Some have said that John 1:1-18 is the best literary prologue of all time. It’s an easy claim to back up. These verses beautifully present images and themes that would pique the curiosity of any normal reader. The Word, life, light, darkness – these concepts, presented without any substantial details, have the makings of something more epic than Homer and more timeless than Shakespeare. Phrases appear that are begging for more explanation. What does it mean that “the light was the light of men”? Or that “he gave the right to become children of God”? The claim that “we have seen his glory” is certainly a bold one, isn’t it? And how in the world could “grace and truth” come through a person? John’s hope, of course, is that you’ll keep reading to find out.
The problem for many of us, though, is that we’ve grown so accustomed to John’s opening verses that by now our eyes just scan through them, as if we’ve already plumbed the depths of each word. Over time, the beautifully complex and thought-provoking phrases have become commonplace, the result being that we skim over the text instead of diving into it.
The Christmas season is as good a time as any to hit the refresh button on passages like this, to consider the height and depth of biblical literature with the eyes of an eager student.
The Word Became Flesh
Consider anew one of the most striking statements in all of the Bible, found in verse 14 of this chapter: the Word became flesh.
Grammarians might point out how simple the sentence is. Noun, verb, noun. No big words, no complex structures. Nothing fancy, and nothing you need an advanced degree to read. And yet it is a rich statement, a deep one. The Word became flesh.
It means God is speaking. He’s done a lot of speaking before. In fact, he did it at the very beginning. The opening verses of Genesis tell us creation was void and darkness. Then God spoke. The darkness knelt to God’s command for light. He didn’t stop there. After creating man and woman God continues speaking, giving them the glorious mission to be fruitful and multiply.
It’s when his image bearers actually choose the darkness that one would expect God to stop speaking. Instead he speaks on, seeking Adam and Eve in the garden like a parent would seek a stray children. He talks to them: words of judgment, yes, but words of hope, too. Proof positive that God is up to the task of speaking into darkness.
And there’s a lot of darkness for him to speak into. In fact, it quickly becomes a trend. The entire Old Testament is a roller coaster of wreckage and recovery, striving and struggling. Darkness surrounds the people of God; darkness attacks them; darkness comes from within them. And yet he keeps speaking, “at many times and in many ways.” Leaders, laws, storms, and stories – God has used them all to speak.
But as we read John’s opening we notice that this time it’s different for one simple reason: he’s never spoken through flesh. Moses and Isaiah were flesh and blood, sure, but they merely delivered God’s word. They weren’t the word themselves. And so John’s statement is suitably unexpected: the Word became flesh.
The darkness is being spoken to again, and this time it’s the Light of the World himself. The Word that was “in the beginning.” The Word that was “with God.” The Word that “was God.” It’s no wonder that “the darkness has not overcome it.”
The darkness of sin never stood a chance against the Word becoming flesh. This is a good thing because darkness is our home country. We were born there, raised there, and liked it there. We had no plans of leaving, and that darkness would have kept us until the end of time. But the Word became flesh. Christ dwelt among us. The true light broke through and pulled us out. Now we don’t walk in darkness but have the light of life.
God With Us
Are you thankful for that this Christmas? That God didn’t stop speaking when it looked like the darkness was going to win? That the “God with us” promise was kept when the “Word became flesh”? That when darkness wrapped around your heart and you let it and enjoyed it God decided to speak through it?
Christ born in the flesh will always and forever mean one thing: God speaks to darkness, and his word is final.