The Word was God

Christmas 2a, and

Advent 3b

JOHN 1:1-28

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.

9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

19 And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 They said then to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

JOHN 1:1-3

[Jn 1:1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (NAS)

Before the disease—there was a cure

There is so much that could be said about this book—about its history and the importance that John felt to translate the Gospel into terms over which both the Greek and the Jew could relate.  However, the primary point of this Gospel is much more obvious.  Before God created us He knew that we would fall short of his glory.  He knew that we would choose sin and with sin would come death.

And, yet… He still created us.  He still gave us the opportunity to seek Him and He still called us into being.  God chose to offer us the prospect to love Him back—even though He knew that opportunity would cause Him pain.

It is the ultimate testimonial of love that before God breathed us—He breathed salvation.  Before there was sin there was love, before there was death there was life, and before there was sickness, God breathed the cure.  Why is it that all of us still choose to sin in the face of such inconceivable love?  Why does a man choose addictions or compulsions over their family?  Why does a child choose to lie when they know that they will be found out?  Or, why do we choose to speed when the limit is posted and we know it is against the law?  It is as if that person is stating; “Well, the law doesn’t apply to me.”

We want to be ‘the exception.’  We want the rules to bend to our own selfishness.  We want our needs met first.  However, as long as we are centered in self—we are doomed to our own hell.

And still, our God knew this.  So, the antidote existed even before the disease.  Jesus was not a band-aid—he was the cure.  Much like a wise man will be inoculated against malaria before going to an area where the disease is replete—we have the inoculation of Christ available to help us avoid sin and to cure us from sin once infected.  Like a man whose cholesterol level is over 300; he must decide if he is going to feast on cheeseburgers and fries or play with his grandchildren.  Cheeseburgers are a pleasure—grandchildren are a joy. 

The world is filled with pleasures, but only God can offer joy.  Choice is a prerequisite to sin; so sin is only possible to those with free will.  Conversely, love is only possible for someone who has free will.  Choice is a prerequisite to love.  Yet, in a diseased world, wholeness can seem so foreign that it appears as weakness or incompetence (for if everyone is ignorant—the wise are considered fools).  God became man that we might see an example of wholeness.  Yet, to embrace or reject wholeness is ultimately our choice.

The Word that is power

To both the Jew and the Greek, the spoken word was power.  It was alive and, indeed, had a life of its own.  Once spoken, the word would never come back.  It would continue on its course to reap destruction or benefit like a cascading river.

The power of God’s Word was creation.  John tells us that all things [pas, GSN3956] were spoken into being by the Word.  The term, ‘all things’ not only means ‘all that exists’ but it also means ‘thoroughly and always’.  The term is spatial and relational, temporal and infinite; God not only created ‘all that exists’; but all that He created was made to be thoroughly and always good.

In like manner, the Greeks believed that the Word [logos, GSN3056] not only meant the written or spoken word; but it also defined both reason and purpose.  In the same fashion, the Jews believed that the Word was cosmos, not chaos; all that God created was thoroughly and always good and had a marked tendency towards order and wholeness.

The amazing part is that this omnipotent, omnipresent God is ready to bend down to us and speak (breathe) that ‘thoroughly and always good’ Word into our broken lives.  He is ready—even jealous—to be our reason, purpose and cosmos in the midst of chaos.  He is willing to bring wholeness to our lives thoroughly and always; that includes this very moment as well as forever; it includes our spiritual life, our physical life, our relational life and every other facet of our existence.  God is willing to bring purpose to our pain and reason to our confusion; He is willing to turn His attention to our restoration and wholeness.  He is the source of infinite hope, the possibility of each new day and a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Yet, power is only good when it is directed.  The destructive power of an atom lies in the very fact that—when loosed—it creates an uncontrollable chain reaction and yet the atom is also the building block of all matter.  We continue to choose to turn God’s creation into man’s destruction.  Even love can become a destructive force when not focused!

Over the years, I have learned that the first step in recovering a broken life is to bring order to the chaos.  Our outreaches seek to help a person (family, organization) identify their values and begin to develop habits and relationships around those values; these, we believe are the building blocks to a healthy life.  God is so willing to offer us recovery that he not only granted us the written word, but the living Word as well. 

We can see what God looks like when we look at Jesus.  We can see what wholeness is when we look at the Anointed One.  We can understand heavenly power when we see his constant presence; healing, feeding, silencing the chaos and vanquishing evil.  We can feel the presence of the Word through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It can be written on our hearts and flow freely from our being.

However, we have to choose to give over the reins of direction to the One who is all-powerful.  It is the Gospel paradox that in order to be restored we must be willing to be broken.  In order to tap into God’s power we must become weak.  God, who longs for our thorough and eternal restoration, will not take control from us—we must give it.

Scriptural Affirmation of The Word

Gen 1:1

1         In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NAS)

Prov 8:22-36

22     “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old.

23     “From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.

24     “When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

25     “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth;

26     While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world.

27     “When He established the heavens, I was there, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,

28     When He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed,

29     When He set for the sea its boundary, so that the water should not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth;

30     Then I was beside Him, {as} a master workman; and I was daily {His} delight, rejoicing always before Him,

31     Rejoicing in the world, His earth, and {having} my delight in the sons of men.

32     “Now therefore, {O} sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways.

33     “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect {it.}

34     “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.

35     “For he who finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD.

36     “But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.” (NAS)

Col 1:17-20

17      And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. 19  For it was the {Father’s} good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say} whether things on earth or things in heaven. (NAS)

Heb 1:10

10    “Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; (NAS)

Heb 7:3

3      Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually. (NAS)

Heb 13:8

8      Jesus Christ {is} the same yesterday and today, {yes} and forever. (NAS)

Rev 21:6

6         And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (NAS)

John 1:4-5

[4] In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. [5] The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (NAS)

The light that dwells within

In order to understand the fullness of John’s meaning in this Gospel reading, we have to understand the fullness of the words that John chose for this verse.  There was:

·         Light [phos, GSN5457];

Light not only implies luminescence but also comprehension and ‘to make manifest.’  The Light of God not only gives us a clearer picture of the world—but it adds to our understanding.  To be ‘made manifest’ means that the light not only shines around us—but it becomes a part of us.  We become light as we embrace the light.  In other words, no matter where we are—we can become living candles as a result of Christ’s empowering light.  The light literally takes up its dwelling inside of us!

·         Darkness [skotia, GSN4653];

Darkness is a term that applies not only to the lack of light; it also means a lack of understanding and even ‘obscurity.’  To be ‘in the darkness’ then, is not just lacking luminosity, it is also lacking identity and purpose.  True darkness is to die as if you’ve never lived; it is ignorance rather than lack of knowledge.

·         To comprehend [katalambano, 2638];

“The darkness did not comprehend it.”  Here is a description of the man who chooses ignorance over reason; ideology over truth.  This verb implies an unwillingness to seize or eagerly take an opportunity.  It is not indicative of a man who cannot understand; it is indicative of a man who is offered a full-ride to a prestigious school but spends his time skipping classes and getting drunk.  He is not only wasting his time—but he is using money that could have gone to thousands of other people who will never get the offer because of this man’s insolence.

“Carpe diem,” says the scholar.  “Seize the day.”  Whenever we choose ignorance over responsibility, choose pride over humility, and choose self-righteousness over self-denial; we choose darkness over light.

We are left with a picture of a man who is offered the highest gift—but chooses leisure and luxury and blows the family fortune pursuing personal pleasure.  Yet, we know this story all too well.  It is the story of the wasted talents [Matthew 25:14-30].  It is life’s story.  It is our story.  Yet, choosing Jesus is seizing the hand offered in the darkness.  Not to die as though we’ve never lived—but to live as though dying doesn’t matter.  Truly, to the one who has chosen light over darkness, death is just a passage to glory.  “Death where is thy victory?  O Death, where is thy sting?” [1 Cor 15:55]

Scriptures of Light and Life

Ps 84:11-12

11      For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

12      O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in Thee! (NAS)

Isa 42:6-9

6         “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations,

7         To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

8         “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.

9         “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim {them} to you.” (NAS)

Isa 42:16

10      “And I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.” (NAS)

Isa 60:1-2

1         “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

2         “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. (NAS)

Mal 4:2

1         “But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (NAS)

Matt 4:16

16      “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.” (NAS)

Luke 1:78-79

78      Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high shall visit us,

79      To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (NAS)

Luke 2:32

78      A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” (NAS)

John 8:12

13      Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (NAS)

John 9:5-6

5         “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6         When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes. NAS)

John 12:35-37

35      Jesus therefore said to them, “For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.

36      “While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and He departed and hid Himself from them.

37      But though He had performed so many signs before them, {yet} they were not believing in Him. (NAS)

John 12:46

10      “I have come {as} light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. (NAS)

Eph 5:14

14      For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (NAS)

I Jn 1:5-7

5         And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

6         If we say that we have fellowship with Him and {yet} walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

7         but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (NAS)

Rev 22:16-17

16      Then, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

17      And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (NAS)

John 1:6-8

6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.

He came for a witness

Later on in the study we will deal with who John was and who John wasn’t (see versus 19-23). However here, let’s focus on the word witness and what it means to “bear witness of the light.” Within that short sentence are some incredibly important terms for defining the role of every person centered on bearing Christ’s light to the world. Let’s look at each of the terms individually:

·         To bear witness

NT:3144 martus (mar’-toos); of uncertain affinity; a witness (literally [judicially] or figuratively [genitive case]); by analogy, a “martyr”: KJV - martyr, record, witness.

NT:3140 martureo (mar-too-reh’-o); from NT:3144; to be witness, i.e. testify (literally or figuratively): KJV - charge, give [evidence], bear record, have (obtain, of) good (honest) report, be well reported of, testify, give (have) testimony, (be, bear, give, obtain) witness.

·         To the light

NT:5457 phos (foce); from an obsolete phao (to shine or make manifest, especially by rays; compare NT:5316, NT:5346); luminousness (in the widest application, nat. or artificial, abstract or concrete, literal or figurative): KJV - fire, light.

·         That all

NT:3956 pas (pas); including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: KJV - all (manner of, means), alway (-s), any (one), daily, ever, every (one, way), as many as, no (-thing), thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.

·         Might have faith

NT:4100 pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o); from NT:4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ): KJV - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

 

JOHN 1:9-13

[9] There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. [11] He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. [12] But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, [13] who were  born, not of  blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (NAS)

Too familiar

Here is the saddest news of the bible.  It is a story of those who become too familiar with God, those who have somehow grown accustomed to taking God for granted.  Jesus came to the Jews—the selected people of the Covenant—but, even before he came to them he went to his own neighborhood.  It is in Nazareth that we see the greatest tragedy of the Christ story.  It is in Nazareth where the people say; “He can’t be the Messiah, he lived among us [Mark 6:3]!”

We must not make this horrific error.  We must not become so familiar with our ‘notion’ of God that we miss him in our midst.  That is when ritual becomes our lord; when religiosity becomes some form of prejudicial self-righteousness.  That is when we no longer believe in miracles because; “I haven’t seen any.”  That is when faith becomes empty because there’s no praxis.  Religion becomes ritual because there’s no more ‘healing the sick; casting out demons; visiting the prisoners; pro-claiming of lives for Christ.’ 

To the ones most familiar with Jesus—to those who were ‘his own’—our Lord’s power was never experienced (it was only hearsay).

As many as received Him

[12] “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

There is a blending of the Hebrew culture with the Greek language in these verses that we might lose in the simple English translation.  To ‘receive Him’ bespeaks thousands of years of the Hebrew/Middle Eastern culture that we simply do not understand as agoraphobic Americans.  Our ‘fear of strangers’ is in direct contrast to the biblical concept of ‘receiving the stranger’ (i.e. entertaining angels).  To treat the wanderer poorly was to spite God.  To receive a stranger was to give him ‘the recliner and the channel changer’; to give him the seat of honor.  Is that the chair that we have given to Jesus?  Have we given him the throne of our inner sanctum; the right to rule the most intimate corner of our life?  Not the office where he views us at our sculptured best; but the closets of our hearts where he shares in our secrets.

Unless Jesus changes that ‘inside’ me, I’ll never be more than a Hollywood front; a fragile façade.  I’ll fall apart as soon as someone puts pressure on my walls—the slightest wind will collapse my house of cards.  To receive him is to give him access to the darkest me and to say; “Jesus, I’ve tried but I just can’t clean it up.”

There will not be judgment in his eyes.  There will be no animosity, no disdain—only compassion; “My child, why do you think I have come?”

Who believe in His name

To believe in Christ’s Name [onoma, GSN3686], also can be translated as to believe in his authority or his cause.  It is sadly possible to claim the name of Jesus without embracing either his authority or his purpose.

The will of God

Here is the most incredible news in all of history.  It is ‘the will’ [thelema, GSN2307] of God that those who believe in the cause and authority of Jesus Christ have the ‘right’ [exousia, GSN1846] to call themselves His children.  John makes it clear that it is not a right given by birth or by the will of man.  It is a right granted by one choice that each individual must make; to surrender to God’s authority.

The ‘will’ of God is not an egocentric term as we might consider it—as in a spoiled child or adult who has ‘a will of their own’ (which usually means they lack self-control).  In Greek, the term could also be translated as the ‘desire’ of God, or more appropriately the ‘delight’ of God.  Think of that!  God is not reticent for us to become His family, He is eager!

Many people are raised with the concept that we have an angry God who reticently ‘allows’ entrance into the kingdom through the appeasing sacrifice of His son.  Conversely, John paints the correct picture; a God so eager for our inclusion that He would even give His beloved son for our salvation.  God desires for us to be His children; there is no greater joy to Him.

John 1:14-17

[14] And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” [16] For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. [17] For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

And the word became flesh

What was it like for the heavenly prince to put on the flesh (literally the carcass or corpse [GSN sarx]) of man?  I can’t help but think of Francis of Assisi, the wealthy merchant’s spoiled son who literally stripped himself naked of all his father’s wealth and went to live among the lepers. Yet, we must also consider that Jesus not only exchanged his heavenly body—but he also left behind the glory of the intimate presence of God in exchange for the depravity of man.  He left that which was perfect and holy for us who revel in the filth of sin.  This was the choice that the beloved Son of God made when the Word became flesh.  How can we comprehend such love?

Let’s look at some of the terms that John uses to express this incomprehensible choice of unfathomable love.

·         He dwelt among us [GSN4637 skenoo];

The Son of God moved into our house and slept on the couch.  The literal translation of ‘to dwell’ is that Jesus literally ‘set up his tent’ or ‘spread his tabernacle’ among man.  Jesus moved into the worst neighborhood, then threw open the windows and unlocked the doors to any who would enter.

·         Only begotten [GSN3439 monogenes];

Jesus was the only child of God.  We were created but Jesus was begotten—conceived—by God.  We can become the adopted children of God through surrender and obedience, but Jesus was born as God’s child.

·         Full of grace and truth;

The term full [GSN4134 pleres] implies to overflow or abound in plenty.  It is also the word used for maturity.  Jesus is the maturation of grace and truth—a perfection which overflows in abundance.

These two words, grace [GSN5485 charis] and truth [GSN225 aletheia], are often used together as if one word is completed by the other.  It is as though grace is to be given only in union with honesty and truth only spoken in grace.

Grace itself is a word used for credit (as in ‘grace period’—a period without interest); it is used for gift, favor and gratitude.  In essence, grace is an attitude of perpetual thankfulness that is freely and graciously given to all who obey the Lord.  This was the character attributed to Jesus; he overflowed with this attitude!

Jesus was not the dour, frail character so often depicted in medieval paintings.  He was a robust, strong-armed carpenter, beloved by children and used to walking great distances and sleeping under the open sky.  He laughed, wept, and expressed anger with gut-wrenching compassion—but always towards one purpose.  That the grace and truth of our God be made clear to all people.  To look at Jesus is to see God.

John 1:18

[18] No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

The bosom of God

In this verse, we find a subtle but beautiful Jewish term that is often overlooked—and yet is filled with rich meaning.  What does it mean to rest in the bosom of God?

Isaiah tells us Jesus will gather his lambs and carry them in his bosom. “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry {them} in His bosom [HSN2436 cheyq]; He will gently lead the nursing {ewes.} [Isaiah 40:11].”

In contrast, one of the most poignant stories of the bible; is when David is condemned by Nathan because God put the trust of all of Israel and her people into his care (bosom) and he abused the privilege:

2 Sam 12:1-10

[1] Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. [2]         “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. [3] “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom [HSN2436 cheyq], and was like a daughter to him. [4] “Now a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

[5] Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. [6] “And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”

[7] Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. [8] ‘I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care [HSN2436 cheyq], and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if {that had been} too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!

[9] ‘Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. [10] ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’” (NAS)

To have people placed in your care (bosom) is the greatest gift that God can offer us.  To abuse that privilege by taking advantage of those in your care (bosom) is the greatest offense against God.

The Greek word for bosom [GSN2859 kolpos] is used on three other occasions (twice in Luke and once in Acts) though its meaning is broadened under Luke’s pen:

·         Bosom; a place of replenishment for the helpless

Lazarus (the impoverished beggar in Christ’s story) rested in the bosom of Abraham where Diva (the rich man) could no longer treat him with contempt.

Luke 16:22-25

[17] “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. [18] “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. [19] “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’  [20] “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.” (NAS)

One day, the helpless will rest in the safety of God in heaven.  As for today, they should find safety in the arms of proclaiming Christians.  Our churches are called to be ‘cities of refuge’ not just ‘houses of worship’.  Are we challenging churches to do their part?

·         Bay; a place of safe harbor

This word for bosom [GSN2859 kolpos] was also used for a bay or ‘safe harbor.’  “When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could.” [Ac 27:39]

‘Kolpos’ was the safe harbor to which the Apostle Paul led his captors when they felt threatened by a 14-day storm on the Mediterranean.  Here God brought them to safe harbor as promised by Paul.

Like Paul, we can promise God’s harbor to those around us who live in fear.  It is important to note that the storm did not pass nor were they spared a shipwreck, but (as Paul promised) every man found their way to solid ground.

·         Lap; the seat of happiness—or emptiness

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap [GSN2859 kolpos] a good measure-pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” [Lk 6:38]

Here we find the term for bosom used in reference to a person’s lap.  In Christ’s kingdom (which has already begun) we will find that our laps are filled with the mercy that we have given to others.  To the extent that we forgive and offer mercy, we similarly experience the forgiveness and mercy of our Savior.  It comes to us in direct proportion to how much we have given it to others.  The harder it is to offer forgiveness to another—the greater, in turn, is God’s forgiveness for us.  The harder it is to give mercy—the greater, in turn, is God’s mercy towards us.  This abundance of forgiveness and mercy is not reserved for heaven—it is reserved for His Kingdom.  Remember; the Kingdom of God comes when his will is done—on earth as it is in heaven!

I can overflow with the forgiveness and mercy of God at this time—in this moment.  The freedom to live for giving (not for taking) can fill my lap today!  To the extent that I let go—God takes hold.

When Jesus is said to be in the bosom of God it means that his spirit was in the abundant, merciful harbor of God’s love.  In turn, Jesus became a city of refuge; a bay of safe harbor in the storm; the example of forgiveness and mercy.  His very mission was to become refuge for the least of these [Luke 4:18-19]! 

It is the passion of God—his delight—that we be invited into his abundant truth and grace.  It was Jesus who came to invite us into the ‘bosom’ of God.  Our question then is who—this week—will I replenish, to whom will I offer safe harbor, where will I go to become the fullness of God poured out for others?

John 1:19-23

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” [20] He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” [21] And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” [22] Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” [23] He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Who John wasnt

At some point in time, all of us must take a stand on who we are and who we are not.  I remember from years ago, that there was a common saying; “Who you are matters far less than whose you are.”  We might want to take that a step further and suggest that we cannot even know who we are until we know whose we are.  Clearly, John knew the answer to both of those questions and the result was that he knew the answer to the ongoing question of humanity; “Why I am?”

1.        He was not the Messiah, come to redeem lives.

In no uncertain terms, John repeatedly stresses that he is not to be followed or worshipped.  He is not the Anointed One; the Christ.  He is “a voice” in desolation.

1.        He was not Elijah, come to settle all disputes and raise the dead.

It was believed (from Malachi 4:5), that prior to the return of the Messiah, Elijah would return with two purposes:

·         To settle all disputes; and

·         To raise the dead to enter into the Kingdom.

John makes it clear that this is not why he has come.  He is singularly focused on his one purpose (which we will look at below).

While some people think that single-mindedness leads to narrow-mindedness, nothing could be further from the truth.  They are entirely different.  To have a single purpose does not make one less tolerant or more prideful.  Having a single purpose frees a person to tolerate the confusion of others while simultaneously not succumbing to it.

Scripture tells us that to be single-minded (or single-hearted) is a rich blessing from our Lord:

Matt 5:8

8    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Ps 86:11-12

11   Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name. [12] I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever.

John the Baptist was blessed with a single mind.  He wasn’t concerned about earthly disputes or even raising the dead.  He wasn’t about to be distracted from his single-minded purpose; “The Kingdom is at hand!”

Who John was

John was: “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”  Let’s look at this self-expression a little more closely because it will lead us to a better understanding of ourselves as we prepare—not for this Christmas—but for the Lord’s return.  Yesterday afternoon (in one our local bible studies) a friend mentioned that this should be the true meaning of advent.  The penultimate event for the Christian is neither Easter nor December 25th; but the day when Jesus returns in glory.  Until then, we have no rest; that is the model of John.  Jesus’ arrival did not initiate John’s retirement; instead John became even more intense.

In essence, we are not waiting for Jesus - we are waiting on Jesus.  The very word “disciple” suggests that we are the wait staff in the King’s dining hall.  Jesus himself describes us as such.  This was the role of John, to wait upon Jesus.  Remember our study on the King’s Banquet [Matt 22:1-14]?  The role of the wait staff was none other than to run into the streets and invite anyone we could find to a banquet that none of us deserves to attend.  That was John’s role; that is our role. 

Run out; bring in! 

It is not seasonal, it is not centered on Christmas: “Preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” [2 Tim 4:2]

  We await not the Holiday but the Holy Day when Christ will return.  Like John, we have work to do!

  In another study, last evening, the topic was mentioned; “Is it possible to tell when a person is authentically close to God?”  Almost without thinking I responded; “His wings are burnt.”  A picture of a moth with burned wings came to mind.  Authentic closeness to God seems to be modeled by wings that are burned by flying too close to the flame; yet, also the inability to resist the light.

On the December 4th, 2002 Diane Rehm Show (NPR, WAMU)1, Ms. Rehm interviewed Donald Spoto who recently compiled a book called; “Reluctant Saint (Viking Compass).”  It is a biography about Francis of Assisi based upon recently opened archives that were previously unavailable.  Mr. Spoto made some observations that touched me deeply about Francis.  His bones tell us that he was five foot, three inches and weighed about 85 pounds at death.  How could a man so emaciated and diminutive have such an incredible impact?  He never set out to be a leader, just to love the poorest of the poor; yet, at his death, over 40,000 men and women had joined his call.  He was stricken by malaria and eaten by leprosy.  He became blinded by disease on a 1,400-mile journey that he partook to plead for peace during the crusades.  Yet, peace emanated from this man; joy sprung from him.

His wings were burnt with his passion for the Lord.  John’s wings were burnt with passion for the light.  Neither ever stopped flying towards the light.  Their last breaths were; “Jesus.”  Are my wings even flushed with an occasional test flight?  “Lord, allow me to be worthy!”

Here are the words John uses to define the heart of his ministry:

1.        I am a voice in the wilderness;

John’s statement that he was not Elijah is accented here.  He was not The Voice; he was a voice. A voice [phone; GSN5456] really means no more than a sound or noise but the root word means “to lighten, show, or shine” [phaino; GSN5316].  John was a voice and a light in the “lonesome waste” [eremos; GSN2048].  At other times I have mentioned that it does not behoove the Christian to be a light bulb in a chandelier factory.  We are called to be a candle in the darkness.  I keep coming back to the familiar saying; “What would Jesus do?”  Yet, how can we do what Jesus would do if we are not where Jesus would be?

If we are to be like John (ever-pointing towards Jesus) we must go where John would go.  We must be a voice, a light in the desolation.

2.        Make straight

We spent a lot of time on this in last week’s study from Mark, Chapter 1, so we won’t revisit it here.  It is enough to say that John consider his role as no more than a ditch digger.  To shovel a road through mountains and fill the crevices between valleys so that hearts were ready for the visit from the King.

The Angel Gabriel stated it as follows:

Luke 1:17

[17] “And it is he [John the Baptist] who will go {as a forerunner} before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

3.        What is John crying out?

Isa 40:3-5

3    A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

4    “Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley;

5    Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see {it} together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

There is no reason to dress up this statement.  Simply and plainly, John was telling people to get rid of any obstacles that stood between the Lord and them.  The mountains of pride, the valleys of self-righteousness; “Be liberated!” he shouts.  “Set yourself free from any obstacle that would hinder the Lord’s place in your life.”

John’s message is no less pertinent today.  No less powerful.  No less focused on the advent—not of Christmas—but of Christ’s return.  “Repent and be saved!”  “Reopen and be liberated!”

That is what John shouts across the ages.

John 1:24-28

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Why then are you baptizing?

Although the Essenes (a monastic of Judaism) practiced baptism and purification; most Jewish religious leaders would disdain the practice. It was Gentiles who were baptized, a Jew could rely on his heritage, they were the “Chosen People.” By baptizing Jews, John was essentially treating them like Gentiles and that is what infuriated the Pharisees. The implication was that birthright was not enough!

Do we believe that we are saved because of our birthright? Because we belong to a church? Because we say the right words?

Our Lord himself presents four stories where saying the right words are not enough:

Matt 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord ,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord , did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Matt 25:11-13

11 “And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 “But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’”

Matt 25:41-46

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Luke 6:46-49

46 “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 “Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 “But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” 

Critical to the Hebrew concept of belief is the concept of action. I have not changed my beliefs if I have not changed my actions. If I call Jesus, “Lord,” then I clearly must do what is good to him:

Micah 6:8

8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Jesus states it concisely in his parable of the sheep and the goats: 45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

John baptized as an “outward sign of an inner change.” His baptism was external and temporal—a sign. The Lord’s baptism will be internal and eternal; a complete and unending transformation of self. We cannot rely on heritage, we cannot rely on relationships, we cannot rely on church attendance and we cannot rely on the “right words.” Our lives must change when Jesus becomes our Lord and that change must lead us to compassion.

“Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

John knew Christ’s place because he knew his place. Although John himself says, “I am not worthy to untie his sandal,” Jesus (in Luke 7:28) calls him the “greatest of all prophets.”

Our greatness in the God’s Kingdom is directly related to our humility upon this earth. The more humble we become; the more God can use us. In this study, the theme has been “The Word was God!” Jesus is God’s word, God’s promise, but are we willing to be a comma, a period, or even an exclamation point on his page?

The more we abandon pride and embrace humility; the more we can be used by our God. The other day in the penitentiary, I asked the guys; “Can you think of what we have to lose by letting go of our pride, our self-righteousness or our anger?” “Can you think of what we stand to gain by embracing humility, gentleness, and Christ as our Lord?”

Let us also embrace John’s statement of humility: “I am not worthy to untie his sandal.” Then, let us live as if everyone is Christ’s most important friend, as if Jesus really had counted every number on their head and we don’t want to damage one. It is by serving our Lord by serving the least of these that we embrace the fullness of God’s Word:

John 12:46-49

46 “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. 47 “And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

Let us give up any righteousness that would lead us to be judgmental. Let us be about the Lord’s work—to offer salvation and light to the darkness.

When I go to juvie I often hear the kids talk about trust; so few have experienced it. When I ask, “What is trust to you?” They say; “Show up when you promise you will.” This is a behavior so few of them have ever seen. Can we show them God’s promise? Can we model to them God’s Word? I promise to show up when I say I will. I promise to be there when you need me. That is the promise of God. That is God’s Word. That is Jesus Christ!

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2003 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2003 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com.

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