met with his people, though now they had to speak to him through Moses and the Levitical priests, and it was there that God promised to dwell among his people (Exodus 25:8). But the Israelites weren t satisfied with God s presence for long, and after turning away from God over and over again, only to be restored later by God s faithfulness, they finally asked God for an earthly king like the other nations had. It seems that God was still a bit too close for comfort, though, so eventually the Israelites built a new dwelling place for God, under the leadership of their kings. And the Temple became the fixed location where they expected God to make his

7 dwelling. We don t have time to recount the history of the Temple here this morning. But what we can see from even this very short review of scripture is that God is a God who continually seeks to dwell with the people he has created. He wants to be with us, but we have continually pushed him away with our sin and idolatry of self. Thank God that he is faithful when we are not, and that he is not content to dwell at the margins, when his rightful place is at the center of our lives. John shattered the mold of what was commonly understood to be the dwelling place of God, when, in verse 14 he said, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He was announcing that, with the incarnation of Jesus, God has broken down every obstacle between himself and humanity. The dwelling place of God is no longer a distant place, or a special tent, or a magnificent temple. With the arrival of Jesus Christ, we have come full circle in the story, back to Eden, when God walked with humanity in his creation. Only this time this time God has broken down the barriers even further. This time, he has entered the world he created as one of us. Though he was fully God, Christ became fully man, so that through him we might experience new life. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. Do you know that, even today, God continues to dwell afresh with his people? We talked last week about what it means to say that God is with us. We learned that he is with us in our struggle against sin. The Son of God put on human flesh and so was tempted just as we are tempted. He knows the struggles that we face, and yet he overcame them. We also learned that God gives us his abiding peace in the midst of life s circumstances, whatever they may be. We heard that God gives us hope for tomorrow and eternity, because he has proved his faithfulness to us. And we know that God is with us because we see evidence of him transforming lives every day into the image of his Son.

8 But have you ever really considered what John s words mean to us today, when he says that God s dwelling place has changed, and that he now lives among us? I think the Apostle Paul says it best in 1 Cor. 3:16: Don t you know that you yourselves are God s temple and that God s Spirit dwells in your midst? The Son of God didn t just take on human flesh to dwell around people and then leave. He sent the Holy Spirit in his place to actually dwell in us. We have the power to face temptation, because his power is available to us. We can have peace amid the chaos of life, because God s presence is always with us. We have hope for tomorrow, because the presence of the Spirit is God s sign of his faithfulness now. And we can become God s image bearers, because his Spirit is working to make us more like Jesus each and every day. IV. Preparing the Way But there is a step we must take, before God will take up his dwelling in us. Like John the Baptist, we must prepare the way for Jesus to enter onto the scene. John the Baptist came preaching a message of repentance and belief. If we would prepare the way for Jesus to take up residence in our lives, we must first repent of our sin. Now, repentance is more than just saying I m sorry. Repentance is recognition of our own corruption, and acknowledgment of the ways that corruption has become manifest in our lives as sin. And with that recognition, repentance brings a confession before God that we are guilty of breaking his law, and in need of God s mercy and grace. Once we recognize the depth of our need and confess our sins to God, we must be willing to receive God s gift of forgiveness and grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. It saddens me that there are some in this world who recognize their own brokenness, and who have sincerely confessed their sins before God, but who have yet to accept God s gracious

9 pardon. Maybe this is you. Maybe you know that your life hasn t measured up to God s standard and you know that you are headed on a trajectory away from God. But rather than placing your trust in Jesus for your salvation, you are still trying to make things right on your own. Or maybe you think your sins are too great, and that God couldn t possibly forgive you. If this is you its time to stop fighting under your own power. 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. This is not a battle that we have to fight, because God has already been victorious through Christ. All we have to do is accept God s free gift of grace, by confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and by believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. If we do that, the Bible says in Romans 10:9 that we will be saved. And once we have prepared the way for Jesus to move in our lives through repentance and faith, we must open ourselves up to live in the power of the Spirit. It does no good for us to invite Christ into our lives, and then keep him on the doorstep. V. Application I want to ask you this morning to take a moment and reflect on where you are at in your relationship with God. Have you prepared the way for God to dwell with you? Have we, as the church, prepared the way for God to dwell with us? The second week of Advent is intended to be a reminder of the holy-love that God has for us. This is the self-sacrificial love of Christ poured out for us on the cross. As disciples of Jesus, we are commanded to love God and love our neighbors in the same way that God has loved us. I don t know about you, but I often fail to love either God or others as God loves. I don t always treat my family as the

10 precious gift they are. Sometimes I speak harsh words to them; sometimes I am impatient; sometimes I am distant. I don t always respond with compassion or kindness to those I see outside the walls of the church. At times, I am calloused or jaded or even bitter toward others. Sometimes I don t respond to criticism with humility. There are days when I just don t feel like a good husband or father or friend or pastor. Some days, I just don t feel like I have any love to give. There are even days when I don t feel like God could possibly love someone like me. You see, there are still those days when I forget who I am in Christ. But by the grace of God those days grow farther and farther apart. Because, when I experience moments of weakness in my life, God is always right there calling out to me and reminding me that I am his beloved, that Christ died for me, and that his Spirit dwells in me. He reminds me that I don t have to be perfect on my own, but that he will make me a new creation, capable of loving as he loves, if I will just give him control of my life. Why wouldn t I give him control, when all he wants is to make me his own? When we turn to God in our weakness, and ask him to dwell afresh with us, he is always faithful to do so. It is in those moments when we are most in need of grace that God shows his presence all around us. And when we see and dwell in his presence for even the smallest moment, he is able to do a new work in us until we become living examples of his love to the world. The Word became flesh, and dwelled among us. This is the mystery of our faith. It is the foundation of our salvation. And it is the hope of the world, if we will only believe. VI. Closing Prayer Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we give thanks and praise to you, Almighty God, that you have loved us so much that you

11 sent your one and only Son to die on a cross for our sins. We thank you that, though Jesus Christ, we can experience everlasting life that begins right now. Would you open our eyes, so that we might see the glory of your Son, and would you dwell afresh with us, conforming us into his image, so that we might learn to love as you first loved us. Amen.

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