Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Who is Jesus and where did he come from? (John 1:1-5)

Who is Jesus? Where did he come from? What was he doing there? Did he leave there? We could ask lots of questions, but the important feature about questions is whether or not there are any answers. The good thing for us is that all legitimate questions about Jesus will find answers in the Bible.

If there is one word that sums up what John says about Jesus in 1:1-5 of his Gospel, it is greatness. Note first the time reference that John gives – he refers to ‘in the beginning’. I assume he is referring to the commencement of earthly history, to the same period as is mentioned in Genesis 1:1. Of course, he could be referring to how far back we can go in our thinking. Whenever it was, John says that Jesus was there when it all began. 

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a situation where a great person was a neighbour. I would think about where he came from and what his origins were. Here John commences his description of Jesus by saying that he was there in the beginning. Before anything else existed, Jesus did. In other words, he is saying that Jesus is eternal.

Not only does John say that Jesus was there in the beginning, but he also says who Jesus was with. Jesus was with the Father. There are several Greek prepositions that are translated by the English word ‘with’. In English, the word ‘with’ may not be very precise. For example, I could be with somebody and yet not be connected to him, or I could be with somebody but not paying attention to him, and yet I am said to be with such. The word that is translated here as ‘with’ means ‘towards’ or ‘face to face’. Another way of saying this would be to say Jesus was enjoying intimate fellowship with God. So here is John saying something that points to the greatness of Jesus – in eternity he as the Son of God could look at God without flinching.

How could he do this? John goes on to give the answer when he says that Jesus himself was also God. Right away we are brought to consider something very profound, which is that there is more than one person in the Godhead. We know from elsewhere that there are three persons, because the Holy Spirit is also God. The God we worship is the Trinity, and this is the most amazing reality about the living God. There are not three Gods, only one. 

Since Jesus was divine, it means that Jesus as the Son of God could look at God fully – he understands who he is looking towards, and he can look at God endlessly because since he is divine he is also eternal. Remember that John is pointing his readers to consider the greatness of Jesus. Imagine trying to hold God’s gaze forever. The only one who could do so would have to be God’s equal. And that is who Jesus is.

John gives to Jesus an unusual name when he calls him the Word. Such a title may seem a bit abstract to us, but I don’t think John is being difficult or obscure when he uses it. Instead, I would suggest that he is telling us that Jesus before he came was interacting with the Father and I suspect that we can deduce some other activities from this title. So here are some suggestions.

What would they have been interacting about? I would say that two topics would be these, and in a sense they would be the topics that were available for discussion back then. First, they would speak to one another about their own excellencies, which in their cases describes everything about them – they are equal in power and glory. Second, they would speak about their plans, about what they were going to do. 

It looks, from the way that John describes things, that nothing else existed during the beginningless period described in verse 1. But John goes on to describe something of that plan in the next couple of verses, and bear in mind that he is presenting the greatness of Jesus in order that we can put our trust in him. We will consider them tomorrow. Meanwhile, think of how great Jesus is!

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