Sermon title:  “THE WORD BECAME FLESH”

John 1:1-18

   

                            Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 2, 2018

 

 

 

 

Last year we looked at

the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew

and then the next week we looked at

it again in the Gospel of Luke.

 

Matthew starts off with a long series of “begats”

tracing Jesus’ ancestry

through his foster father Joseph

all the way back to the patriarch Abraham.

 

And that genealogy includes King David,

proving Jesus to be eligible to be King of Israel

by inheritance from a long line of kings.

 

Matthew then goes on to tell

how Joseph discovered that his wife-to-be

was pregnant with a child, obviously not his.

 

God then appeared to Joseph in a dream

and explained that Mary had not been unfaithful to him,

but that the Holy Spirit made her pregnant.

 

Luke gives Jesus’ genealogy all the way back

to the first man Adam,

apparently following Mary’s line of descent,

also through King David.

 

Luke tells how the angel Gabriel

announced to Mary the special role God called her to

as the virgin mother of the Son of God.

 

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t relate the Christmas story at all.

Mark picks up the life of Christ

when he is about 30 years old

and presents himself for baptism by John the Baptist.

 

At first glance, it may seem that the Gospel of John

also omits the Christmas story.

 

The opening chapters of John

talk right away about John the Baptist

and his role in baptizing the adult Jesus

and introducing the Christ to his future disciples.

 

But, if we look more closely,

we see that the Christmas story is there, too,

only from a totally different perspective.

 

John actually does report on the birth of Christ—

not from Joseph’s standpoint, or Mary’s,

but from the standpoint of heaven.

 

As we’ll see when we take a closer look,

John tells us

The true light

that gives light to every man

was coming into the world.

 

 And that’s what happened at Christmas: 

Christ came into the world.

 

John tells us,

“the Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us”

 

And that’s what happened on Christmas morning.

 

And John tells us a lot more than that.

 

Because he is looking at things from a heavenly viewpoint,

he tells us who Jesus was before his birth

and what Jesus was doing before his birth, as well.

 

For all the rest of us,

we did not have a previous existence.

 

Our lives began when we were conceived in the womb.

 

We didn’t exist before that.

 

The Mormon church teaches

that we all lived as spirits before we were born as humans.

 

That Salt Lake City, Utah, based church

makes this claim on the basis of teachings

by their false prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young,

but their teachings contradict the Bible.

 

In Zechariah, the next-to-last book of the Old Testament—

in Zechariah Chapter 12, Verse 1,

the Bible makes very clear

that we did not exist as spirits before birth,

but rather our spirit came into existence

when we were formed in our mother’s womb.

Zechariah 12:1 says,

“This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel.

The Lord, who stretches out the heavens,

who lays the foundation of the earth,

and who forms the spirit of man within him.”

 

So, God “forms the spirit of man within him”

when he forms us in our mother’s womb.

 

Our life begins in the womb.

 

The birth of our Lord Jesus

was the only exception to that.

 

John tells us,

“the Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us.”

 

Before he “became flesh”

Jesus was the Word of God,

and he was God.

 

At John 8:58, he told crowds at the temple in Jerusalem,

 

"before Abraham was born, I am!" 

 

Christ is the great I AM.

 

And the miracle of Christmas morning

is that God, the great I AM,

became flesh—

was born as a baby,

so that he could live among us as a man.

 

A moment ago we read John 1:1 in our Responsive Reading,

but let’s look at it more closely now.

 

The first chapter of John

shows us this most amazing aspect of the Christmas story

through the eyes of heaven—

things the angels saw,

but that were invisible to human eyes.

 

It says,

 

1 In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

 

Our Lord Jesus is “the Word.”

 

He was with God in the beginning,

and he was God.

 

Now we’re talking about things we can’t fully understand.

 

They are at the very edge of human comprehension—

heavenly things.

 

1 In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

 

In the beginning means before the universe was made.

 

The Word was already there.

 

He was with God in the beginning.

 

And he was God.

 

We can understand that the Son of God

was with God the Father in the beginning.

 

But how could the Father and the Son both be God,

and yet not be the same person?—

so there is still only one God?

 

“the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

 

We can’t really wrap our heads around that.

 

Theologians can’t really wrap their heads around that.

 

Theologians can describe it with some Greek words

and with some very long English words—

some technical jargon—

which makes it sound like

they understand it better than you and I,

but really they don’t.

 

They throw around expressions like “sui generis”

and “hypostatic union,”

but they really don’t understand

how the Word could be with God and be God.

 

It reminds me of when my wife broke out in hives,

and didn’t know what was causing them.

 

So, we went to see dermatologists at Mass. General in Boston,

and told them she has broken out in hives,

and we don’t know the cause.

 

They gave her all sorts of tests,

and finally gave her the diagnosis:  Idiopathic Uticaria.

 

Well “idiopathic uticaria” is just the Latin words

for hives from an unknown cause.

 

They didn’t understand it any better than we did,

but they attached a fancy name to it,

and that made it sound like they understood it.

 

Well, grasping how Christ, the living Word of God,

was with God in the beginning

and was God

is beyond human understanding.

 

And the theologians who attach fancy names to it

don’t understand it any better than we do.

 

Whether we use simple laymen’s language

or technical theological terms,

it’s still a mystery, and we believe it on faith,

because the Bible tells us it is true.

 

The important thing for us

is that the Word became flesh on Christmas morning

and dwelt among us—

that brings us into a closer relationship with God

than was possible before.

 

At John 14:6, Jesus said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

One of the most profound truths I have ever learned

was taught to me by a little old black lady at church

who told me,

“I didn’t come to know God through any school of theology.

I came to know God through the school of kneeology.”

 

She got to know God

through the time she spent in prayer on her knees.

 

Jesus invites us to pray in his name,

and promises our prayers of faith will be heard.

----------------------------------------

 

John’s Gospel goes on to tell us

that Christ created the whole universe.

 

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.

 

Yes, our Lord Jesus created all things.

“Through him all things were made;

without him nothing was made that has been made.”

 

The Apostle Paul tells us the same thing[  OPEN  ]

in his Letter to the Colossians—

that Jesus created the universe and everything in it.

 

Beginning at Colossians Chapter 1, Verse 16,

Paul says this about Christ:

16 For by him all things were created:

things in heaven and on earth,

visible and invisible,

whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

 

So, Paul says

“by him all things were created:

things in heaven and on earth.”

—just as we read in John’s Gospel.

 

And just as John says the Word was there “in the beginning,”

Colossians 1:17 goes on to say,

 

17 He is before all things,

and in him all things hold together.

 

And regarding Christ’s deity Verse 19 says,

19 For God was pleased

to have all his fullness dwell in him.

 

So, again Paul teaches the full deity of Christ—

that Christ is God—

and that Jesus was before all things

and created all things,

just as we read in John’s Gospel.

 

John continues in John 1:4

 

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.

 

And then in Verse 9,

John resumes the Christmas story

from heaven’s standpoint:

9 The true light

that gives light to every man

was coming into the world.

 

That’s what happened on Christmas morning:

Christ ‘came into the world.’

 

And then Verse 12

tells us the Christmas gift

that Jesus brought for each one of us—

the way to be “born again” as children of God:

It says,

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 natural descent,

nor of human decision

or a husband's will,

but born of God.

 

We are born again—born of God—

when we believe in Jesus,

turning to him as our Savior

and following him as our Lord.

 

Then another miracle happens,

as Jesus comes to live in our hearts

by his Holy Spirit.

-------------------------

 

John now goes on

to relate from heaven’s standpoint

the miracle that occurred on that first Christmas morning:

 

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.

 

Yes, on that very first Christmas morning,

The Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us.

 

Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist

was born 6 months before Jesus,

but God revealed Jesus’ pre-human existence to him

so that, it goes on to say,

15 John testifies concerning him.

He cries out, saying,

"This was he of whom I said,

'He who comes after me

has surpassed me

because he was before me.'"

 

So, John the Baptist knew

that his younger cousin Jesus

‘was before him’—

that Jesus came from heaven,

where he had been from the beginning.

-----------------------------------

 

And Jesus came down from heaven,

bringing Christmas gifts and blessings to all of us:

 

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.

 

And what a wonderful gift it is

to receive God’s “grace and truth” through Jesus Christ.

---------------------------------------

 

Finally, our Responsive Reading concluded

by emphasizing again Christ’s deity

as God at the side of God the Father.

 

18 No one has ever seen God,

but God the One and Only,

who is at the Father's side,

has made him known.

 

Yes, Jesus is the Son of God

and is himself God—

a mystery that blesses us,

even though our human minds

can’t fully comprehend it.

 

Even that familiar Christmas passage at Isaiah 9:6

tells us that the Christmas child

is God:

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

So, even the Old Testament foretells this miracle

of a “child...born, ...a son...given”

who would actually be the “Mighty God.”

 

The New Testament letter to the Hebrews[  OPEN  ]

also pulls back the curtain

that keeps us from seeing heavenly things,

and Hebrews Chapter 1 again gives

the Christmas story from the standpoint of heaven.

 

It says,

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers

through the prophets at many times

and in various ways,

2 but in these last days

he has spoken to us by his Son,

whom he appointed heir of all things,

and through whom he made the universe.

 

So, again, the inspired Scripture is stressing

that Jesus created the whole universe.

 

And then it speaks again of his deity:

 

3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory

and the exact representation of his being,

sustaining all things by his powerful word.

 

Christ is God in the flesh,

the exact representation of the invisible God.

 

But it’s in Verse 6 that we read again

of that Christmas morning

when Christ was born into the world

as a baby in a manger:

 

6 And again,

when God brings his firstborn into the world,

he says,

"Let all God's angels worship him."

 

The angels of heaven bowed down

to worship that little baby in the manger,

because he is God.

 

And he came, not to help angels,

but to bless us,

who are called to be born again as children of God.

 

Turning over a page to Hebrews 2:14, we read

how Jesus came down from heaven on Christmas morning

to be born as a “flesh and blood” human, like us:

 

14 Since the children have flesh and blood,

he too shared in their humanity

so that by his death

he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--

15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

 

Yes, Jesus was born to die.

 

He took on human flesh and blood,

so that he could die for us,

and set us free from sin and death.

 

It goes on to say that he had to become like us—

to be born as flesh and blood—

so that he could help us.

 

16 For surely it is not angels he helps,

but Abraham's descendants.

17 For this reason

he had to be made like his brothers in every way,

in order that he might become

a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement

for the sins of the people.

18 Because he himself suffered

when he was tempted,

he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

Jesus came down from heaven

and was born as a human baby on Christmas morning

so that he could be made like us in every way,

and then suffer and die for us,

to atone for our sins—

to pay the penalty for sin, in our place.

 

Paul’s letter to the Philippians[  OPEN  ]

describes again from heaven’s standpoint

that miracle of Christmas morning

when God became a human baby.

 

Philippians Chapter 2 describes in even more detail

how this miraculous transformation

from God to man took place.

 

Beginning at Verse 5, we read,

 

5 Your attitude should be the same

as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God

something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

 

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death

even death on a cross!

 

But Jesus’ death on the cross

wasn’t the end of the matter.

 

9 Therefore God exalted him

to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

 

Jesus is no longer a baby in a Bethlehem manger.

 

He is again Lord of heaven and earth.

 

And he will take us home to himself,

to live with him forever in heaven

as children of God.