Jesus the Word
by Berry Kercheville
“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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made … 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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:1-3; 14–18 ESV)
In John 14:8, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus answered, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”
God did not just give words to describe himself, he gave the Word, visibly declaring his true nature. Though “no one has ever seen God,” the Word became flesh and “made him known” (1:18). John’s purpose for writing was, “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31). But how did John fulfill his purpose? It was not by simply showing us the miracles Jesus performed. Other prophets did miracles. John presents signs, a miracle that teaches a lesson beyond the amazement of the supernatural. John’s method was to reveal Jesus to actually be God: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
This is evident in the John’s introduction.
- The Word is eternal. He was face to face (“with”) God, was God, and was in the beginning with God.
- He is the Creator. Everything was made through him (3). Who is this Word who became flesh? It is the Creator who became flesh. The Creator dwelt among us. The Creator went to the cross. The Creator smashed the barrier of death and crushed the Serpent’s head. And the Creator ascended back to heaven to take his rightful place as King of kings, proving to all that he is worthy of our love and worship.
- Jesus is life and light. He is not just the giver of life and light; he is the very source and essence of life and light. There is no life and there is no light outside of God. Only God can shine in the darkness and conquer darkness.
- In him we see the glory of God, that is, we see the true nature of God and are able to comprehend his goodness and beauty.
- He is full of grace and truth. Moses brought the Law but Jesus is the Lawgiver. From that fullness we have all received, “grace upon grace.” In other words, Moses revealed a Law that proved us to be cursed as sinners, but in the Word is revealed the true revelation of the nature of God, we receive grace on top of grace; grace that multiplies and lasts a lifetime.
We Beheld His Glory
To more fully understand Jesus as the Word who makes God known, notice the reference to “glory” and to Moses and the Law in verse 17. As John often does, in these few words he calls attention to an Old Testament incident to give us a clearer picture of the purpose of the Word. After the incident with the golden calf, God told Moses he would not go with him to the Promised Land (Ex. 33:2-3). However, Moses pleaded with the Lord: “Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight” (33:13). Moses’ request is striking. He desired to see God’s ways so he could know him in order to find favor with him. How else can we find favor with God unless we know him? The Lord then promised, “My presence will go with you.” Moses continued by asking, “Show me your glory” (33:18). God then promised to go with the people on the basis of his mercy and that He would make His glory pass before Moses even though Moses would not be able to see his face. However, when the Lord passed before Moses, instead of a descriptive picture of God, the Lord proclaimed His name: “God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:5-7).
We can very quickly see the parallels to the Exodus experience in our text. Consider that Jews of the first century were looking for a new “exodus,” a new “lawgiver,” and a new “temple” based on prophecies that foretold of a period that overshadowed their OT experiences. Notice especially the emphasis on glory. In Exodus, God revealed his glory to Moses, though in a limited way. In Jesus we see his glory in the flesh, “the Word dwelt among us. This would remind Israel of a number of incidents in the OT.
The Greek word for “dwelt” is the same as used in the LXX for the OT tabernacle. Thus, we might say the Word “tabernacled among us.” The idea is not simply that God lived with us, but that God came in the form of the Word in order to once and for all reestablish the Eden fellowship of which the OT tabernacle had foreshadowed. Through the physical tabernacle God maintained a relationship with Israel. But through the Word there would be a much greater and permanent relationship that God would have with man. Hebrews 10:1-20 beautifully outlines this parallel as Jesus is given a “body” by which He offers Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice. He becomes the “new and living way” through which worshipers can now enter into the true holy place, into the presence of God Himself.
In contrast, in Exodus 40, when the tabernacle had been completed, the glory of the Lord filled the tent and neither Moses nor anyone else were able to enter. When Solomon completed his temple, the glory of the Lord again entered (1 Kings 8:10-11) and the people fell on their faces giving thanks saying, “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The people understood the glory of the Lord filling the temple as an outpouring of God’s grace.
After the Babylonian captivity, God promised that his glory would again fill his house and the latter glory would be more than the former (Haggai 2:4-9). However, when Israel completed the second temple in Ezra 6, there is conspicuously absent any mention of the glory of the Lord filling the house. Instead, Ezekiel prophesied that the latter glory would take place in the new “temple” during the days of the Messiah (Ezek. 43:4-5, 44:4).
Therefore, when we read, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son…” we are reading the fulfillment of that future glory. But unlike the presence of God dwelling in the tabernacle, God himself in the Word reveals the glory of God in the flesh. He is the “tabernacle” through whom man can dwell with God.
John reveals the Word’s ultimate revelation of God in that he is “full of grace and truth.” In Exodus 34:6, when God showed himself to Moses, he said, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These words, steadfast love and faithfulness are covenant terms indicating God’s mercy and faithfulness to His promises. The Word reveals God as “full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mercy and faithfulness to His covenant. These words were how God showed Moses his glory.
The Word Reveals the Glory of God
It is interesting that the glory of the Lord in the form of the Word was not immediately and openly visible to all men. John 2:11 records that when Jesus performed the sign of water to wine, he revealed his glory. But the ultimate glory was the Creator’s sacrifice of himself on the cross (12:23). It is there, at the foot of the cross, that God was “made known” by the Word.
However, that is not the end of the revelation of God’s glory. In John 17:22, Jesus said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Jesus gave his glory to us, the glory of the cross, so that the world can know God and see God in us. We replicate the glory God gave us when we love as Jesus loved and die to ourselves so others may live. In this way, “all men will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).