A grandfather was visiting his grandson one Christmas when he walked into the family room and saw the toddler standing up in his playpen, crying. His face was red and tear-stained. When little Jeffry saw his granddad, his face lit up and his hands reached out for help as he pleaded, “Out, papa, out!” What grandfather could resist this plea? And so he walked over to the playpen and reached down to lift his little buddy out of captivity.
Just then, however, “Law and Order” stepped into the room with a dishtowel in her hand and spoke sternly, “Jeffry, you know better. You’re being punished. Leave him right there, dad.” And she marched back out of the room.
The grandfather didn’t know what to do. Jeffry’s tears and outstretched hands tugged at his heart, but he didn’t want to interfere with a mother’s discipline either. He couldn’t stand being in the same room and not being able to do anything but he couldn’t leave without feeling like a traitor.
Grandpa then had an idea. Since he couldn’t take Jeffry out of the playpen, he decided to climb in with him. That’s a pretty good picture of what Jesus did for us…He climbed in with us.
The first part of verse 14 says that the “Word became flesh…” One of the most unique qualities of Christianity that makes it different from any other religion: God became flesh. Jesus is the visible word of God. Theologians call this truth the Incarnation. The infinite second person of the Trinity, who created all things according to John 1:1, became a tiny helpless baby. That’s a staggering thought. The Son did not cease to be God when He became a man. He added manhood but He did not subtract deity. He was fully God and fully man. He was the God-man.
For many years I thought that Jesus got his start when He was born. The fact is that Jesus Christ has always existed according to verses John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Jesus is before the beginning of time as He said in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was born, I am.” He is eternal, or infinite because He has always existed. This passage immediately reminds us of the opening words of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…”
The word “word” is the Greek “logos,” which refers to Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity. In Greek culture, logos, was that which gave meaning to all things. The philosopher Philo saw the logos as a bridge between a transcendent God and the material universe. John is using a term that everyone would be familiar with and yet he expands and transcends its meaning. Since a word is an audible or visible expression of a thought, Jesus perfectly revealed what was going on in the mind of God. He’s the bridge between God and us.
I am trying my best to covey to you the thoughts that are on my mind, and the only medium I can use are my words. Likewise, Jesus is God’s Word to us. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus declares that He is the “Alpha and Omega,” which is like saying He is the A through the Z, the beginning and the end. He is God’s alphabet, the one who spells out deity for us. As the final Word, Jesus makes the incomprehensible God intelligible.
The “Word was with God,” indicates that Jesus Christ existed in a face-to-face relationship with the Father. Jesus was not only in the closest possible fellowship with God, the “Word was God.” We don’t have time this morning to explore the majestic intricacies of the doctrine of the Trinity, but suffice it to say that Jesus is not a creation of God, but is God Himself. Verse 2 summarizes and repeats verse 1 in order to make sure we grasp the magnitude of this truth: “He was with God in the beginning.” The Infant is Infinite.
The Message translation renders the first part of John 1:14 this way: “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” For 33 years God moved into our neighborhood. The NIV says that Jesus “made his dwelling among us,” which literally means, “to make one’s tent.”
When I was in Boy Scouts and we would camp at campsites, we would always get to know the other campers around us. In fact, it’s difficult to be private when you’re camping. Everyone can see what you’re doing. To say that Jesus pitched a tent implies that He wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction.
What other religion do you know whose God comes in person to die for his people? Buddha did not claim to be God, nor did he claim to have come from God. He was in search of the divine principle — the word become word. And neither did Mohammed claim to be God, only a prophet of God and author of the Koran. In all of the other world religions we have the word become word — a verbal revelation: writings, injunctions and moral codes. Only in Christianity does the Word become flesh. Even the Jews have only the word becoming word — the prophets and the law of Moses. In Jesus Christ, God did not just reveal his will or his laws, he revealed himself. Nothing less would do.
If the Word only became word then our contact with God would only be intellectual. But the Word has become flesh, and now he is personal. The Word is standing in front of us and he is calling our name. As we read the Bible we are not just acquiring knowledge, Jesus begins to emerge from the Scripture. Suddenly, we are reading more than words, we are experiencing a person. Something real is happening. More than our thinking is being affected, we are being touched and changed at the deepest place of our beings. It is not an idea (the Word) coming into our heads, it is one person communicating with another person (flesh). The Scriptures come alive, because the Word has become flesh. Jesus steps out of the pages and into our lives.
Soren Kierkegaard, the great Danish theologian of another century, tells the story of a prince who was running an errand for his father one day in the local village. As he did so, he passed through a very poor section of the town. Looking through the window of his carriage, he saw a beautiful young peasant girl walking along the street. He could not get her off his heart. He continued to come to the town, day after day, just to see her and to feel as though he was near her. His heart yearned for her, but there was a problem. How could he develop a relationship with her? He could order her to marry him. It was in his power to do so. But he wanted this girl to love him from the heart, willingly. He could put on his royal garments and impress her with his regal entourage, and drive up to her front door with soldiers and a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the girl loved him or was simply overwhelmed with his power, position and wealth. The prince came up with another solution. As you may have guessed, he gave up his kingly robe and symbols of power and privilege. He moved into the village dressed only as a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time, the young peasant girl grew to know him, and then to love him.
This is what Jesus has done for us. The Word became flesh. The King of heaven put aside his heavenly robes and divine prerogatives. He came to us as one of us. He lived among us; ate with us; drank with us; felt with us — all to win our love. He could have forced us. He could have overwhelmed us, but he chose to romance us. He stands here today with the smile of love and arms extended. He is the God who became real so that we could experience his transforming love. Jesus is not just a truth to believe in, he is a person to be experienced. I pray you experience Christ this Christmas season.