John 1:4-18 – The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us

He is Life and Light

He has Life in His Essence

John says, “In Him was life” (John 1:4). The life John has in view mainly is new life, spiritual life, saving life, the gift of eternal life, the opposite of spiritual death now and final condemnation later. That’s mainly what John means. Mainly he has in view the life that we do not have even though we are physically alive.

Listen to Jesus as He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). In other words, apart from believing in Jesus, we are all dead. In order to live forever and not “come into judgment,” we need the gift of life. That life is in Jesus.

His Life is a Shining Light

John adds: “and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). He says it because we don’t really know what spiritual death and life are, until we relate them to light and darkness and blindness.

Most of the people we meet every day look alive. If you tell them they are dead, they will think you are crazy. Yet, in a spiritual sense, every human being can be considered blind or dead. Later John talks about how the people in the world did not even recognize their creator when He lived in their midst. This is because they were blind. In one passage, the pharisees said, “Oh no, we are not blind” (John 9:40), and Jesus responded: “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (John 9:41). The point is, people think they can see and understand things clearly, yet spiritually speaking when Jesus lived on earth, very few people could see His glory. Of course some did. John said “We have seen His glory” (John 1:14), but very few did, while Jesus was on earth.

He Has Victory Over Darkness

John introduces the plot into His story immediately. As we have just seen, this Word came into our world that was immersed in darkness. There was a kind of conflict, where the darkness tried to overcome this light. But darkness was unable to overcome the light, and the light had victory over the darkness! We see this in the story of the Gospel, showing Jesus’ rejection and ultimate crucifixion, but having complete victory in His resurrection.

His Glory was Veiled

He Became Flesh (John 1:14)

In his gospel, John points out that Jesus was weary (John 4:6) and thirsty (John 4:7). He groaned within (John 11:33) and openly wept (John 11:35). On the cross He thirsted (John 19:28), bled (John 19:34) and died (John 19:30). After His resurrection He proved to Thomas that He still had a body (John 24:24-29), albeit a glorified one!

But it is important to understand that Jesus became man without ceasing to be God. The diving Word, the divine Son of God became a human without ceasing to be God. Remember Mathew 1:23: “they shall call His name Emmanuel, which means God with us”. John goes on to say “we have seen His glory” (John 1:14). No qualifications. Whose glory? The glory of the eternal Word, the Son.

There are deep theological mysteries here. Want a mind-bender? How is it even possible for the infinite and immutable God (He never changes. He is the eternal “I AM”, John 8:58 and “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever”, Heb 13:8) add a human nature to His divine one? It is hard to wrap our finite human minds around this mystery. It is one of those cases where we need to accept the limitations of our understanding and accept this revelation by faith. But in becoming flesh, He made God knowable in a way that had never been done before. That is why He is the eternal “Word” of God!

He Dwelt Among Us (John 1:14)

Jesus lived on earth, in ordinary dwellings. He invited two disciples who were curious about Him from John’s testimony to “come and see” (John 1:39) where He lived. He had a band of 12 disciples who he lived and travelled with during His entire public ministry.

The words literally mean “He pitched His tent among us”, reminding us of the tabernacle. This is one of the reasons why we know that Jesus did not cease to be God when He came to earth. 

These words are also shocking us because Solomon had declared “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you” (1 Kings 8:27)?

He was Unrecognized (John 1:10)

John says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:10). To most people, He was just an ordinary man. Maybe a wise teacher, but just a man. This is why Pilate said to Him “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you” (John 19:10). To Pilate, Jesus was just a man. Yes, Pilate could see that he was innocent and did not deserve to die based on the charges against Him. But Pilate could not see that He was in fact God in the flesh.

Isaiah says: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2). Nothing special to look at!

He was Rejected (John 1:11)

John says it is not just that He was not known or recognized, but that He was also rejected, and worse, by His own people. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).There is a beautiful song, which talks about how Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified in a tree that He Himself had created. This is the paradox of the Creator coming and living in our midst and not being known.

We see that although He was rejected by His own people, there were some outsiders who did not reject Him. Think of the Samaritan woman in John 4, and He was sought by Greek gentiles (John 12:20). Yet He was spurned by the official representatives of HIs own people.

His Glory Shone in Him (John 1:14)

We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So when Jesus cloaked Himself with humanity, His glory was veiled. It was hidden under His human body. It was so hidden, that He was unrecognized by the world. Isaiah says this about Him: As we have seen, Isaiah pointed out that there was nothing particularly attractive about the human body that Jesus took on, and when He was on the cross, it was actually repulsive to look at Him. Isaiah said: “as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:2-3).

Yet, for those who had the eyes to see (and everyone is by default spiritually blind), He shone with glory. Do you remember that when the tabernacle and the temple were dedicated, the whole place was filled with the glory of God? It was so awesome that the people were afraid to look at it. We also see this when Isaiah had his commission. He had a vision of God exalted in glory, and the whole temple was filled with His glory. This God has now become man. He still has all of his glory, but it is hidden in His humanity. 

And His closest disciples, and a handful of others who He revealed Himself to, they saw in Him the radiant glory of God. Decades later when John thinks about those remarkable three years, he is still filled with amazement, and trips over His words as he contemplates the wonder: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 John 1:1-3).

He Gave Grace upon Grace out of His Fullness (John 1:16)

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). This is fantastic news. God could have chosen to become flesh as judge and executioner. All of us would have been found guilty before Him and be sentenced to everlasting punishment. But He did not come in flesh in that way. He came to reveal a divine glory that is “full of grace and truth”. This will be a righteous, God-exalting, costly grace. It will lead straight to Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, this is why He became flesh. He had to have flesh in order to die in our place (Heb 2:14-15). The Word became flesh so that the death of Jesus would be possible. The cross is where the fullness of His grace shines the most brightly. It is not a wishy-washy, sentimental grace.

Jesus is filled to the brim with all of the goodness and holiness of God. The abundant grace that poured out of Jesus, is in a sense, an overflow of His fullness. This grace is His over-abundant perfection brimming over and spilling to those He came in contact with on earth.

He Spoke Truth Sprinkled in Grace (John 1:14, John 1:17)

We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Although Jesus came overflowing with grace, He also spoke truth – truth that was not comfortable to hear. It was the truth about our sinful condition. He once said “The world … hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). It is not pleasant if someone comes to us and says that everything we do is evil. But Jesus did that. The world hated Him for it, but it was the truth. Grace cannot shine as brightly, without the backdrop of the truth about our real condition. So the truth Jesus spoke was very hard. Most people could not receive it. Yet, the truth that Jesus spoke could have the effect of people receiving Jesus, and being saved from all the consequences of their condition. Grace without truth is too soft. Truth without grace is too hard. Grace and truth together is just right. Jesus had both of these in perfect balance.

John repeats this thought. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). John is talking about the mountain peaks of God’s revelation. Until now the Jews looked back to the time God gave His law through Moses. John is saying that there is a new peak of revelation – indeed a much higher one – the peak of the Word who became flesh, and who gave grace while speaking truth.

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