He who comes after me stands among you. 1:14-18
John continues his prologue with a description of the unique character of Christ and so gives a thumbnail sketch of the profound theology which he lays out in this gospel. In v1-5 John gives us a cosmological view of Jesus, and then, in v6-8 he goes on to record the witness of the Baptist. In v9-13 John describes the entry of God's creative Word into our time and space, and then, in v14-18, he explains the prime function of the creative Word's presence, namely, the revelation and gift of God's enduring and dependable grace.
v14. John now gives us a deeper insight into the Logos, the Word. He tells us that the Word is the ultimate disclosure, the ultimate revelation, of God to humanity. This divine Word which is God, was incarnate (infleshed in a human person) and took up residence among his people in a personal way, cf. Ex.25:9. The apostles have personally seen the incarnate Word, they have seen God's best-loved Son in all his glory, the glorious witness of one who exudes dependable grace. The phrase "grace and truth" actually comes from the Old Testament and is translated in the Greek Old Testament as "mercy and truth". The phrase is used to describe the covenant mercy of God, his gracious constancy, his dependable kindness toward his people. Jesus, the incarnate Word, radiates this kindness, this grace, a radiance that far exceeds the shining glory of the divine presence that once filled the temple.
v15. In this aside, John makes the point that not only have the apostles seen the incarnate Son, but the Baptist has also seen him and has testified to the fact that although the ministry of Jesus followed his, Jesus' ministry takes precedence over his.
v16. The incarnate Word is the source of limitless dependable grace, not just for the apostles, but for everyone. God's grace in Christ transcends his kindness toward Israel in the past. The NIV has grace (a kindness of God) piling up on another, "grace upon grace", although some commentators argue that it is one grace, the grace of the law, being replace by the grace of Christ.
v17. The law, given through Moses, exhibits God's special kindness toward his historic people Israel, but the dependable grace that comes to us through Jesus totally transcends God's kindness in the past.
v18. Although no human has ever seen the living God, we have seen something of him in his law, particularly in the interplay between justice and mercy. Yet in Christ, "the unique one", the divine incarnate Son who is intimately associated with the Father, we learn of dependable grace. The living God is displayed (revealed and exegeted) in the enduring merciful loving kindness of Christ. Jesus conveys the idea of grace to us and in that idea we discover God.
The prologue to John's gospel identifies the unique nature of God's gracious constancy in Christ - He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Source some examples of this truth from the gospel itself.
God's gracious constancy |
In the Old Testament, God's presence in the temple is described as a glowing mist. This "glory" of the Lord is called the Shekina. When Moses confronted the Lord's glory, his face actually radiated. It was such an awesome sight that the people asked Moses to cover his face for they feared to look upon it. As the nation Israel staggered toward its destruction, the glory of the Lord abandoned the temple and so God's people were left with a mere empty building.
Not many believers are mystics, but at the same time, there are not many believers who would pass up on the opportunity of experiencing the presence of the divine, to see the inner light of God's glory. For myself, I actually climbed a mountain to confront the divine. I was facing one of those testing times and I thought it was about time Jesus made himself known to me. I ended up sitting on a rock fending off a nest of bull-ants. So much for a heightened awareness of the divine. So, I discovered that the Lord's glory is not found on the top of a mountain - nor even in a garden, an argument often been put to me by those who wished to justify their less than regular attendance at church!
Where then do we confront the divine, where do we touch the eternal living God, where do we experience the inner light? John tells us that the apostles saw the glory of the Lord in the incarnate Word, in the person of Jesus, the one who had donned our humanity. They saw in him gracious constancy. The NIV calls it "grace and truth", but the phrase actually comes from the Old Testament and is used to describe God. He is a God who loves his people with enduring love, enduring mercy and kindness. The point is that this grace, now present in Jesus, completely transcends God's kindness in the past. The historic people of Israel knew something of God's loving kindness, particularly in the law, but his enduring grace in Christ transcends all that has gone before. The Baptist saw this grace in Jesus and unquestioningly gave Jesus precedence.
There is something wondrous about God's grace. Jesus reveals the grace of God, and in that revelation we witness the glory of God, we confront the divine. The idea of the boundless loving kindness of God found in Jesus somehow catches us up into the heavenlies; it lifts us up from ourselves; it transcends the present; it facilitates the imminence of God. The dynamism of God's overflowing grace in Christ rests with its active nature. On recognizing the truth we receive it - it acts upon us. God's mercy in Christ washes over us and we are clean, his glory radiates out onto us and we glow.
So, read of Christ and learn of his grace.
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons