Sunday, March 5, 2017

John – The Gospel of Light and Life ~ Word Made Flesh

During this season of Lent we are going to take a look at Jesus in the gospel of John.  Some people really love the gospel of John; I have always found it difficult to understand.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are pretty simple and straightforward.  They contain lots of parables and stories used by Jesus to help ordinary people understand what he was talking about and they all say that we need to follow Jesus and the example he has set for us.  Matthew, Mark and Luke point us to the Kingdom of God and they tell us how to live our lives following the principles of God's kingdom.   John’s gospel is different.  John doesn’t give as many parables but instead uses metaphors and images about who Jesus is and many of these images are difficult to understand.  John doesn't point us to the kingdom of God but instead has us look at Jesus and in John we aren’t told to follow Jesus to find life but to believe in Him and by believing in him find the fullness of life.

So John is different.  John is more spiritual and philosophical.    John can’t be read as a biography of Jesus life it needs to be read as a commentary on his life.  We don’t focus on what Jesus did as much as why he did it.  What was the meaning of Jesus words and actions and what does it mean for us?  Those are some of the questions we are going to be asking during these next few weeks and I want to invite you to take the time to read the gospel of John between now and Easter.  Each week in the next steps we will provide a section of the gospel to read and the questions we should ask ourselves as we read it.  I would also invite you to join a small group where you can learn about Jesus with others and grow in faith together.

Today we are going to start at the beginning - John 1:1-5, 14a.  John makes clear from the beginning that Jesus is the word of God in the flesh or in human form.  This would have been a new idea for the people reading this.  They would have understood all about the power of God’s word.  They knew that God’s word was what created the world and set things in motion and kept things going.  They knew that the word of God reflected and revealed the character of God and the will of God and the heart of God but to say that the word of God became flesh was something very new and different.

What I like about John is that he doesn’t try to tell us how this happened.  The church would debate that question for centuries after Jesus and the truth is that we are still discussing how Jesus was the word of God in the flesh, but how it happened wasn’t important to John, all he wanted us to know is that it did happen.  The fullness and power of God’s word stepped into this world in the person of Jesus.  What was important to John was to answer the question why.

Why did God come to us in human form?  Why did the word become flesh?  The answer to that is actually pretty easy – the word becomes flesh so that we could more fully know God.  The word because flesh so that we could see God and so we could believe in God and God’s love for us because for John it was by believing in God and his love we could find life.  This is what we hear in the most familiar of all verses in John’s gospel, John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

The word of God becomes flesh so we could see God, believe in God and find life in God and this is a theme we find throughout John’s gospel.  John even said that this was why he wrote the gospel.   John 20:31 - These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, life comes from following Jesus and living according to the principles of God’s kingdom but in John, life comes by believing and trusting in Jesus.  Now the truth is that both of these things are true.  Believing in Jesus and following Jesus are both needed for us to experience the fullness of life God has for us.  To simply follow Jesus can make us good people, but true life is found through faith and trust in Christ.  But faith alone isn’t enough, our faith and trust needs to lead to action and daily living or what we believe isn’t really doing any good.  Faith without works is dead but works without faith is no faith at all, so both are needed.  This is one more reason why we need to read all of God’s word.  Just reading one part doesn’t give us the fullness of life and faith that God wants for us and so we need to learn from it all.

So believing in Jesus, the word made flesh, brings life and the truth is that God’s word has always brought forth life.  Look at the opening verses of John again.  John 1:1-2.  Does this sound familiar?  It sounds very much like the beginning of the Bible.  Genesis 1:1-3.  In the beginning there was just darkness and it was God’s word that brought forth light and it was God’s word that brought forth life.  God spoke and there was light and God spoke and there was life – all kinds of life.  So we see that God is the source of both light and life and these are the two themes we are going to look at through this season of lent.

Light is important because it drives out the darkness.  Before God spoke at the beginning of creation, there was simply darkness and chaos and we know what this darkness is like.  We see darkness all around us.  We see darkness when we turn on the evening news and hear about division, dissension and destruction.  We see the darkness in the world when we see and hear about people living in despair and needing just the basic elements of life to survive.  We see the darkness around us but we also experience this darkness in us.  For some the darkness comes with disease and the uncertainty of the future when our health is compromised.  Sometimes the darkness comes when relationships are strained or we see loved ones pull away from us.  We see darkness in financial struggles and when we wonder how we will pay the bills or ever get out of debt.  We understand darkness all too well and we long for light.

What John tells us is that Jesus is the one who will bring light into every dark situation.  Jesus is the one who can bring peace to warring factions and heal our divisions.  Jesus is the one who can help us turn from destructive ways to find productive ways to live together.  Jesus is the one who can bring the light of comfort to the darkness of loss and the light of hope into the darkness of despair and the light of healing into the darkness of disease.  Again and again in John’s gospel Jesus is the one who brings light into the darkness and if we believe in Jesus then we have hope that God will bring light into our darkness.

Where is the dark place in your life where you need some light?  Whatever that place may be, Jesus is the light who can drive out the darkness.  When we trust God and when we trust God’s love for us, the light of God enters our world and begins to drive out the darkness.  Believing in Jesus brings a light into our lives that the darkness cannot overcome.

Jesus brings light and Jesus brings life.  47 times in John’s gospel he talks about Jesus bringing life and usually John talks about eternal life, like we heard in John 3:16 and John 20.  Eternal life for John wasn’t something we experience only when our life in this world is over, for John eternal life begins today.  The life God offers us in Jesus is an abundant and full life that we can begin to experience today.  With this life God offers comes the fruit of God’s spirit and the love, peace and joy that we all long to experience but this life doesn’t come by asking Jesus to be part of our lives it comes by believing in Jesus and becoming part of his life.

In an article for Christianity Today, Russell Moore said, For too long we’ve called unbelievers to invite Jesus into your life.  Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life.  Your life’s a wreck.  Jesus calls you into his life.  And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static.  It’s wild and exhilarating and unpredictable.  

Isn’t this what Jesus did throughout his life.  Jesus didn’t step into people’s lives as much as he called people into his life and when they believed in him, they found the fullness of a life that only God could offer.  When people went to Jesus and stepped into his life they found healing and hope and a future.  When the disciples stepped into Jesus’ life they performed miracles, Peter walked on water and in time it was the witness of the disciples that changed the world.  As we make our way to Easter we need to stop asking Jesus to come into our lives because our lives are a wreck, we need to start thinking about what it means for us to step into Jesus’ life and how we step into the light of God’s word.  Maybe this is just a subtle shift of thinking but it is an important one.

How can we step into the life of Jesus this week?  What is God doing around us that we can be part of?  Where is God moving in our family or in our community or in our world and what does it mean for us to join God where he is and start doing what he is doing?  How can we step into that life this week?

When we believe in Christ and step into the life of Jesus and when we walk in the light of God something unexpected will happen – God’s word comes alive in us and we become light and life to others.  When we step into the life of Jesus and walk in the light of God, God’s word now dwells in us and we are the ones who help show the world who God is and our lives become an invitation for others to experience the grace and love and power of God.  So believing in Jesus doesn’t just bring us light and life it opens the door for us to offer light and life to others.

Today is the day for us to step into the light and life that God has for us.  Today is the day to step into the life of Jesus and if we will, this season of Lent will not only change us, it will change everyone around us as the word becomes flesh and blood in us.

Next Steps
John – The Gospel of Light and Life
Word Made Flesh

1.  This week: Read John 1.
Use the following questions as you study the gospel of John.
What is said in this passage about Jesus?
In this passage, how does Jesus bring life to me?
What response do these verses require of me?

2.  Identify the dark places in your life that need the light of God.
In what way can God’s love and power bring light?
How can God’s word help bring hope in these areas?

For too long we’ve called unbelievers to invite Jesus into your life.  Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life.  Your life’s a wreck.  Jesus calls you into his life.  And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static.  It’s wild and exhilarating and unpredictable.   Russell Moore, Christianity Today

3.  How can you step into the life of Jesus this week?  What will change?

4.  If you could literally step into Jesus’ life and be with him, what part of his life would you want to experience?
His miracles?
His teaching?
His interaction with people?

5.  How can you bear the light and be the life of God for someone this week?