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the word in context

The Word in Context

In the first chapter of the gospel of John, we read about the epic, ordering activity of The Word. We understand this Word to be the same Son of God who appears on Earth in the flesh and takes the name Jesus. He is present at the creation of the world where once there was only chaos. The Word itself brings order and is the stuff of the initiating speech of God when, in the beginning, that one says, "Let there be ...".

We experience the work of the Word in creation. But we experience the Word itself in His coming.

"The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory ." (John 1.14)

Because we humans fall so short of this glory, His becoming human seems contrary to that power and predisposition of the Word to move things from chaos to order, from darkness to light. But this becoming-like-us has a purpose.

The first words that John records being spoken by the almighty Word signal this purpose. The days of universe making are done for the Word: chaos has been overcome. In his becoming human, that power has been left behind, for a season. The Earth has different problems now, requiring a different language. The Word who-was-in-the-beginning enters fully into the present, and there meets you and me.

After the cosmological drama of the Word in verses 1 through 14, the first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John are addressed to two potential disciples who have begun to follow him down the street. He says to them, "What do you want?"

This exceedingly prosaic query hints that the God of the universe has actually come not just as a human, but to be human and meet us humans right where we live. He does not say "Thus saith ." or "Worship me". His first utterance, as recorded, is to ask what we are looking for

We see the same pedestrian concern when God speaks to Elijah on Mount Sinai (1 Kings 19). Elijah has been running for his life and just as he gives up, hoping to die, an angel spurs him on for the forty day journey to Sinai. There, after hiding out in a cave during a windstorm so strong it tears rocks loose from the mountain, and an earthquake and fire (none of which--however mighty--contain God), God speaks in a gentle whisper: "What are you doing here, Elijah?".

These words of God suggest that the mighty works of God--for example the creation and care of the universe--were simply how God set the stage for the more important work of caring for us.

12 October 2001


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