I. HE BECAME FLESH
John chapter 1, verse 14, is one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring verses in the Bible. It reveals a mystery that we can’t comprehend with our finite minds. The apostle John has been saying that the “Logos”, the “Word”, used by the Greeks to describe the force that created the universe and holds it together, is actually the Creator-God. Now he is saying, in verse 14, that this Creator-God “became flesh”. The verb is in the aorist tense, signifying an action that took place at a point in time. By “becoming flesh” the Word became something that He previously was not. He not only assumed a human body, but took on the whole nature of man: body, soul, and spirit. He took on our limitations. Romans 8:3 says that He took on “the likeness of sinful flesh”, but “He knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21). Martin Luther said of Jesus, “He sunk Himself into human flesh”. That’s a long way to sink!
In his book entitled “Miracles”, British author C.S. Lewis uses several illustrations to try to depict the incarnation of Jesus Christ. His illustration of the diver is somewhat similar to the previous statement made by Martin Luther.
“Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing downward through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light; down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.”
As we consider the incarnation, let’s be reminded that Jesus Christ was not a created being. He is the Creator, but He chose to become part of His creation at a specific place and time in human history. His essence, divine nature, and oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit did not change. We cannot understand how this can be, but we can accept it by faith.
One of the early church fathers, Augustine of Hippo, expressed his amazement. He said that in his pre-Christian days he had read and studied the great pagan philosophers and had read many things, but he had never read that the word became flesh. To the Greeks that was impossible and ridiculous.
II. HE DWELT AMONG US
Here in verse 14, John describes Christ’s incarnation in three words, in contrast to the 2500 words used by the Gospel writer Luke. He “dwelt among us”. The Greek word translated “dwell” is “eskenosen”, which means “to pitch a tent”. He “tabernacled among us” is another way to put it. The tabernacle in the Old Testament was made of plain white linen. The glory of the tabernacle was hidden inside. There was no beauty in its outward appearance. So too, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ was a hidden glory. When He came to pitch his tent among us, He did not lay aside His deity, but He did veil His glory.
The tabernacle in the Old Testament was only a temporary dwelling place. It was used while the people of Israel were journeying in the wilderness and until the temple of Solomon was built (Exodus 24:8; 40:34-35; I Kings 8:10-12). It’s interesting to note that the people of Israel used the tabernacle in the wilderness for a little less than 35 years, the approximate lifetime of the Lord Jesus on this earth.
III. WE BEHELD HIS GLORY
Years ago an old pioneer journeyed westward across the Great Plains of North America until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked at the sight before him – a vast chasm 1 mile deep, 18 miles across, and stretching out of sight. He gasped, “Something must have happened here!” (Our Daily Bread, 12/22/02)
Something even more amazing happened when the Creator-God came to His earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures declare it and changed lives continue to provide evidence for His birth, life, death, and resurrection.
John says, “we beheld His glory”. This may bring to your minds the Shekinah glory that filled the tabernacle in the wilderness. When the pillar of cloud that guided them by day would begin to settle down, there the sons of Israel would camp. Once the tabernacle was set up, the cloud would settle over the tabernacle (Numbers 9). Exodus chapter 40 describes the glory of the Lord. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. . . . For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”
The apostle John knew this information since childhood, having grown up in a Jewish home. But John and the other disciples had the privilege of witnessing this glory in the Person of Jesus Christ for about three years. “The Word” was not an abstract concept but a real Person. John begins his first epistle with these words: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life.”
John, Peter, and James were with Jesus when He was transfigured before them. His garments became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him and were talking to Him (Mt. 17; Mk. 9). What a spectacle that must have been! But John is writing here about the inner glory that he saw in the Lord Jesus.
John was the “beloved disciple”, the one who knew Jesus so intimately. He describes Jesus as One who was “full of grace and truth”. This is a Hebrew expression for the fullness of the revelation of God. “Grace” reveals God as love; “truth” reveals God as light.
The words “grace and truth” would probably bring to the minds of his Jewish readers two passages of Scripture from the book of Exodus. One of them is in Exodus 33, and the other in chapter 34. God tells Moses once again to make two stone tablets and meet with Him again on Mount Sinai. Moses makes this request of God in Exodus 33:18: “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” In responding to Moses, God first describes Himself to Moses. Then He responds to Moses’ request and describes Himself more fully. I think you will gain a greater understanding of the meaning of grace as a result of reflecting upon God’s description of Himself. This is what God says in Exodus 33:19 and in 34:6: “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. , , , Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.’ “
I believe that the Lord Jesus demonstrated those qualities of God in His character and His actions while He was here on this earth. I also believe that the apostle John is purposely using the words “full of grace and truth” to connect his description of Christ in his Gospel with God’s description of Himself in the Old Testament Scriptures. The best Person to give an accurate description of God is God Himself, and He has been gracious enough to do so through various means.
In the next passage of Scripture, verses 15-18, John will be elaborating on the words of verse 14 more fully. In the meantime, I’ve been reading and re-reading a poem written by Marv and Marbeth Rosenthal entitled: “Mary Had The Little Lamb”. It briefly describes the Person, life and ministry of Jesus Christ from beginning to end. If you’ve never read this poem before, I encourage you to read it several times. If you are familiar with the poem, please read it again. Here it is:
Mary had the little Lamb, who lived before His birth
Self-existent Son of God, from heaven He came to earth.
Mary had the little Lamb; see Him in yonder stall–
Virgin-born Son of God, to save man from the Fall.
Mary had the little Lamb, obedient Son of God;
Everywhere the Father led, His feet were sure to trod.
Mary had the little Lamb, crucified on the tree,
The rejected Son of God, He died to set men free.
I Peter 1:18-19
Mary had the little Lamb — men placed Him in the grave,
Thinking they were done with Him; to death He was no slave!
Mary had the little Lamb, ascended now is He,
All work on earth is ended, our Advocate is be.
Mary had the little Lamb — mystery to behold!
From the Lamb of Calvary, a Lion will unfold.
When the Day Star comes again, of this be very sure,
It won’t be Lamb-like silence, but with the Lion’s roar.
May you experience the meaning of the grace and truth that are in Christ Jesus; and may you experience the joy and peace that come as a result of knowing Him personally, depending upon Him completely, and giving Him all the glory.