In the beginning was the Word | John 1:1-4
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 anything 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. John 1:1-4 | ESV
John is out of order. He truly is. If the Gospels are messy, John is the messiest in so many ways. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “Synoptic Gospels” by scholars because they essentially see Christ and the Good News from the same vantage point and tell the Story along the same relatively linear line. John, not so much. When coming to John, we can add to the word’s metaphorical and messy other descriptors such as circular or repetitive – or spiraling, even. Also confusing, confounding, mysterious, mystical, theological, philosophical, maybe even metaphysical. John reveals a Jesus who is maddeningly difficult to pin down, a Jesus who is evasive. Literally. A Jesus who traffics in metaphor. Heavily. It’s no wonder the disciples “understood none of these things.” We don’t either. At least not as much as we would like to let on. And then there’s the spiraling, repetitive rhythms and phrases in John. The Synoptic Gospels present a fairly linear trajectory of Jesus’ life and ministry moving from Galilee to Jerusalem for a dramatic showdown in the crucifixion and resurrection around the Jewish Passover – a journey that seems to be confined to a year or so. John mentions at least three Passovers, so scholars infer from this that Jesus’ ministry lasted at least three years. Personally, I wonder if we aren’t simply witnessing a book-long spiraling of John around the same Passover as he with each pass reveals something more of who Jesus is through his seven “I Am” statements and his seven narrated signs that provide the overall structure to his Tale.
But it all starts at the beginning. The very beginning. Pulsing at the center of all creation, all reality, is not randomness or fate or chance but rather Word. “In the beginning was the Word” – the Divine Logos – a concept (word!) filled with so many rich layers of cultural, religious and philosophical meaning. Logos is not merely an uttered expression. It is an entire range of meaning, an entire field of thought and endeavor (which is why we call the wide ranging study of earth Geology and the study of all the diverse forms of life Biology). Life-giving Reason and Order lies at the center of everything, not confusion, not chaos, not arbitrary tyranny or divine pettiness. “And the Word was with God” – not merely accompanying God, but in face to face intimacy. Love – intimate, life-giving, relationship-expanding Love – beats at the heart of the universe. “And the Word was God” – not merely “a god” in a pantheon of gods, but fully characterized by and possessing the Divine Nature. “He was in the beginning with God” – already, the repetitions! “All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that has been made.” Not “all other things,” but all things. The Uncaused Cause. The Uncreated but infinitely creative Creator. And, again, John says it twice in the same breath. And now that polytheistic and strict monotheistic conceptions are knocked helter-skelter onto the floor, John turns on the light. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Two ways to go with this final Greek word. It could mean to understand or to “get it” mentally, conceptually, to “wrap its mind around him” or it could mean to subdue or dominate, to wrap its arm around his head in a successful pin. John no doubt smiles and means both. And he’s just getting started…
What has your experience been with the Gospel of John? Do you find it inspiring? confusing? comforting? convicting? or what? Why?
Divine Word, as I encounter the beauty of creation today or the groaning and grinding of chaos, be the gentle whisper in my heart that you are in the midst of it all, ungrasped by darkness and radiating pure light and life. Let me bask in that Light this day. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.