Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
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. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And 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 bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:1–18, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"In the beginning was the Word…" It's how the Gospel of John begins. It's more than just poetic language. St. John wants us to know something more about Jesus Christ then is apparent from a simple telling of what Jesus did and said. By beginning his Gospel in this way he ties it very directly to Moses telling of the creation (Genesis 1:1-3). "In the beginning God… And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." There in eternity is God, before all things were created. And there together with God is The Word. And God and The Word are one and the same and yet "with" one another tells us they are separate. The Word is the one through whom God creates all things. God speaks all things into existence and he does so through The Word. John wants us to see a complete unity in the persons of God (The Creator) and the Word (the one through whom all things were created) and the Spirit (in Genesis, hovering over the water). They are one in being, activity, and purpose. And it is this Word that God, the Creator, sends to redeem the whole sin corrupted creation. God creates through the Word and God redeems through the Word. The world is saved through the very same creative power, The Word, that was there "in the beginning."
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." The Word became flesh in Mary's womb. The Word became flesh, born, nurtured, taught, ate, slept, laughed, cried, lived and died as is the way with all human flesh. This Word made flesh is none other than Jesus Christ whose life, death, and resurrection are the telling that John here begins. So in everything else he relates he wants you to see God in the flesh, God the creative Word, at work creating and redeeming.
It's exactly what Martin Luther so eloquently wrote:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death...[i]
Then St. John says "In him was life". The life of creation is found in none other than Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father. For through him all life was created. Through God's creative Word all life, all things created, came into being. So when the task of saving all creation was necessary it makes sense that the one through whom all life was created takes up the task. And he takes it up by bringing life into the midst of death. At the funeral of his friend Lazarus Jesus spoke to Mary, Lazarus' sister, and said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” (John 11:25, ESV)
And Jesus, the Word, spoke the name of dead Lazarus and life went into him again. Lazarus walked out of the grave by the creative word of God. In Jesus Christ is life.
In his coming, in the flesh, the Word made flesh "shines in the darkness". Jesus shines the light of life in the world. The light that he brings Is the Good News that he indeed has "purchased in one me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil". These three are the Unholy Trinity. These three are the darkness that we have brought upon ourselves. And this too goes back to Genesis. The first human beings to live and breathe brought death by their rejection of the one who created them. They brought death to us all. Don't think you escape from the death they brought. Your own sin and selfishness puts you in the very same darkness. Every day you reject God just as they did. Every day you choose yourself over others. Every day you would push God aside and be God yourself. Every day your sin pushes you closer and closer to death. Every day death threatens to take away all that you have. And every day Satan himself accuses you of your sin before God and reminds you that death is your due punishment. And more than that tells you of your earned destination apart from God in hell. And so it would be without the Word Made Flesh. As John says this Word dwelt among us, born of the Virgin Mary redeemed me a lost and condemned person, purchased in one me from all sins from death and the power the devil.
The Word made flesh is good news for you, and me. Because we do not receive the death we deserve but instead grace upon grace. Think about it this way. If Jesus Christ were a simple human being is promises would be good is any other persons. All that he did would be worth what any single person can do. He is certainly a good example for you to follow. He cared for those who need it caring. He didn't discriminate between rich and poor or any other man made distinction. His love was the same for all people. But if then he was only human, his death then would only be for himself, and would only mark the end of all that he did. Jesus is not a mere man. He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. So all that he did is worth the infinity of God's worth. All that he did has the eternity of God's eternal existence. And all of his promises are covered by God's ability to do everything he promises. So when Jesus lives in keeps the law perfectly, as he did, he keeps the law perfectly enough for all people for all time, and that includes you. Jesus kept the law perfectly for you. And when he suffers and dies on the cross, as St. John will explain in great detail, his death is enough to cover the punishment of all people for all time, and that includes you. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for you. With his perfect life accounted to you and the eternal punishment of hell taken away from you your death is no longer a separation from God but eternal life with God. That is an eternal life in a perfect creation made for perfect people. And that's God's promise to you through Jesus Christ you will be raised from death is a perfect person to live forever. This is grace piled upon grace piled upon grace. And this grace is brought by the Word made flesh. Everywhere he went he proclaimed this grace. But nowhere does the power of the Word made flesh speak stronger than it does when Jesus pronounces your forgiveness in his simple word of the cross.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30, ESV)
Jesus word is the most simple that can be spoken. In the daily language of the day "it is finished" is one single word, τετέλεσται. And this single word spoken by the Word that is God is the word that brings to you everything that Jesus promised. He speaks it and he bows his head in death. And then to prove his work and his identity he doesn't remain dead but like Lazarus, the one he raised from death, he walks out of the tomb resurrected. It is just as John said,
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5, ESV)
This is the Light of Life that we read in St. John's Gospel. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[i] From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House, http://www.cph.org/t-topic-catechism-creed.aspx