Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

Worship Gatherings

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January 5th, 2013 by Ryan


Today is a day of new beginnings for this church fellowship. It seems fitting as this month is ripe with symbolism of fresh starts and change. It is also the last day of the Christmas season (the 12th day of Christmas). January 6th, Epiphany. Epiphany is traditionally the Christian feast celebrating the revelation that God became man.

According to Wikipedia:

Epiphany, which traditionally falls on January 6, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.

Not only are we celebrating the physical manifestation of God in flesh, but we are also celebrating the opening of the God’s promise to everyone else… meaning us.

Today we celebrate “The Word became flesh”. It is only fitting that we begin a journey through the gospel according to John. But before we crack open John, let’s take a look a the man who held the pen.
John was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He literally walked, lived, and ate with Him. He was probably the youngest of the disciples and was most likely (although the Bible never specifically says) in his mid-twenties when Jesus walked up to his boat and called him and his brother James to “Follow Me”. John also had the honor of being known as “The Disciple that Jesus Loved”. John loved Jesus and developed a intimate friendship which probably looked like a close relationship between an older and younger brother.

John was fiery. He was an enthusiastic 20-something trying to understand what Jesus came to do. This is probably why Jesus gave him the nickname, “Son of Thunder”.

John was there in some of the most intimate moments we read about in Jesus’ life with the Disciples. The very end of the Gospels we read about the Transfiguration. The day where Jesus reveled the perfection of life in heaven. Moses and Elijah came down to earth in their new bodies. Thomas Aquinas, (famous Italian Dominican Priest) considered this event the GREATEST miracle Jesus performed on earth. Yeah, John was there for that.

Remember when Jesus broke bread with the Disciples and revealed God’s ultimate plan for salvation? We see this event immortalized in the painting of Leonardo Da Vinci. Yeah, John was there for that. In fact John actually set the table for the feast. Jesus asked Peter and John to go ahead and set up the table for the feast. We have all set a table up for a meal before. Usually it’s nothing special. But John set THAT table. This is intense. This is another instance revealing the trust Jesus had in John.

Remember when Jesus goes into the garden of Gethsemane before the betrayal and later crucifixion? Where Jesus prays to God so fervently that He literally sheds drops of blood? Yeah, John was there. Jesus only asked three of the disciple to accompany him and John was one of them.

According to the Bible, two disciples followed Jesus that night from trial to trial. They witnessed the corruption of trumped up false accusations that Jesus was charged with. Yeah, John was there. He and Peter followed Jesus and observed the events.

When Jesus was stripped, beaten and crucified on the cross the Bible only mentions one Disciple that was there. There may have been others, but the Bible specifically mentions one. Yeah, John was there too. To him this was personal. He had walked and lived with Jesus. This was probably emotionally devastating, but John was there. Jesus looks down from the cross and speaks to John. Jesus entrusts the care of his earthly mother to John.

John was trusted by Jesus. John was actually there when Jesus performed the many awesome wonders and miracles. John was also there in the ordinary times. This is what makes John’s gospel so special.

John was the last of the four Gospels to be written. He takes a different approach to relaying the story of Jesus’ life than the other three gospels. Matthew Henry says of the differences between John’s gospel and the other three in his commentary:

That he relates what they had omitted; he brings up the rear, and his gospel is as the rearward or gathering host; it gleans up what they has passed by.(…)
That he gives us more of the mystery of that of which the other evangelists gave us only the history.(…)

John is my favorite Gospel to read. It flows with creativity and literary illustrations. John uses this language to help convey the majesty of the story of Christ. He uses the language of man to reveal the mysteries of God.

Now that we have looked at the history of John and gained a little perspective into his Gospel Let’s read the Word of God together. If you would, open up your Bible to the gospel according to John. I will be reading from the ESV which might be slightly different from the NIV translations available at your pew.

The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)

This verses are amazing. There is a doctorate level thesis worth of theology in these three verses. So hold on tight…
In this passage John refers to Jesus as the “Word” capital “W”. John is playing on something that was important to both Jews and the Greeks at this time in history. The concept of word or “Logos” was powerful and unchanging. The Jews used this as another name for God. The Greeks believed words were the only thing stable in an ever changing world. Now we have a different understanding of talk or words. We have a cliche in english that states, “Talk is cheap” This phrase calls out words that have no action behind it. The Word of God is not cheap as it has actions and the full power of Christ behind it. The Word of God, if applied to our lives appropriately, is an active agent of change and of God’s will for the world. Also, God’s word accomplishes things. God spoke the world into existence. He said “Let there be light, and BAM there was light.” This is true power. John is riding on this theme to convey the power of Jesus.

There are three major ideas that are in these verses. John establishes Jesus as:

  1. Existing in the beginning of time. “In the beginning was the Word” Jesus is eternal and has always been.
  2. Existing with and a part of God in one person. “..The Word was with God and the Word was God” Jesus and God are one in the same. In such Jesus has the Power of God.
  3. Actively participating in the creation of the world. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus was responsible for the creation of everything we see in this universe. John makes sure to explicitly state that all was created through Jesus. He had an active role.

In these verses John proves the full deity of Christ… that all the Old Testament relates about God is also true of Jesus. It also establishes validity to the Christian faith. Again I turn to Matthew Henry’s commentary. He says this of the John proving the validity of the Christian faith:

This proves the excellency of the Christian religion, that the author and founder of it is the same that was the author and founder of the world. How excellent must that constitution needs be which derives its institution from him who is the fountain of all excellency! When we worship Christ, we worship him to whom the patriarchs gave honour as the Creator of the world, and on whom all creatures depend.

I really like what he said there. I feel it captures the idea behind this passage.

Let’s continue in verses 4-5.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

In Him is Life. Life is connected to Jesus. He created the world; everything through him and without him nothing was made. All creatures breathing have this connection with God. We see this connection again between Life and the Word of God in Matthew when Jesus states:

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

Man was made in the image of God. I believe that light of men mentioned here is referring to is the eternal nature of the soul of man and our connection to the image of God. It is this light that sets us apart from animals. Jesus’ life is our light. Of this concept Matthew Henry says:

The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, and it was the eternal Word that lighted this candle. The light of reason, as well as the life of sense, is derived from him, and depends upon him.

This light shines in the darkness. It is important to note that this is present tense. Meaning the light shined in the darkness and still shines in the darkness today.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The darkness is a metaphor to the corruption of this world. Jesus shines his light in this darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

The ESV and the NIV both use the word “Overcome” to describe the darkness’ reaction to the light. Other translations talk about the darkness not understanding the light. The basic idea is that there is a separation between dark and light. Kind of like oil and water. The light does not destroy the darkness nor does the darkness envelop the light. They coexist and contrast each other. Life and Death. This is a picture of absolutes.

Mankind is part of this darkness. When the light of God shines upon us our hearts either embrace it or war against it. We either stand in the light and realize that we are broken and need the strength of Jesus to restore us. Or we resist and run and hide from the light. Like a fugitive caught in a spotlight we either repent or we fight and stay on the run. We have to release the darkness as it cannot exist in the light as it cannot overcome it.

In the next part of this chapter John sets up an introduction to another John, John the Baptist.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (John 1:6-8)

John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the hearts of man for the light. John the Baptist was an ambassador for the true King.

The second part of this passage is very important. John (the author) states that John the Baptist was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. Sometimes we forget this. I am not the light. This church is not the light. We are not the Light. As part of mankind we are part of the darkness. When we lay our sins at the feet of God we can be in the light. We are not light in and of our own self. Jesus is the light. We are light bearers. We can share the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

The true light which enlightens everyone… John used the verses prior to this one to establish Jesus as the true Light. We can note that John uses very inclusive language in this section. The light enlightens everyone. We are given a choice and we can follow or not follow God, but no one is excluded from accepting the grace of God. Jesus came to the world he created and his people were so corrupted by darkness they didn’t recognize what was in front of them was the creator of the universe. But we all have a opportunity to accept his grace and become children of God. This is an open invitation; Jew, Gentile, Black White, Male, and Female it doesn’t matter. This is not an exclusive club. If we believe in his name Jesus has given us the right to become children of God. We are grafted to the family tree of christ. Not by blood but by spirit.
Let’s continue:

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. (John 1:14)

Did you notice John’s version of the Christmas story? And to think some people don’t think there is one in John… LIke we talked about earlier there is less history and more mystery to John’s gospel.

( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:15-16)

John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus and made certain to point the glory to the Lord because he knew he was not the light. Because of Jesus grace is heaped upon us. This is true divine generosity. Grace upon grace based on the fullness of Christ. That is a lot of grace.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:17-18)

In this section John lays out the progression of redemption. First we had the law. This Law was given by moses and was a band-aid for our inequity. Grace and truth came from Jesus. This is the perfection of God’s redemption. Through Jesus we can truly know God. Jesus acts as an intercessor between us and the Father.

In these passages John has laid down a great foundation. It grants you perspective to the true nature of the Gospel.

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