Reframing the Beginning | John 1:1-5, 9-14
Topic: Gospel Passage: John 1:1–1:5, John 1:9–1:14
No audio or video are available for this sermon.
Christopher Rich – Sept 9, 2018
Reframing the Beginning | John 1:1-5, 9-14
Introduction | Creepy Jesus Pictures
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are beginning our series REFRAMING JESUS: Portraits of Glory from John’s Gospel. We will be in John for this fall until Advent, so this book will be broken up.
What portrait of Jesus do you have in your mind? Everyone, knowingly or not, has painted a portrait of Jesus in their mind. Some people have actually painted pictures of a version of Jesus, I call these #Creepy Jesus Pictures. Here are a few: “Mulleted Businessman Jesus”, “Red headed Uncle Rico Jesus” “Black Jesus” “Blond Jesus” “Hipster Jesus” “Nascar Jesus” “Male Model Naked Jesus Holding a Baby” There are more.
All of these are some sort of distortion of the historic Jesus that is usually painting and framing Jesus from the perspective of the artist, who they think Jesus is or who they want Him to be. Some are clearly irreverent while others are likely well-meaning but inaccurate. They pervert the true nature of who Jesus is. The best example of this is Cecilia Giménez in who in 2012, while not being a professional painter sought to restore her favorite depiction of Jesus in her church in Zaragoza, Spain got permission and did what BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser described as “The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.” This is what happens when we try to create or recreate an image of Jesus on our own with little skill or qualification, the results are less than profitable.
The portrait in your head, the understanding you hold will determine how you consider and respond to Jesus. Some people have portraits are clear and robust with knowledge and details that can only come from spending significant time with the subject in a recent relationship. But if time is not spent with subject it’s too tempting to allow a caricature to emerge. Christians can easily have these portraits distorted by legalistic tradition crafting an image of God’s Son as harsh and unrelatable, liberal license showing a wise teacher who cared for the poor and marginalized but never addressed sin or called for repentance and obedience, or ignorance making a portrait vague or less than fully accurate. Even those who are opposed or indifferent to Jesus have painted portraits worthy of only mockery or that are too small to have an impact on their lives. What do you think about when you think about Jesus, if you think or consider Jesus at all?
In Reframing Jesus, our desire isn’t to reinvent Jesus into someone He is not or make Jesus into an image we are more comfortable with. Instead, we seek to have our portrait of Jesus reframed by the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit recorded in John’s Gospel to see Him as accurately and glorious as possible.
The purpose of this reframing is to have target of our affections, hope, and worship moved from the things of this world to the Creator of this world who reveals Himself through the scripture and most clearly in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. We are disciples of Jesus who are called to go into the world to make more disciples, we seek to faithfully engage with a world opposed to the God of the Bible. We do this by knowing the nature and character of our God. Additionally, we know when people hear, see, and experience the portrait of Jesus displayed in the Bible it radically changes the lives and missions of individuals. As such this series is also explicitly evangelistic. Our hope is those who do not know God’s truth, life, glory, and love shown in Jesus Christ would hear the Gospel, reflect on their own lives and respond to the offer of life with God in Christ leading to a lifelong reorientation from trusting themselves to simply Trust Jesus now and into eternity. In seeing this portrait of Jesus our hope is the same as John’s stated purpose in writing he says in John 20:31… written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
PART I | Reframing “In the Beginning….” | v1-2
John 1:1-2 | 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.
In order to have a clear picture of Jesus we have to know who He is, where He’s from, what He’s done and doing. But why does this matter? Why is it important that we understand or see Jesus accurately? Because of Jesus’ identity and role in the universe and credentials for being worthy of worship. John opens up with “ln the beginning….” This is a clear allusion to the beginning of the whole Bible, the story of the world (and all things) that begins with “In the beginning God” You’ve now got the attention of the Hebrew religious people, with the open but only a few syllables in it switches from the familiar “God” to “was the Word”
He’s bridging to key ways people then (and now) understand the world Narrative (mythos) the power of story (true or otherwise) to move us even define us and Ideas/Concepts (Logos) to shape the way we see the world and ourselves. For the first readers the Jews were hearing God and the Greeks were hearing deep rational principals that give life true meaning and purpose, and John is saying YES these are together. In this case “Word” is not an abstract idea but it is instead a person and the person is Jesus.
Jesus Preexisted Eternally –As we reframe Jesus we must go back to the beginning. The gospel begins before Jesus public ministry or even His incarnation. This story just got rewound so we have to consider all that was is and happened in the beginning to be from Jesus. The “was” word is a “continual” word so it’s saying there was never a time there wasn’t Jesus. Jesus isn’t the end or the middle of the story, He is the beginning. The Gospel doesn’t start with Jesus arrival into History. It begins (in the beginning with Jesus as the author and initiator of History) it started in the beginning, before there was anything there was God, before there was anything there was Jesus.
Jesus in Relationship Eternally- Jesus was with God. (Literally “continually towards God”) So there is an orientation and action of Jesus (The Son) with God (The Father). There is an eternal intimacy of communion and relationship between the Trinity (God the Holy Spirit). There wasn’t some time that they were apart and then came together “form of a Trinity” to create something new. Eternal community of equality.
Jesus is God Eternally – “And the word was(continually) God” He has always been God the Son, distinct identity from God the Father/Holy Spirit by not separated from them because they have continually been towards one another. Jesus is not a JV member of a God squad. He didn’t grow up and achieve god-ness. He has been, is, always will be God. So any accurate portrait of Jesus must acknowledge and seek to comprehend this aspect of Jesus’ nature. This is not a subtle point, John wants us to see that Jesus was much more than an influential man. Jesus is God. We are to understand EVERYTHING in this book should be read through the lenses of this verse. That everything Jesus is, does, and says are the actions, deeds, and words of GOD. He’s not a new character entering into the story or a new idea to consider, He is eternal.
What does that mean for us? Jesus “in the beginning” means Jesus precedes everything. Jesus is before all the things that have happened or that you have done that have robbed you of joy, caused you fear and anxiety, that have hurt you, left you unsettled, or calloused to others or even to God. He is before your shame, your sin, He precedes the loss you experienced with a miscarriage, Jesus was there before your parents divorce, our before yours. So we when we consider things we think define where we are now we remember they are not the beginning of the story, they are not the idea that defines us, Jesus is. What have you let define you, what story do you believe about yourself or the world, or idea do you hold on to that from it’s conception has come AFTER Jesus? Because if Jesus was before it He is bigger than it and over it.
PART II | Reframing “The Creator” | v3-5
John 1:3-5 | 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus is the Creator. When we place Jesus in the story of the world He has to be in His proper place, not as a bit part but as the Creator of everything. Not the creator of part of it or part of you, all of it. “Psalm 33:6 | By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made” This shown comprehensively both Positively (all things made through him), and negatively (there is nothing made without him.) Jesus was involved in everything, “Wait, what about?” Without Him there is no creation. Nothing was made without Jesus. Everything is held together by Jesus (Col 1:17) So if Jesus is God, is Eternal, is the Creator of everything and nothing can be truly created without Him, everything is sustained by Him then all of the sudden the importance of who Jesus is and what our portrait of Him looks like matters more and more because if He is the Creator, that makes us “created”. The implications for us are substantial, because the Creator of something gets to define what that something is, what it’s purpose is, how it relates to and with other created beings/things. The created, doesn’t get to go back and define the Creator, the created has to respond to the Creator. Before we get concerned that we’re some created slaves or robots, we have to remember Jesus the Creator, creates “good.” His creation we know in Gen 1-2 is called “good”. Verse 4 says in him was life (or what he made was life in him) We’re not created to be left alone or to be exiled from the Creator, we (distinct from any other part of creation) are actually made in “His” image meaning we’re made to be “like him” giving us all great value and dignity. He created life for a purpose including life to be experienced with Him, in communion with Him. “I will be their God and they will be my people.” Life is most fully and joyfully to be with Him. He created with life with light, verbally a source of illumination, warmth, energy, safety, growth, sustenance. Jesus is the source of light so He is the source of life. Life with Jesus is life with light. This good! This should sound good, but we know our experience of “life” doesn’t always seem to be characterized by “light” There is something off, something wrong.
Much of our life is us trying to create or make things without Jesus. We try to make our identity without him, we try to find flourishing without Him, navigate our relationships with others, manage our finances, raise our kids, or enjoy our marriages without Him. Sometimes we can even experience some relative success and enjoyment. However, we’re not created to be separate from Him. Because nothing is made without Him and all things are held together by Him, then you can have everything else in your life right, but it doesn’t matter if you get Jesus wrong because He’s the source of life and light, without which you cannot endure.
What went wrong? Where is our hope? (v5)- Light and life are contrasted with darkness and death. There exists a contrast from the light of God in Jesus to humanity and life with him and it’s not a slightly different shade of light it is darkness and death. So where has this darkness and death come from and how should we understand it in relation to God/Jesus? The darkness is sin, death is its consequence. Sin causes a separation from God (Jesus). Darkness is the absence of light. Death is the end of life. When light and life are gone that is all that remains. This story, this idea would be sad and fatalistic if not for some hope. So just as the topic of darkness comes up before we can be anxious about the final outcome of the contrast and conflict we’re given some clarity. Yes darkness exists. Yes there is darkness in the midst of the light even, and death in the midst of life. But if your concerned that this darkness is going to spread, if death is going to reign take heart. Yes there is a cosmic level conflict but it’s not evenly matched, it’s not yin and yang. It’s not darkness is penetrating light. It’s not “in the beginning darkness and death and life is making a go at it like the little engine that could.” It’s light, “not will”, does right now shines in the darkness and death and that light is not going to be extinguished by darkness. Light and life have won. If darkness is the absence of light then sheer presence of light marks darkness’s defeat. Open door from a light hallway in to a dark room and the dark doesn’t fill the hallway, the hallway light shines into the room. Light wins. This reference to light shining in the darkness is later made clear to refer to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who came into the world as “light” while darkness was on the march, faced darkness at His death on the cross, and overcame death in His resurrection we see It’s not dualistic, darkness is defeated. So in the beginning when God says “Let there be light” and when Jesus on this cross says “it is finished” He is saying in a sense “let there not be darkness and death.” The light of God in Jesus, which has shown from the beginning, is greater than the darkness now and shines now because of who He is and what He’s done. Where have you believed darkness has overcome the light or the light of Jesus is not capable of overcoming?
PART III | Reframing our Response | v9-14
John 1:9-14 | 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 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 have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The theme of light continues as John begins to unpack how who Jesus is, what He has done, impacts how we are to respond to him. True light means authentic, ultimate, genuine, real, this is light that illuminates Jesus doesn’t just contrast with what is false He he embodies what is true. Finite fallen humanity cannot behold the glory of an infinite and perfect God. God knows the darkness and death we face, He knows we need light and life. God knows this, so He condescends to us revealing His glory through the person and work of Jesus. Jesus was not only extraordinary, He is God incarnate, in the flesh.
Jesus is involved and engaged with the world – Specifically, in John’s Gospel we’re seeing how he came into the world, was rejected by the world (again) and how He came to save His people in the world. This is where we see contrasting response to the light and life of Jesus. God arrived and dwelt in the flesh as a man, as Jesus. The Cosmic Creator is also the incarnate Christ. He was the creator of the world, He made it, He condescended to it engaged with His created people in a form they could relate to for the purpose of deep relationship, and restoration of communion, but there was a separation of intimacy and brokenness. “The world did not ‘know’ him. There is an apathy, maybe people didn’t understand. There is active rejection Maybe Jesus wasn’t clear. If only God in His providence had given us something to know what is true and right about Jesus. He did. He referred to and revealed himself to be who He said He is. God’s only Son sent from the Father embodying and personifying the grace of God and the truth of all things.
He came his own possession. He came to the world He created. He came to people He made a promise to who were supposed to be anticipating His arrival who were supposed to be carving His light and instead they did not receive Him. To not receive is to reject. To not receive, or to reject Jesus as God is to reject and not receive God Himself. This is a big deal, why? Because if God is light and life than to reject light and life is to choose darkness and death. This is the choice that is made when you engage or consider Jesus and respond with anything less than “Yes LORD” To see Jesus clearly is to see God’s Glory as He has chosen to reveal it to us, so we can either align with what is true or reject it. He sent us Life/Light with Jesus.
But to all who did receive…. But there is a big turn. To receive Jesus is to receive life. What does that mean? Belief in His name, faith and trust in the WORD who was from the beginning whose name is Jesus. We go from children of darkness condemned to death entitled only to wrath., the right to become children of God. (Not everyone is God’s child, meaning not everyone has family status) This birth is not of blood (bloodline) nor of the will choice of people, but God’s work. Born again, born from above. He shines light in Jesus and then makes us children of light, to be light to a dark world. So where are you living light?
We receive the presence of God. What is lost in darkness is the presence of God. In Jesus we have God with us. Jesus arrives on the scene to dwell with us (be with us) God present with His people. so that we would see Him as glorious. This is the final theme the Son of God was sent in the world so that we could see God as glorious, be aware of God the Creator, giving grace to His people with the truth of real life in and with Jesus. Life comes from God so true life can only be experienced with God. Jesus is God in the flesh dwelling with His people and engaging with them to bring abundant life in the heights of a wedding feast, to the depths of being caught and condemned in adultery. Because Jesus came in the flesh we can know that Jesus care about every aspect of our lives, spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. God’s love for His people is displayed most clearly in the death of Jesus on the cross, in our place, for our sin and His resurrection shows us His love is powerful enough to overcome death and provide glorious life with God now and forever.
What is your next step? Where do you have an incomplete or inaccurate view of Jesus? Read God’s word.
Have you “seen the light” of Jesus? Do you need move from apathy or rejection to reception and adoration of Jesus for the first time? Simply believe Jesus is who he says he is and pledge your allegiance to Him, if that happens know it is an act of God in you to shine light into your dark heart. Know you’re His child. Be baptized signifying the old dark you is dead and new you in Jesus is alive. Do you follow Jesus? Then live as a child of light spreading the illumination of THE WORD to a world who needs it by telling people about Jesus.
Jesus isn’t a life changing idea, this isn’t epic story this is both and it’s real. This portrait isn’t a cartoon fiction, it’s a life like portrait of Jesus painted by John (through the Holy Spirit) who says “This God, Jesus came and dwelt/lived with us” He’s part of the witnesses saw His glory, in the big and the miraculous and the small and mundane. He says, “We’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen His glory. Let me paint a portrait of him for you in the Gospel so you can see the glory I saw, experience the life I have, have your darkness overcome by His Light when you Trust Jesus!”