January 5, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.John 1:14-18
The darkest place I have ever been was inside a mine. I grew up in California in the gold country. In 1848 gold was discovered in California and by 1849 people from all over the world were streaming there hoping to strike it rich. The vast majority of people did not strike it rich though, and today, most of the mines are now abandoned with a few open only for tours. I remember going on one of the tours and thinking how desperate the miners where who first came looking for gold. There were so many dangers as the miners dug deeper and deeper hoping to see a shimmer of gold in the rock reflecting the dim light of their candles. They risked their lives in the darkness facing cave-ins, hitting a natural gas pocket, running out of oxygen, running out of light, being crushed by the carts of ore, etc. and in the end whether rich or poor they faced a hole six feet deep. Mines are some of the darkest and most dangerous places in our world, but the darkest and most dangerous place is living without God. Thanks be to God that in our reading from John 1, God is revealed to us through Jesus the Son who shines with grace and truth.
John 1 reveals that Jesus came to live with us in our dark world. The opening verse of our reading from John 1 quickly summed up all that we have been looking forward to and celebrating over the last weeks of the Advent and Christmas seasons. God guided John to write, 14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Here with this one sentence all the prophecies over thousands of years and the miraculous only ever virgin birth of the Savior of the world were captured. It was stated so simply, yet this truth revealed that God became like one of his creatures born with flesh and blood. In the next verse, a different John from the one who wrote this gospel, John the Baptist, revealed who the “Word” was that had come to live with us in our dark world, 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) From the perspective of all who heard him preaching, John the Baptist came before Jesus because he began his ministry before Jesus began his ministry and John was about six months older, but John preached that Jesus was before him and greater than him. God used both Johns to reveal that Jesus, God himself, came to live with us in our dark world of sin and death to give us life and light.
Jesus became one of us to give us life. The word translated as ‘became’ and later ‘came’ appears twice in our reading from John 1:14-18. The word appears in the exact same form twice in the Greek text, but it is translated in the English as two different words. First, in verse 14 the Greek word ἐγένετο is translated “became” as in 14 “The Word became flesh.” Second, in verse 17 the Greek word ἐγένετο is translated “came” as in “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The use of this same word twice connects the “Word” becoming flesh, and “grace and truth” becoming something. Through Jesus’ conception grace and truth became alive. Jesus became a flesh and blood human being so that grace and truth would be a real, tangible thing from God. No longer was the grace and truth of God something hoped in yet hidden. Now, through Jesus, the grace and truth of God was hoped in and revealed as John wrote, 14 … “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus, the one and only Son of God, full of grace and truth came to give us life by becoming one of us.
The glory of God was our only hope for life. God’s glory is all that he does. He deserves praise for all of the glorious things he does like his creation of the world with all its vastness and detail. He also deserves praise for the glory of the Son and his work to save us, which we heard about in our reading from Ephesians 1, 7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us.” Jesus redeemed us by giving his life as payment for our sins. Then, because he had earned the right to do it, he forgave us our sins. This is God’s grace; this is his underserved love that he gave his perfect Son over to death on the cross to pay for our sins and therefore forgive us. The life and death of Jesus was God’s glory in action.
In order to save us, God had to be the one to act. We could not save ourselves because we are sinners, guilty of breaking God’s law. It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, and that grace came through Jesus as John wrote, 17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” God’s law is powerless to save us. The purpose of God’s law is not to show us a way to save ourselves. Instead, its purpose is to show us our sins as we hear in Romans 3, 20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” God gave the law through Moses to show Israel their need for a Savior from sin and death. God’s law continues to show us our same need for the Savior. And through Jesus came grace and truth. He became what we could not be. He became one of us to be perfect in our place, to be the light of life among the darkness of death.
God opened your eyes to see Jesus as the light of the world. By God’s grace Jesus saved you. This truth connects you to God. John wrote, 18 “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Jesus made God known to us by revealing only God can give life as the Creator. Jesus as the Son of God also holds the power over life and death. There is no other way to be free from the fear of death and what comes next than to trust in Jesus. Jesus also reveals God’s love for us, that though we were lost in sin he saved us and forgives us. Finally, Jesus has made God known to us by sending the Holy Spirit to give us faith. With the Holy Spirit, we live in the light and trust in Jesus as our Lord, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 12:3 … no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the light of the world we look to in the darkness.
God’s light is completely different from the darkness surrounding us. Your hope in Jesus goes against the world’s love of itself. You and I face the temptation to fall back in line with the world. Like miners going back into the dark and dangerous earth to mine for a few pieces of precious metal, your sinful nature wants you to return to your sins to fill the bottomless pit of a sinful heart of greed, lust, pride, gossip, etc. Your sinful nature also wants to attract you away from God by offering you what looks like the light. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul wrote, 14 … “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” The devil, demons and false teachers are in the world spreading lies about God. You face the temptation as a believer to listen to what sounds like God’s Word and the light, to trust a false teaching that because you are a good person, you will go to heaven. You face the temptation to believe you must be health, kind, patient, giving, successful, active in your community, well liked, well educated, financially sound, have a spouse, have kids, etc. because that is what a good Christian looks like. No, what makes you completely different from this dark would is not to trust in yourself and what you need to do in your life. What makes you different is that God became what is good for you. God is the light and through him you have been made good and perfect.
God has given you the light that saved you from the darkness. You struggle with falling into past sins and despair of God’s forgiveness, and with believing you need to do what is right so that you are saved. This struggle between despair and pride is answered only in Jesus. He is the “Word made flesh” and the light that gives you the hope of forgiveness and life. When you tell others that you trust in Jesus alone, some will be offended because it will expose their sins. Others may not care because they believe they are doing everything right in God’s eyes they have no need for a Savior. Others though will hear God’s Word from you, and it will shine brightly as the power of God as we heard in our reading from Isaiah 62, God said, 1 “For the sake of Zion I will not be silent. For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth shining brightly, and her salvation burns like a torch.” God has not been silent but gave you his Word full of grace and truth. Jesus is the light and the treasure to hold onto. With him there is nothing more to search for to satisfy you.
The darkest place I have ever been was inside a mine. I remember going on one of the tours and thinking how desperate the miners where who first came looking for gold. There were so many dangers in the darkness and in the end whether rich or poor they faced a hole six feet deep. We were lost in the darkness our sins, but a light shined on us. God revealed his Son to us. Only by his power have we been saved, forgiven and brought to faith in our Savior. We are still in the darkness in this world, but by God’s grace we look to Jesus. He satisfies us with life and light. Soon we will all be with Jesus in heaven where the Son shines with grace and truth. Amen.