There’s a great movie out at the moment called “Stranger Than Fiction”. It’s a comedy starring Will Ferrell, who plays a Tax auditor. One day he begins hearing in his head the voice of an author, played by Emma Thompson, narrating her new novel.
The twist is/ it’s a novel about HIM. And as he DOES things and THINKS things during the day, she narrates them as they happen. As she types the words onto the page, he DOES the things she types.
He IS the main character in her new novel. He LIVES her new novel. He thinks he’s going crazy.
What would it be like if your author – the one who’d invented and created you began to communicate with you! What would it sound like? What would you THINK? How would you begin to get your head around it?
How would it change the way you viewed your life? What sort of perspective would it give you?
I know it’s only a movie. But perhaps it’s NOT so crazy. Because, as bizarre as it sounds, it’s not the FIRST time/ the AUTHOR has contacted the CHARACTERS.
You see, that’s exactly what John Ch 1 is describing. These verses we’re looking at today. But HERE, instead of the characters in a novel, it’s REAL! The AUTHOR of THE UNIVERSE – God himself – has contacted his creatures – humankind.
John 1 is no less mind-blowing than the movie. Because it describes how the eternal God, who’s outside history, outside time and matter, outside the world we can comprehend. Chose to ENTER it. To COMMUNICATE with the characters he’d created.
Communicating with God is something people the world over have been interested in since the beginning of time. The Mind Body Spirit festival at Darling Harbour offers you hundreds of different ways of communicating with God – whoever you think God might be. It’s a smorgasbord of spiritualities.
From the run-of-the mill psychics, astrologers, crystal ball and tarot card readers. To Madi Nolan who offers to help you to capture the images of vortex centres and nature spirits. She says – the secret of her success is that she has a magic altar cloth from a monastery in Nepal.
Or visit the stall of Flying Souls… An Australian company, founded to assist people to find their inner guidance, to feel at peace with their psychic or intuitive gifts, and to connect with the jewel of unconditional love that resides within.
If your love life has been a bit flat lately, you can go to the stall of Oceana and Icarus who will give you tips on Tantric lovemaking and relationships. You can learn how to reconcile uality and spirituality.
But everyone of these attempts shares the same basic problem.
It’s impossible for THE CREATION to bridge the gap to the CREATOR. Unless he decides the ground rules.
It’s impossible for the CHARACTERS to contact the AUTHOR. To the one who’s decided the way the story will work.
We’ve got no way of knowing what God is like. Unless he TELLS US HOW. Unless he makes the first move.
CS Lewis struggled to believe in God. But as it gradually dawned on him that God was REAL, he realised how IMPOSSIBLE it was to make contact with God. Here’s what he says in his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy”
It gradually dawned on me that “Even if my own philosophy were true (about what God was like), HOW COULD THE INITIATIVE LIE ON MY SIDE? …if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing. Hamlet could initiate nothing.”
If the Author and the character are going to meet. It’s up to the AUTHOR to write the story in such a way that it’s POSSIBLE. TO WRITE HIMSELF INTO THE STORY, so he can meet his characters.
Unless God chose to make himself known to people, there’d be NO CHANCE. We’d always be groping in the dark trying to discover where God was. What he was like. And what he wanted. Deaf and dumb and blind.
1. The Word (v1-5)
But in these verses, we read of God. Who DOES write himself into the story. Who COMMUNICATES with us. Who communicates by A WORD. Look at v1-5. It paints the whole picture in the broadest of brush strokes.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
It’s talking about JESUS. God’s Son. And this short paragraph says some incredible things about him. But the most obvious is the TITLE he’s given – THE WORD.
Now, theologians have written enough books to fill the room about that title. But at its most basic, it’s fairly simple. Words COMMUNICATE. We use words to tell people about ourselves. What we’re like, what we’re thinking. How we’re feeling.
It’s perhaps not until we DON’T have them/ that we realise how DEPENDENT we are on WORDS. Some of you may remember the Priems – they came here for a while a number of years ago. And they’re PROFOUNDLY DEAF.
And I’d stand next to them at morning tea, and try and communicate. I didn’t know sign language, and they couldn’t HEAR my words. We made do with the very barest of symbols and words. I couldn’t tell if things were going well or badly for them. How their week had been.
I had NO IDEA what it was like to be deaf. What it was like to drive, or communicate on the phone, or be part of church, or even to go shopping or to the bank. It was very frustrating for BOTH of us. If I wanted to communicate well, I’d have to learn their language.
Without words that communicate, we’re IN THE DARK.
But these verses tell us that God HAS spoken. Spoken through his WORD. His SON – his PERSONAL SELF-EXPRESSION. God learned our language, so he could communicate with us.
We’re not told the SPECIFICS just yet. Exactly how the word COMMUNICATES. But we DO know that it’s ACCURATE. Whatever God is. The WORD is. The WORD communicates him PRECISELY and COMPLETELY.
Have a look at it there. “In the beginning was the Word”. He’s ETERNAL – just like God. Not bound by time. He was there before the Universe existed. OUTSIDE of space and matter.
You might hear people say, “I was there when they opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the Opera House, or when man first walked on the moon in 1969.” It shows you’ve been around for a while.
Well, how about, “I was there when Sydney Harbour was first carved out of the earth.” And “I was there when the moon and all the stars were put in place.” See this is Jesus. He’s ALWAYS BEEN.
But not just EXISTED forever – he’s brought everything ELSE into existence. “Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made”. He was the AGENT OF CREATION.
But not only THAT. In some way that’s not explained, not only was he WITH God, and the agent by which God CREATED the Universe. But he WAS God. The exact representation of who God is. A completely accurate expression. He was WITH GOD, and he WAS God.
2. The Word made flesh – God in a bod.
But that’s not all. Like the movie “Stranger than fiction”, and like Shakespeare writing himself into his play. God SPOKE to his characters. Spoke by means of his WORD. His SON. Jump down to v14, and see HOW the word communicated.
14 The Word became FLESH and made his DWELLING among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God didn’t just speak his world into existence. He spoke TO his world. Communicated himself. But he didn’t send an email, he didn’t write a message across the clouds. No live satellite telecast.
The ETERNAL God/ entered TIME. The INVISIBLE God became VISIBLE. The INFINITE AND POWERFUL God became FINITE AND FRAGILE.
He learned our language. The word became flesh. Wrapped himself in skin, bones, hair and . Complete with tears and sweat. God in a bod. He wrote himself into our story.
It’s almost too incredible to imagine. Even weirder than any movie.
But for those of you who know your Old Testaments, there’s a whole range of HINTS here in v14. Hints that can help us begin to get our heads around this mind-blowing truth.
The first hint is the phrase MADE HIS DWELLING. It’s literally he TABERNACLED among us. And the picture is of Moses and the people of Israel in the desert. When God was leading them to the Promised Land represented by a cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire at night.
And God told Moses to make a TENT called the Tabernacle, or the Tent of Meeting. Where God would come down and meet with his people. Listen to what he promised (Ex 29:44-46)
44 “So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar …. 45 Then I will DWELL among the Israelites and be their God.
And so the people built the tabernacle. And when it was finally finished, God KEPT his promise. Ex 40:33. He came and DWELT with his people.
34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the GLORY of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out–until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.
It’s a picture John wants to remind us of. The glory of God meeting with, and dwelling among, his people. Because it helps to get our heads around the GREATER intrusion of God into his world. Not in the form of a cloud and a voice. But in the fleshly form of a person.
But there’s ANOTHER hint John’s giving us. To help us understand. There in the NEXT phrase in v14.
We have seen his GLORY, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.
I think John wants to remind us about ANOTHER event from Moses’ life. And it would be good for you to look this one up) Exodus 33 and 34 – (p64).
Moses is having a tough time with the people. And he prays that God would SHOW HIM HIS GLORY. (That’s 33:18) Moses wants God to REVEAL HIS WAYS to help Moses lead the people better.
God agrees. He says. (Ex 33:19-23)
“I will cause all my GOODNESS to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence…20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, FOR NO ONE MAY SEE ME AND LIVE.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my GLORY passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
And that’s just what happens. A few verses on. Ex 34:5-7
5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
I want you to notice that EVEN MOSES couldn’t SEE God. He got to see the GLORY of God. The RADIANCE of his presence. Like the glow that’s around the candle, but not the direct candle flame itself. Because God says that no one may see him and LIVE.
But flip back over to Jon 1:14. Because I want you to notice the incredible claim John makes in v14. That he and HIS READERS have SEEN the Glory of God. Something Moses COULDN’T. The glory which is Jesus.
The ONLY one who can reflect God himself because he’s THE ORIGINAL – The ONE AND ONLY who’s come from the Father. Perfectly revealing God’s character.
Just like GOD proclaimed before Moses that he was compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. So Jesus himself, God’s revealed GLORY, his WORD, is FULL of GRACE and TRUTH.
John continues to draw the comparison. These two examples of God communicating with his creatures. Down in v16.
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received ONE BLESSING after ANOTHER. 17 For the LAW was given through MOSES; GRACE AND TRUTH CAME THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
The FIRST blessing was God’s revealing of himself to MOSES. But the SECOND blessing. The much GREATER blessing is God’s revelation through Jesus. Because it’s in Jesus that we SEE GOD HIMSELF.
Moses couldn’t see God. And he was the closest anyone ever got. Until Jesus that is. Because Jesus, as God’s WORD, As God HIMSELF has MADE HIM KNOWN.
3. Listening to the Word
Which really begs the question “What do you DO with information like that?” If God has gone to such incredible lengths to speak a WORD to you. To show you what he’s like. Then how do you respond to that?
It’s fairly obvious. You make sure you’re LISTENING. When someone as important as God has something to SAY, you make sure you’re listening.
It’s like being on a plane before take-off. And the stewards are explaining the safety procedures. Where the life jackets are, where the face masks will drop from. Where the exits are.
Important information, you’d think! But do people listen? No! They’re busy reading magazines, playing with their computers, listening to their iPods. “It’ll never happen. And they’re only stewards! What would THEY know?”
But imagine if, in the middle of the flight, the CAPTAIN came over the PA. “We’ve had a problem. One engine’s dropped off. The other one’s on fire. We’re going to crash into the sea. I want you to listen VERY CAREFULLY to the safety instructions. What I will tell you may save your life!”
He would have everyone’s 100% undivided attention. They LISTEN to every word. And then they’d DO IT.
And it’s the same with God. He’s spoken a WORD to us. We need to make sure we’re LISTENING.
And, even though we’ll find out more in the weeks ahead, we get a fair idea from this introduction. About what it means to LISTEN to his WORD. Have a look there from v10.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not RECOGNIZE him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not RECEIVE him.
Plenty of people who treat the message of Jesus like the airline passengers treat the safety lecture. “Not interested. I’m too busy. It’ll never happen”
But not everyone refuses to listen to God’s WORD. V12.
12 Yet to all who RECEIVED him, to those who BELIEVED in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- 13 children born not of descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The FIRST thing to do with God’s word is to RECEIVE it. To ACCEPT it. To recognise that, in Jesus, God really IS communicating to us.
And the second thing/ that John’s Gospel will keep saying again and again/ is we need to BELIEVE in his NAME. To TRUST his AUTHORITY. To place our confidence in his life, and words, and work. Which, as the story builds to its climax, we discover centres on his and RESURRECTION. A sacrifice that pays the price for our sin. That restores our friendship with the Father.
To RECEIVE and to BELIEVE. That’s how you LISTEN.
And if that’s something YOU DO, then this verse makes an incredible claim. At least as incredible as anything else in this section.
If you’re someone who’s RECEIVED Jesus. And who’s BELIEVED in his NAME. Then v12 says that Jesus has given you the right to BECOME A CHILD OF GOD. A child not born the normal way – you only do that once. But BORN OF GOD.
Nobody else could do it. But the author has created the plotline. God has ADOPTED us into the FAMILY.
The cost of the adoption was more than we could ever possibly know. But, from our end, the process is simple. Receive and believe.
I saw a documentary a few weeks ago about a family adopting a little from overseas. And let me tell you, the whole process took AGES. The paperwork they had to go through was enough to give you the horrors, and the interviews and tests. And the COST was huge. Something like $17000. And then there was the EMOTIONAL cost. The disappointments. The misunderstandings. The tears. The let-downs.
But then came the day when they travelled to meet their new daughter. She had no idea about how much it had taken. No idea of the cost. But, in the end, it didn’t matter. Because all she needed to do was put her hands out. And be lifted up into the arms of her new father. Simple as that. And she was part of the family.
Which is just what she did.
And, can I ask you the obvious question? Is that something YOU’VE done? God’s done the incredible thing of communicating his word to you. And the obvious thing to do when your author speaks to you is to LISTEN. To put your arms out when your Father holds out his. Receive and believe. And God will make you part of the family.
If you HAVE done that, then let me encourage you to KEEP doing that. To KEEP listening. To KEEP recognising the glory of God we see reflected in Jesus. Keep letting his LIGHT shine on your life.
Keep obediently FOLLOWING and gratefully WORSHIPPING. In thankful wonder that, even though no one has ever seen God, that God the one and only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. To YOU.