The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest companions, begins his telling of Jesus’ life with profound words. John describes Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ – that perfect wisdom and revelation of God – who “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1, 2). He says Jesus was “the true light” shining “in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome” that light (1:5, 9). John even goes so far as to say that Jesus surpasses Moses in His authority as a teacher because Jesus is “the One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” (1:17, 18). These rich words show us how highly John thought about Jesus and exactly who we are dealing with when we come to the Gospels: Jesus’ timelessness, Jesus’ authority, Jesus’ wisdom, and Jesus’ divinity.
If we had never encountered the story of Jesus, it may strike us as odd when we read the following words from John nestled amidst those earlier descriptions:
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory.” (1:14)
The lofty One comes into our midst in human flesh, John says, and that is a revelation of His glory. Certainly, it could be a slight surprise to hear this. The glorious Word – unstained and pure – steps into rough and tumble human experience – right where we live.
Yet that slight surprise is nothing compared to what we encounter later in John’s story: that Jesus would suffer the brutality of violent execution by human hands. This is exactly what we have heard from another early Jesus follower, Matthew, in his record of Jesus’ life read throughout the service today. It is a litany of broken human experience: Jesus’ isolated and suffering alone in prayer while His disciples fall asleep; Jesus’ betrayed by one of His own followers named Judas; Jesus arrested by Temple guards without clear accusation; Jesus facing authorities who bend justice to match their own aims, even as they stand as representatives of God; Jesus’ utter rejection by a close friend, Simon Peter; Jesus’ life exchanged for the freedom of a known murderer, Barabbas, at the request of the crowds; Jesus humiliatingly mocked as a broken king by the Roman soldiers, complete with a robe, a staff, and a crown of thorns; the voices of cynics shouting insults as Jesus is heaved up on a cross to slowly die of asphyxiation or heart failure. Read the rest of this entry »