One Word Changed the World
Happy Christmas Eve (almost!)
When the boys were little (and sometimes even now), when they wanted something, they would make gestures or point or make unintelligible grunting noises. Instead of giving them whatever they were wanting, we would say, "Use words".
Why would we say that? Because, of course, we wanted our kids to learn to speak. Why? Basically and logically so that they could learn to communicate effectively.
Words do that.
Feelings appeal to us.
But, it is the words that are most clear.
Let me explain.
There's this lady who runs every single morning through our neighborhood. My husband usually sees her, no matter the weather, every morning when he leaves for work (which, if you know my hubs- that's early!) We have often speculated out loud why she does it. Does she just really want to stay in shape? Is she training for something? Is she just one of those people who loves running? We don't really know. Her reasons are ambiguous to us. But, I bet if we actually asked her, she would tell us. How? By using words. And, then we would know.
Perhaps you know someone who helps everyone. Would give someone the shirt off his or her back, is always willing to make a meal or give someone a ride or help in whatever way they can. You wonder why they do it. Tirelessly and without consideration for themselves. You can speculate about the reasons why. But, if you ask them, he or she would tell you- in words- why they do what they do. And, then, you would know.
One more example: There's a young couple who has been dating for several years. The young man has bought the ring. It is burning a hole in his pocket as he takes his girlfriend to a nice dinner, then they go walking through a beautifully lit park, where they pause beside a lovely pool with a fountain in it. At this point, they decide to take a picture. The boyfriend hands his phone to a passer-by. They turn to face the picture-taker. But, instead of looking at the camera, the boyfriend gets down on one knee. He has that ring box open and in his outstretched hand toward his girlfriend. All the actions scream, "Will you marry me?" But, it's not until he says the words and she gives the answer, that the proposal is complete.
Words are not ambiguous. They communicate clearly and effectively what we are trying to communicate with our actions or feelings.
We have dictionaries to explain meanings of words so we know exactly what a word means, thereby being able to understand clearly what someone is communicating to us.
We don't have dictionaries on actions.
We don't have dictionaries on feelings.
We can speculate on actions; we can describe a feeling- but those things become most clearly understood when we use words.
In John 1:14, we read this stunning verse: "And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Jesus is called "the Word", and here's why:
He is the most clear expression of how God wanted to communicate to the world.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1)
The Word was there- at Creation (see John 1:2).
In Genesis, we read that God said, "Let us make man in our own image..."
"Us" is a plural term. He did not say, "I" or "me"; he said "us".
This plural term is a reference to what we commonly call, "the Trinity": God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. This is three separate beings working together as One.
As Creator, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were all there, pre-existent, always existent, timeless beings who sustain everything and have created everything. They were before the beginning, were there at the beginning, and have continued to be and will continue throughout all time.
So, when the triune God created man, he had a purpose for that. He created man in his image, to rule over the earth had created, to subdue it, to care for it, and to be fruitful in it (see Genesis 1 and 2). Now, man could not do this job perfectly without God. But, he tried. Man decided God's ways weren't best, and in that choice mankind was plunged into a life doomed to separation from God (see Genesis 3).
And, in this separation, the only way man could be reconciled to his Creator, God, was to appease God's anger and wrath through a sacrificial system, whereby, those sacrifices would atone for mankind's continual inability to do what was right before a holy God.
This was a faulty system, in that, the sacrifices man brought to God were temporary, limited, and often subject to failure.
The sacrificial system was a continual, rigorous, exhausting system.
But, God loved his people, his creation, so much he wanted to provide a way that they could be redeemed, brought back into relationship with him, and have the best ways of communicating with him- unhindered and without any restrictions.
So, he made a promise. He promised he would send a Redeemer, a King, a Righteous Servant. All these attributes and more would be wrapped up in one triumphant ruler.
These promises were communicated through the prophets of the Old Testament who recorded these promises with... yep, you guessed it: words.
Words focused on a promise that could only be communicated one way. That deepest part of God's heart that was longing for his children to be returned to him was expressed over and over in words like this: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases"; "the Lord will not abandon his people"; "I have loved you with an everlasting love"; "I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine"; "I will restore the fortunes of [my people]"; "I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love".
Over and over and over again, we read of God's steadfast, unending, unstopping, never ceasing, always existing love.
And to prove all these words were true he did something mind-boggling.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
His Son became human.
The very thing they had created together back at the beginning. He became that.
And not only that, but in his human flesh, he bore all that his creation had suffered: pain, sorrow, deep emotions and feelings, harsh treatment, and above all, the weight of the sins of the world as his own body was crushed and his spirit was separated from the Oneness with his beloved Father.
The Word became flesh.
He dwelled among us.
And, then John writes, "and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
What does this mean?
Jesus did not stay dead. He did not stay separated from his Father. He did not continue crushed, beaten, broken, and riddled with pain and sorrow.
He conquered death. Defeated its grip and its power, proving himself to be God by rising from the dead in glorious resurrection. The only Son from the Father.
If you read through the book of John, you will see many "I am" statements by Jesus: "I am the Door"; "I am the Good Shepherd"; "I am the way, the truth, and the life"; "I and my Father are one".
So, out of all these names, why at the beginning of John, does John call him, "The Word"? "...and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Why are these important here?
Grace: granting to people what they did not deserve
Truth: that which cannot be altered or denied
So, the deepest, fullest, clearest expression God could give to his people to prove his love, though he had said it over and over and over and over again, was by sending what people did not deserve to prove what could never be denied.
God loved these people so much he sent His Son to die. And, in that, people received grace (what they did not deserve) and truth (an undeniable expression which cannot be altered or changed).
These attributes fully formed in the person and work of the One who was the fullest expression of the Father's love: The Word himself, Jesus Christ.
What clearer example can you get?
There is so much more that could be explained and delved into with this beautiful passage (as I reading about these verses, I read a sermon from John Piper who explained he had a professor who taught 13 weeks of an 18-week term on just the first fourteen verses of John 1!) I certainly cannot do that, but I would encourage you to dig deeper into this one who is The Word: the deepest, fullest, clearest expression of God himself to you.
Books have been written on him, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of earthly, dictionary-proven words have been used to describe him and his works and his ways and his character, and still we have not even begun to scratch the surface on who "the Word" is. We can study and search a lifetime, yet when all our words have exhausted themselves, we will come back, with joy and thanksgiving to this: "The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
This is why we celebrate Christmas. The Word himself come to us. Because of us. For us. No more sacrifices, no more works, no more striving to be righteous by ourselves. The Word changed all that.
This is what he came for- to show you the Father's love, to bring you out of darkness to the light (himself) and to fill you with grace and truth and to dwell with you and be in you through his Spirit.
Does the Word dwell in your heart today?
Come to the Word today. He longs for you to come to him.
"Unto us from on high, reaching down into the deepest night
To the world, hope has come. In the dark, the light of life has dawned.
What a mystr'y; oh, what love;
Oh how can it be that heaven has come to us."
"Let not the Promised Son remain a stranger
In reverent worship make Christ your adored!
Fall on your knees; Receive the Gift of Heaven!"