The Word Made Flesh
Advent reading for December 24: John 1:1-14
The Gospel writers anchor the coming of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Matthew traces Christ’s genealogy forward from the call of Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1). Luke goes further back, tracing Christ’s genealogy backward to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). But John looks beyond Abraham and Adam to a “time” before time.
THE WORD WAS GOD
John’s opening verse reaches back before human history, before the six days of creation, before time itself. John begins his Gospel in eternity past:
John 1:1 (ESV) — In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Faithful Jews knew that the Scriptures began with the words “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1). Reading John’s Gospel, they would expect the next word to be “God.” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, in John’s Gospel they read, “In the beginning was the Word.” John goes on to say, “and the Word was God.”
So in the beginning, the Word was. The Word was God. He did not become; he did not come into existence; he already was. He eternally “was” because “the Word was God.”
THE WORD WAS WITH GOD
“In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God.” Yet between those two phrases, John wrote, “and the word was with God.” While affirming the deity of the Word (“the Word was God”), he carefully maintains the Word’s distinct identity by repeating in verse 2, “He was in the beginning with God” (pros ton theon). The Word was in a dynamic face-to-face fellowship with God and yet the Word was God. These two truths John holds in tension: the Word was with God and the Word was God. We must not deny either truth.
Jesus affirms this understanding in his prayer to his Father the night before his crucifixion. He refers the glory he shared with his Father before the world began:
John 17:5 (ESV) — And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
THE WORD WITH US
Matthew points to the birth of Christ as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the child born of the virgin would be called Immanuel, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). John speaks of the eternal Word who took on himself humanity and became “flesh” that he might dwell among us:
John 1:14 (ESV) — And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
As we contemplate the meaning of Christmas, we understand that the eternal Word, who was in eternal fellowship with the Father and who came from the Father, took on himself human nature so that through his life and death and resurrection, we too may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).