The college I attended offered chapel services every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Usually, we’d sing a few worship songs, and then the main speaker would come up to offer a message. Yet, before the main speaker, before the one we were excited for, came the introduction.
The introduction was often given by a student. While I was never asked to give one, people I knew from my residence hall or from classes got up to the podium to introduce the speaker. Of course, they were more qualified than others to do this because they had a personal relationship with the speaker. They not only knew about their accomplishments, but they could speak to their character.
John 1 is this kind of introduction. The stories and words of Jesus are coming, and readers anticipate those. They are the main event of the Gospel of John. And, as someone who knew Jesus personally, John offers his introduction. And here are three snapshots of how John describes his friend and Savior.
1.) The Word
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)
Immediately, we see the allusion to Genesis 1:1. The first words of John 1 speak an incredible truth. Compare them to the first words of Genesis 1:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Notice the verb created. That means the heavens and the earth were not there until the beginning. And if their creation marked the beginning, then God who did the creating was there before.
And John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” So John is clearly saying Jesus, the Word, was not created but pre-existent. Eternal.
Consider how God created. How did He go about it? He spoke (Genesis 1:3). And what did He do after things were created? He named them: “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5). Language was essential to creation.
John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls Jesus the Word. No wonder he says, “without him was not any thing made that was made.” You can’t speak without the Word.
2.) The True Light
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.(John 1:9)
John is careful to describe Jesus as not only the Word (which carries connotations of truth and reality) but also the objective Word. Jesus is truth. He is reality.
Subjective truth, while it can be helpful and good, provides insights to some people in some place during some stretch of time. Objective truth, however, impacts all people in all places during all times.
John says that Jesus is the “true light” and that He “gives light to everyone.” In other words, if we can see, know, or understand truth, it is because He has given light to us. Jesus is not only the truth but also the way to know the truth.
We all must respond to the light He brings. John tells us that the world did not know Him and did not receive Him (John 1:10-11). What is the consequence of such rejection? Well, John 1:4 tells us what those who reject Him will miss out on:
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
To reject His light is to reject life itself. So, Jesus is truth, He is the way to know truth, and He is the way to have life. Sound familiar?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
3.) The Only God
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)
The only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18)
John claims Jesus the Word. He explains that the truth Jesus brings impacts all people forever. And John also makes one more thing clear: Jesus is unique among all. He is the only God.
The phrase “only Son from the Father” may cause some confusion. “Son” seems to imply that Jesus was created by God, but we can just go back to John 1:1 to see that this cannot be the case. Jesus is eternal.
John 1:18 provides some clarity for the expression “only Son from the Father.” For the latter verse explains that Jesus has made God known to all (see again John 14:6). And so what John means by “Son” is not “creation” but “likeness.”
What is God like? God is holy, which means He is separate. He is unique. God describes Himself in Isaiah 46:
I am God, and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:9)
Jesus is the incarnation of that “none like me” quality of God.
The People Who Knew Jesus Knew He Was Unlike Any Other
John the Baptist knew Jesus was unique, set apart. He told those sent from the Pharisees that “among you stands one you do not know” (John 1:26). Meaning, something totally, categorically different than humanity has ever seen or known is here. John the Baptist knew that human yearning for newness epitomized by Ecclesiastes 1:9 had been fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
Nathanael would come to know of Jesus’s unique nature when Jesus knew he had been under the fig tree. He was so astonished he said, “You are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49)
And readers of the Bible can come to know Jesus as well. As the Creator of the Universe names what He created throughout Genesis 1, so Jesus gives Simon a new name in John 1:42: “Cephas (which means Peter).”
I urge you to embrace life and truth through the only God, Jesus Christ.