“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
For me, this is the most powerful account of Christ – and the reality of not only His coming, but His entire being – that there is. What it reveals is nothing short of amazing, when we actually take time to focus on who and what Jesus is and always has been, and then consider how He chose to come into the world and hand-deliver us the greatest gift of all – Himself.
First, John 1:1 reminds us that Jesus was there in the beginning. Before anything existed, He was there. Next, we are reminded that Jesus was with God. And not only that, but also that He was God. I found this concept difficult to get my mind around at first. Worldly logic can’t comprehend both being something and being with something. But the Greek translation of “was” in this context helps. It means “to be identical.” In other words, Jesus was identical to God – though separate, they are one in the same. Think about that, there is no other who can make this claim. None. Jesus is the only One identical to God, the only One who is perfect.
Because He was there from the very beginning, Jesus also was there at our very beginning. And not only was He there, but the Bible tells us He played a role in our making. The scriptures tell us that in the beginning, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26. For me, this is incredibly significant in a number of respects. First, it confirms the truth of John 1:1 that Jesus was with God, as God says “let us” not “let me” or, as with all the rest of His creation, “let there be.”
Second, it reveals that Jesus had a hand in the design of the absolute highlight of God’s creation – you, me and every other child of His. As noted, with respect to light (Genesis 1:3), the sky (Genesis 1:6), the oceans and the land (Genesis 1:9), the stars (Genesis 1:14); and all living things on earth (Genesis 1:20, 1:24), God used the words “let there be.” He didn’t say “us” and He didn’t use the word “make.” Only when it comes to man, does God use the words “let us make.” Think about that. God “made” you and me and all of His children. We were purposefully designed, intentionally and carefully handcrafted by Him. As David revealed, God created our “inmost being”, He “knit [us] together” in the womb, and because of Him, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13. And Jesus was part of that.
Third, Genesis 1:26 tells us God and Jesus made man in their “image” and “likeness”, which we know from John 1:1 was one in the same, as the Word “was God.” According to the Ancient Hebrew Research Center, the Hebrew word for “image” is “tselem” and is literally translated as an outline or representation of the original. See Genesis 1:27, Jeff A. Benner, www.ancient-hebrew.org. The Hebrews’ focus, however, was not so much on physical image as it was on function – in other words, God made man as a representation of His own function, purpose, goals etc. Id.
Whatever the interpretation, Genesis 1:27 tells me that God and Jesus first made man just like them. In other words, perfect. But with one feature we apparently could not resist abusing. Free will. And to the detriment of all, Adam and Eve exercised free will by opening the door to sin and in so doing ensuring that we would never again have a chance at perfection. Genesis 3. We were left forever broken, with no power, no ability, nothing, to redeem ourselves.
In ignorance and with some degree of insolence, our forefathers spent millenniums following and falling away from God. Through floods and raining sulfur, invasion, occupation, and at times complete destruction, they never seemed to learn. It was as though they were forever waiting on something, or someone, to finally show them the way. And Jesus was there, all along – the only perfect One, God’s only Son. He was seated at the right hand, waiting for His time – as the prophets and forefathers revealed time and again. Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7; Micah 5:2; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms 2, 89, and 110 (to name but a few examples).
And then the greatest gift was delivered. “The Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14.
Since we celebrate His birth at Christmas, our tendency is to focus on the infant child, born in a humble manger to a humble woman and her humble husband. And, indeed, it is an amazing miracle that the Word would render Himself so seemingly vulnerable, and enter the world not on mighty chariots or in a pillar of fire, but from the womb of a modest woman in an animal’s stall. Still, to me the gift we celebrate today is not just His coming, the manner of it and the importance of it. And it is not about His going, the significance of which we must reflect upon in the coming months (and always really). For me the gift is also about, and perhaps mostly about, what Jesus left us with – both through His incarnate being and in His supernatural being. The Word and the Way. John 1:1, 14:6.
Jesus died for our sins, that we who believe would no longer carry the burden of our brokenness, but rather would enter anew into the Kingdom He has prepared for us. But before we could ever receive this salvation, before we could even know it is available, He had to come. He had to show us the Way. Before all of the promises can be fulfilled, we have to accept the absolutely greatest gift of all – Him.
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6. That is the greatest gift of all. Consider that again, only in the context of who Jesus is and always has been – with the Father, identical to the Father, our designer, and our creator, from the beginning. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:3-4. How is He a gift we could ever refuse?
Well, there is a way – and that is when we just don’t get it. As John foretold, “[t]he light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:5. In some interpretations, the word “understood” is replaced with “overcome” or “overwhelm.” The Greek translation of even these words, however, suggests that they connote a lack of understanding. So the bottom line, for me, is this. If we refuse to accept this gift, if we refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the Way and follow the path He so graciously bestowed upon us, it is not because He is not the Way, the Truth and the Life. It’s simply because we don’t understand. We don’t get it.
If you do get it, if you accept Christ as the Way, then this Christmas, every Christmas, and every day for that matter, praise God for that gift of understanding. It truly is the greatest gift you have ever been given. And then give that gift away. Share it with others. You might just be the one that shares with someone else that greatest gift ever they will ever receive. And if you haven’t received the gift yet, I pray that you will accept it this Christmas. Because in the end, He is the only gift that matters.