Every once in a while, a pastor or church leader asks me to preach in their pulpit on Sunday mornings. I am very humbled because a) I am a woman and many pastors feel that women shouldn’t preach in churches and b) I am not a scholar of theology. I have said, “No thank you,” on many occasions, but sometimes I say yes. This Sunday is one of those Sundays.
Before I give a sermon, I have a ritual. First, I don’t begin perusing the scriptures that I might talk about earlier than two weeks ahead of time. It’s not that I like testing God or even that I am a procrastinator. I have found that if I begin preparing for the sermon too far ahead of time, I become so charged by the topic that it becomes all I think about until I get to preach. The ideas I process, the lessons I glean from reading the Bible and studying the Hebrew and Greek influences on the words dive deeply within me, and I feel myself changing. It’s as though a light turns on and something I have never seen before comes alive.
That’s where I am today and since you are nice enough to read this, indulge me a moment. I am studying John’s gospel chapter 1, verses 1-14. I read it to my husband the other night and he told me that the particular verses were far too mysterious, complex, and difficult to talk about so I should choose an easier scripture. His words sealed the deal for me. John chapter 1 it was going to be.
John was Jesus’ best friend and he wrote his gospel to paint a picture of Jesus so that we could understand him the way he did. (That made me wonder what my best friend would write about me.) John starts by stating some pretty wild things.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Those three sentences alone could take a month to figure out. John tells us even before the beginning of eternity, God existed but had someone else with Him. Someone else? Otherwise, why wouldn’t he just say “In the beginning was God?” Then consider that the Hebrew meaning of “Word” implies action. There is a dynamism tied up in it almost rendering it a verb. John says that all things were made through him and since Word implies action, then when the Word opened his mouth, life came! That is extraordinary power.
The Greek translation of “word” is logos, which means “the reason of God” or “mind of God.” Since John says that life came through this Logos, then it (Logos) was the point of contact between God and us (since we are his creation). This allowed both Jews and Greeks to understand what John was saying because both groups comprised his audience.
Let’s follow this stream of thought. John says that this Word, Logos, was with God and was God. Herein lies the greatest mystery known to man. Logos, who scholars know was Jesus, first was with God. Logos was turned toward God, or was face-to-face with Him from the beginning of all time. Eyeball to spiritual eyeball they stood. Jesus always pointing toward God. Think about this, no one, not even David or Abraham was even allowed to see a smidgeon of God and here Jesus is staring at him. Why?
John says that it’s because Jesus is equal to God. Not only is Jesus equal to God, John makes sure that we know, he IS God. Now in that day, that statement could have either killed him, made the Jews call him blasphemous, or made the Greeks scratch their heads. Who else was God besides God? No one.
That very truth still irritates men and women today. We will talk about God but mention Jesus, and folks will walk out of the room. I think John faced that.
STATING THAT JESUS IS GOD SEPARATES CHRISTIANITY FROM EVERY OTHER RELIGION ON EARTH.
We not only claim to worship God as the Jews did, but we will say that we worship his equal—Jesus—who was Him in flesh, sandals, and clothes. This is really dicey territory in an age where we all want to think we believe the same thing.
Muslims worship Allah but don’t claim that Mohammed is God. Neither do the Jews claim another being equal to God, nor do Mormons say that Joseph Smith was God. He was a smart prophet, but not God.
Buddhists say they don’t necessarily worship Buddha (who is now dead of course), but follow his instructions. Hinduism teaches that the Supreme Absolute is Brahman and that the gods and goddesses they worship represent different aspects of Brahman but they are not Brahman. Compared to other religions, Christianity claims something outrageous.
This is no small deal. John goes on to say later in his gospel that if we are to have an abundant life, it must come from this point of connection with God—from Logos. Jesus, the living God, is the one who gives us life. And who else claims to do that?
So, the question is, if you or I find a bit of “life” missing within, we must ask ourselves what we really believe about this Logos, whom John claims, is the giver of this life. If we stick our necks out and believe, then we’d better get ready to receive something profoundly and mysteriously wonderful.