…is in God’s Promises. A poetic prologue leads us down a path of discovery. Discovering a man who “came as a witness to testify to the light”. A man who made some big promises in the name of God. Does your Hope lie with him?
Text: John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.
15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ “)
16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 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.
Background on the Text:
- This is the prologue to the Gospel of John. Both this prologue and the final chapter of the gospel (chapter 21) are probably additions to the main gospel. It is impossible to say if the same author wrote all parts, but there is no reason to complicate things with a theory of multiple authors.
- The prologue sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel. It puts the story of Jesus within the context of creation itself. Unlike the other gospels, the beginning of the story happens before time itself.
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- “In the beginning” immediately puts us in mind of Genesis 1:1. But the “beginning” here is even before the beginning of creation. It is part of the cosmic essence of God.
- “Word” is the English translation of the Greek word “logos.” “Logos” is one of those words which encompasses many meanings. Logos is the essence of creation; it is God’s creative nature; it is the “logic” of the universe. Christianity would equate “logos” with “Christ.”
- Verses 2 and 3 say that “logos” is the same as life itself. John uses lots of dualities in his writing, and one of the most obvious is light and darkness. So logos is life, and light.
- Verse 5 is a statement of faith: the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. This is a powerful statement at any time in history. But it also points out that there is conflict in creation, despite its origins in life and light.
- Verses 6-8 are an interlude: they refer to John the Baptist, who points the way to the Christ.
- Verses 9-13 move the prologue from cosmic considerations to the actual life of Jesus, even though the language is still rather poetic and lofty. The basic conflict of the story is presented: although Jesus came for people not all people accepted him. But for those who accepted him, and believed in his origins, life was made new.
- Verse 14 is the summary of the entire gospel: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God became human, or was made manifest in a human being.
- Verses 16-18 are somewhat polemical. The Gospel of John was written within a community struggling to understand its place within Jewish history. The argument about whether a person could be Jewish and Christian was an important one of the day. The fact that these verses say “no one has ever seen God” places the person of Moses down a rung from Jesus. (Remember when Moses comes down off Mt. Sinai with the tablets, his face is shining so bright that he must cover it. This is interpreted to mean that he had been in the presence of God.)
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- The prologue to the Gospel of John is poetry, and as such it should be read like poetry. We read poetry knowing that the words on the page are overflowing with multiple meanings. Each time we read the words of a poem, a different meaning or nuance can occur to us. As you read this prologue again, what image sticks out to you? What new insight do you gain about the nature of God and Christ?
- How does this prologue set you up to read the rest of the gospel? How does the prologue distinguish the Gospel of John from the synoptic gospels in terms of understanding who the Christ is?