Portraits of Christ: Living Word, Son of God
In 1873, a Belgian Catholic priest named Joseph Damien De Veuster began a ministry among the lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. He had been assigned to Hawaii in 1864 to normal pastoral work with the islanders. Moved by the horrendous plight of the lepers of Molokai island, he volunteered when his bishop asked if there might be any priest who would minister to the needs of the lepers.
When he arrived at the colony, he immediately began to greet each one of the lepers in hopes of building friendships. Wherever he turned, however, the lepers shunned him. It seemed as though every door was closed. He poured his life into his work, erecting a Chapel, building homes, changing dressings and burying the dead. But it was to no avail! No one responded to his ministry.
After 12 years Father Damien made the decision to leave. Dejectedly, he made his way to the docks to board a ship to take him back to Belgium. As he stood on the dock he wrung his hands nervously as he recounted his futile ministry among the lepers. As he did he looked down at his hands, he noticed some mysterious white spots and felt some numbness. Immediately he knew that he had contracted leprosy!
He returned to the leper colony and to his work. Quickly the word about his disease spread through the colony. Within a matter of hours everyone knew. Hundreds gathered outside his little house. They all understood his pain, fear, and uncertainty about the future. But what was the biggest surprise was the following Sunday, as Father Damien arrived at the Chapel, he found hundreds of worshipers gathered. By the time the service began, there were many more with standing room only and many gathered outside the Chapel.
His ministry from then on became enormously successful. The reason? He was one of them. He understood and empathized with them.
And this is the heart of the passage this morning: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
I. THE LIVING WORD IS THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV84)
- In the beginning – these words are suggestive of the opening words of Genesis
- Genesis begins with the creation of the world and tells us of God's creative efforts
- in John 1:1, the apostle goes behind the creation account into eternity itself and tells us the story behind the story
- that story is of an eternal Christ in glory with the Father, high and lifted up and on his throne long before creation ever took place
- Jesus is the Word
- words are verbal expressions used to convey the meaning of our thoughts and intents
- Jesus Christ—as the Word—is the living expression of God's thoughts and intents toward sinners
- everything God wanted to tell us, He said it in and through the life and words of His only begotten Son
- why is it so important that the very first portrait John paints of Jesus is that of the eternal Son of God?
- ILLUS. Adrian Rogers once told the story of a little girl who became afraid during a thunderstorm. The rain was falling and the lightening was crackling. A father laid there in bed listening for what he knew was coming. Soon, his daughter’s small voice penetrated the stillness of the night. It came from the bedroom across the hall. "Daddy, I'm scared!" The father responded with, "Honey, don't be afraid, Daddy's right across the hall." After a very brief pause the little voice is heard again, "I'm still scared." The father respond, "You don't need to be afraid God is with you. God loves you." This time the pause is longer . . . but the voice returns, "I know that, Daddy; but I want someone with skin on!"
- after thousands of years of telling His people that he really loved them, God the Father demonstrated his love for us by coming in the flesh in the person of His Son
- this very first Portrait of Christ set’s the stage for all the rest
- if we don’t get this first portrait right the other twenty simply do not matter
A. SWEEPING ASSERTION #1: JESUS IS ONE WITH THE HEAVENLY FATHER
- “ ... the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV84)
- Jesus is and forever has been and always will be eternal with the Father
- three times in the first verse John uses the word was
- for those of you who may be interested the word was is the imperfect form of the verb to be in the original Greek
- we have no real translation for the verb in the English
- in the Greek language—the language the N.T. was written in—it's a word which expresses timelessness
- thus, we might read the verse like this: In the beginning always was the Word, and the Word always was with God, and the Word always was God
- before time was created, Jesus existed
- Pro 8:27-30 "I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,"
who was present when God set the heavens in place?
- it surely wasn’t the Psalmist
- here is God the Son declaring his presence in eternity past when God the Father was busy flinging galaxies into space!
Jesus has absolute equality with our Heavenly Father " ... the Word was with God ..."
- the nature of Christ has been at issue since the earliest days of the Church
- there were many false or inadequate views of His eternal nature and character
- some have maintained that Jesus was merely human and had great wisdom and spiritual insight
- some have believed that Jesus was adopted by God at his baptism and was divine only until he was abandoned by God at His crucifixion
- a few have advanced the idea that Jesus is divine, but not on equal footing with the Father
- in other words, Jesus is God, but not as god as God is
- the Apostle John is clear—Jesus is God come in the flesh
- Jesus was not created
- Jesus is not co-God
- He is not 2nd-fiddle
- when the verse says ". . . the Word was with God . . ." it literally says the Jesus was face to face or eyeball to eyeball with God
- the idea is that of complete equality
Jesus is God come to us in the flesh ". . . and the Word was God . . ."
- this is not a statement that the Apostle John would have made lightly
- he was a Palestinian Jew who was fiercely monotheistic
- ILLUS. As a pious Jew, John would have begun every morning of his life reciting the Shema Yisrael—the Jewish confession: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is one," from Deut. 6:4.
to declare that a mere man was God in the flesh was as blasphemous a blasphemy a Jew could utter unless the man in question is not merely a man he makes this incredulous affirmation because John spent three years by the side of Jesus listening and watching
- there is absolutely no doubt in his mind as to the true identity of Jesus
- “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1–3, NIV84)
if you want to know what God is like, then you have to look at the portraits of Christ painted in the N.T.
- to know Jesus personally is to know God
- ILLUS. Shortly before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus is attempting to prepare his disciples for the events which are about to take place. In John 14:7 he tells them, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well . . ." The apostle Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus responds—almost hurt I think—in 14:9, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father . . ."
B. SWEEPING ASSERTION #2: JESUS IS CREATOR OF THE WHOLE WORLD
- “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3, NIV84)
- the world Jesus came to redeem is a world he created
- apart from him there came into being not one thing which has come into being and still exists
- “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, NIV84)
the phrase all things is a word that means all things individually and is a reference to the infinite detail of creation
- ILLUS. In 2006 Biochemistry professor Michael Behe, coined the term irreducible complexity, in his book entitled Darwin’s Black Box. He defines an irreducibly complex system as one "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” Whether you are looking at the entirety of the universe with its galaxies and stars and planets in their orbits, or the micro universe of a single cell, irreducible complexity screams that there is a Creator! Remove a single part and the rest of the system will effectively cease to function as it was designed.
- ILLUS. According to the Apostle John, Jesus is like a master craftsman. His work is not a copy, but an original. From his fruitful imagination, He painstakingly brings to light his creation. It is perfect in every detail. His effort is a labor of love. When the beauty of that creation is marred by vandals, he does not abandon the work for another, but seeks to restore the creation by repairing the damage that was done.
you and I are the results of our Lord's creative work
- sin has marred us
- we’ve been vandalized by the world, the flesh and the devil
- Jesus comes and offers restoration
C. SWEEPING ASSERTION #3: JESUS ILLUMINATES MAN'S REAL NEED
- “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4–5, NIV84)
- man's greatest need is not immortality—all men are immortal
- man's greatest need is for life—eternal life as compared to eternal damnation
- you don't have to do noth'n to have immortality in hell
- you do have to do something to have eternal life in heaven
- in the word's of our spiritual forefathers, you've got to “See the light.”
- the light is Jesus, who brings life to all who will confess him
- this message is for all men, in all places at all times
- the Anointed One of Israel is not merely the Jewish Messiah, but the Savior of the World
- “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14, NIV84)
Jesus is not just the “Christian way” to eternal life, but the only way to eternal life
- “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV84)
but darkness now enfolds the children of fallen Adam’s race
- there is the darkness of the religious mind, which leads otherwise intelligent people to harbor superstition or embrace all kinds of high-sounding spiritual nonsense
- there is the darkness of the philosophical mind, that speculates vainly about the ultimate nature of things, but never comes to a conclusion
- there is the darkness of the carnal mind, that is preoccupied with passions and lusts, and worldly pleasures
- there is the darkness of the scientific mind, that says in one breath that life is bewildering in its complexity and in the next breath declares such complexity is the result of millions, if not billions, of years of evolutionary progression
- the darkened mind of the unregenerate sinner simply does not understand light—which the Apostle John here uses as a synonym for absolute, perfect, God-revealed truth found in the person of Jesus
- at Calvary the power of darkness had its moment of temporary victory when the light went out
- but three days later that light came bursting forth from its tomb to be triumphant forever
in Christ is there is life and light
- the darkness of our sin and unbelief can never overcome the light—it will always shine and waits to be embraced
- all men everywhere have some light of revelation
- there is the light of creation and conscience according to the Apostle Paul
- God gave the Jewish people the added light of covenant, commandment and prophecy
- ultimately, God gave the world the light of Christ
- no one escapes one or another of the sources of light God has made available
- the Holy Spirit sees to that
II. THE LIVING WORD CAME IN THE FLESH TO REVEAL GOD TO MEN
- “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV84)
- the Creator of the world, in the person of Jesus, trod the fields and hills of Israel, and walked Jerusalem’s streets
- his own cousin, John the Baptist, proclaimed him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
- the people of Israel rubbed shoulders with God
- how amazing is that?
A. HE DWELT AMONG US
- verse 14 is a unique and interesting statement
- first, the Apostle John digests the incarnation of Jesus into four word—The Word became flesh
- with amazing brevity, the Apostle John uses four words to describe what Luke’s Gospel takes 2,500 words to describe
- second, it literally says that Jesus tabernacled among us
- John's Jewish readers knew immediately that the apostle was referring to the tent of the Tabernacle which served as the Israelite's temple during their wilderness wanderings
- to paraphrase what the apostle John is saying, we could translate the verse as: "The physical presence of God—manifested in the person of Jesus Christ— pitched His tent among us."
- it's as if God moved in next door!
- I like that
- it tells me that I have a Heavenly Father who took the initiative to come and experience life as I do in order that He might judge me more fairly and provide me with what I need most—the opportunity to get to know Him personally
- like the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the glory of God was hidden in Christ
- ILLUS. The tabernacle was “all glorious within,” but its glory was a hidden glory. There was no great beauty about the tabernacles outward appearance. To the eye of the casual beholder it was just another tent, spaced off from the tents of the common people. But inside the tabernacle it was gloriously ornate and beautiful. The inner hangings were of blue, purple, and scarlet. All the inner furniture was of gold or overlaid with gold. The Shekinah cloud came to rest on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies and bathed the inner sanctuary with the light and glory of another world.
this is an Old Testament illustration of our Lord’s glory
- it was a hidden glory
- when God came to this world in the flesh he did not lay aside his deity, but he veiled his glory
- in his humanity, the Prophet Isaiah describes him as an ordinary looking man
- “ ... He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2, NIV84)
when John writes, We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, it’s a reference to the glorified Jesus he first saw at the transfiguration and then after the resurrection it’s a glory that will be witnessed by the entire world at our Lord’s Second Coming
B. GOD COMMISSIONS MEN WHO KNOW HIM TO BE LIGHT BEARERS
- “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” (John 1:6–7, NIV84)
- “John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” (John 1:15, NIV84)
- God has chosen to work through saved men to evangelize lost men
- ILLUS. Like the moon that orbits our Earth, we have no light of our own, but when the light of the sun hits it gives off an illumination for all to see. We worship each Sunday so that the light shines on us will be reflected to others all week long!
there are some Christians here this morning who have ceased to reflect the light of Christ Jesus
- maybe you need a dose of his glory in your life!
III. THE LIVING WORD IS GOD'S HOPE FOR A CONDEMNED HUMANITY
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is the only hope for the lost sinner
- he provides spiritual light, which illuminates the hearts and minds of men as to their spiritual poverty without him
- once a man has received that spiritual illumination he has a choice as to how he will respond
A. MANY WILL BE CONDEMNED BECAUSE THEY SIMPLY IGNORE HIM
- v. 10 "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."
- to them the light is an inconvenience which only momentarily distracts them from their own efforts and pursuits
- to them the light of Christ is like a flash bulb
- it's momentarily bright and attracts our attention, but only for a moment
B. MANY BE CONDEMNED BECAUSE THEY HAVE OPENLY REJECTED HIM
- V. 11 "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
- some men hate the light because it reveals their evil deeds and sinful nature
- when the light illuminates their life they hate it and scurry like rats away from it
C. A FEW WILL BE COMMENDED BECAUSE THEY ENTHUSIASTICALLY RECEIVE HIM
- John 1:12 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name"
- some will openly embrace the light, they will come to it and joyfully receive the one who shines his light upon them
Some of you here this morning need to experience the New Birth. It is not a physical birth. According to John, being born again is not something you can accomplish of your own will and desire. The new birth is entirely of God. This new birth is made possible because "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus Christ is the living Word. He came into the world to experience life as you do, to know the hurts and pains and temptations we all go through. He came to bring you light and life.