Sermon series: Hello, My Name Is Jesus
I Said It - John 1:1-2, 6
I Made It - John 1:3
I Show It - John 1:4-5
I'm Here - John 1:9-11
I Am Here - John 1:12
I Give It - John 1:13
I Have Come - John 1:14
"I'll be back soon," a World War II soldier told his wife before leaving her and their infant son. Four years of war and fighting went by. The young mother would show her boy a portrait of the soldier and say, "See, that's your daddy. One day he's going to come home." In reality, she didn't know what to expect.
One morning the boy said, "Mommy, wouldn't it be great if Daddy would just step out of the picture frame?"
In a sense that's what God did 2,000 years ago. As part of his eternal plan, he stepped out of heaven and became a man so you and I could look at Jesus and say, "That's what God looks like."
The apostle John described the stepping out, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 NIV). This verse is the climax of John's prologue as John completes his introduction of Jesus by proclaiming his humanity in the midst of his divinity. This verse contains the truth behind the story of the angels and shepherds and the Wise Men and the journey to Bethlehem that first Christmas morning. Without this verse the rest of the story has no meaning. John 1:14 tells us what really happened 2000 years ago-and what it means to us today. The key words are grace and truth.
This verse reveals four great certainties: Jesus became human; Jesus lived among us; Jesus revealed his glory; Jesus invites us to himself.
I. Jesus became human
John states, "The Word became flesh." Notice the link with verse one: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1 NIV). The Word that always "was" (v. 1) now became a temporal event at a point in history. Furthermore, the Word that "was God" (v. 1c) now came into being as flesh, that is, he exists as a human being. We often say that Jesus is God. That is true. But here's an incredible statement: God became Jesus of Nazareth!
When he stepped out, Jesus Christ became the visible expression of the invisible God. He became a visual aid, as it were, to reveal the nature of the Father. He was God in a suit of flesh. He was God expressing himself in a language that we could understand. He was God announcing to the world: "I have come!"
Theologians refer to this action as the Incarnation. This is a hard concept for us to understand. In fact, many debates transpired in the early church as to what it really meant. Some people said Jesus wasn't really a man; he just looked like a man. Others said he had the body of a man but he didn't have a human soul. Still others said Jesus was two people in one body-sort of half-God and half-man. And unbelievers said it was all nonsense-that Jesus wasn't God at all. They claimed he was an ordinary person like you and me with a sin nature just like everyone else on planet earth.
All of those ideas are wrong. When Jesus stepped out, the infinite God took on the form of a tiny unborn baby boy. The Son did not cease to be God when he became a man. He added humanity but he did not subtract deity. He was fully God and fully man-the God-man.
Ponder that for a moment. The Almightiness of God moved in a human arm. The love of God now beat in a human heart. The wisdom of God now spoke from human lips. The mercy of God reached forth from human hands. Jesus was God wrapped in human flesh.
Remember the story of the little girl who was frightened at night during a thunderstorm. She cried out to her Daddy, "Help me."
Her Daddy in the next room said, "Honey, God loves you and will take care of you."
Another bolt of lightning and clap of thunder caused the girl to cry out again, "Daddy!"
Her Daddy gave her the same response, "Honey, God loves you and will take care of you."
The storm raged again and the frightened girl yelled again.
Her Daddy's response was the same.
But the girl replied, "Daddy, I know that God loves me, but right now I need someone with skin on."
When Jesus stepped out he was God with skin on. God became a man in human flesh.
II. Jesus lived among us
Notice the next phrase of John 1:14, it reveals the residence of God on earth, ". . . and made his dwelling among us." The word dwelt literally means "to pitch a tent;" or as military folks call it "to bivouac;" or as theologians define it as "to tabernacle." In fact, the Tabernacle was sometimes called the Tent of Meeting because it was the divinely-appointed meeting place between God and man. In the same way-but in a much deeper sense-Jesus is the place where we meet God today.
Eugene Petersen in The Message paraphrases this verse, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14 MSG). For thirty-three years God moved onto our cul-de-sac. He walked down our street. When he stepped out, Jesus lived among us.
Why? "Pitching a tent among us" implies that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction. If you come into a community and build a huge mansion with a wall around it, you're probably saying that you don't really want to be bothered by people. But if you set up a tent in my back yard, you will probably use my bathroom, eat often at my table, play with the neighborhood kids. This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human back yard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him.
III. Jesus revealed his glory
Next John speaks of the manifestation of God's glory: "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father." Again, Eugene Peterson rewords, "We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son." When John writes, "We have seen," he uses a word that means to gaze intently upon, to study as in a laboratory. It's a word from which we get the English word theater. The word glory refers to the visible manifestation of God's presence and power. It carries with it the idea of weight and importance.
When Jesus stepped out, when he walked on the earth, people could see, gaze upon, God's presence shining through him. They saw the importance of God in their lives. And, just so there was no mistake John recorded seven signs or miracles that openly declared the glory of God. When Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana of Galilee, John tells us that "He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him" (John 2:11 NIV).
Jesus was not invisible nor was he obscure. When you look at Jesus, you see the face of God. God wants to be seen and to be known in his son. When you hear Jesus teach; you hear God teach. When you come to experience Jesus; you experience God. In Jesus we see God.
A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, "I just can't believe all that stuff." So I asked him, "What would it take for you to believe?" I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself," he said. "My friend, he already has come down," I replied. "He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don't believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you."
IV. Jesus invites us to himself
Finally, this verse ends with a powerful word of invitation. It tells us that Jesus came to the earth "full of grace and truth." Eugene Peterson says he was "Generous inside and out, true from start to finish."
When he stepped out, Jesus offered grace and truth. These are the final two great pair of words of John's prologue as he introduces Jesus. Grace is an irresistible compulsion to give men more than they deserve which springs spontaneously from the boundless generosity of God. Truth, on the other hand, has roots in a divine determination to be consistent, predictable, and thereby trustworthy in dealing with mankind. Grace without truth is easily seen as sentimentality while truth without grace can appear to be an inflexible rigidity.
These two words explain why Jesus stepped out, coming to the earth. Because he was full of grace, he died for you and me while we were yet sinners. Because he was full of truth, he was able to pay for our sins completely.
Here is the good news for people like us. Because Jesus is grace-full, we can come just as we are to him. We don't have to clean ourselves up first. Because he is truth-full, you can come in complete confidence knowing that he will keep his promises. When he promises a complete pardon for your sins, he means it.
The one present the world needs is grace and truth. We find it in Jesus Christ.
In the Monday, December 15, 2008, Greenville (South Carolina) News, Ed Leap's column was poignant. Ed is a physician. The article was entitled, "Christmas reminds us of Christ's saving grace." Here's an excerpt.
Over and over again, I have asked suicidal or depressed patients what is pushing them to the brink. Their answer is so consistent that it must have a deeper meaning than we realize.
"I'm no good," they tell me. Sometimes they are hearing voices, so I ask what the voices say. "That I'm worthless. That I should die."
The problem is perennial. As long as humans have existed, we have sensed that we were not something that we ought to be. As long as we have been wounded by family, friends or strangers, we have doubted our worth.
The cure for all the fractured suffering of the human heart, all the terror we visit upon one another, all the guilt we bear with bent spines our whole lives, all the horrible, condemning voices, is the fact of grace. Grace, I propose, is the greatest concept in human history.
This season, we celebrate the birth of the author of grace. He came to Earth worthless and was born into oppression and domination. He came to a place and people broken, and in the end was broken himself. The author of grace was told by many that he was no good, that he was a liar, that he was useless, deluded and mad. Finally, he received the ultimate rejection and insult, and paid with his life.
He was broken for the broken and hated for the hated. He was "despised and rejected," so that the despised and rejected would have a hero and comforter. And yet, in all of it, he announced the cure of grace.
He told us what we already knew; that we were broken and needed repair. He told us the repair would be free for the taking, that we were all loved in spite of the voices in our heads, the words of our enemies and cruelties of our families and friends.
In bringing us grace he changed the world. He said that we could never do enough to be truly good; but we could share his goodness and accept the gift he offered. In that fell swoop, he negated any other contingent therapy for the misery of humanity. No wealth or position could cure our loneliness; no rule or law could overcome our weakness; no plan or good deed could earn our healing. Only the gift he brought. Only himself.
At Christmas, Jesus shouts down the voices in our ears with: "You are worth everything to me! I'll make you good! You don't need to die. I came to do it for you. Then you'll really live!" At Christmas, the cure of grace embodied came for all.
Brokenness was broken at last.
V. The Implications
What does all of this mean for us? The fact that Jesus came, he stepped out, he was God in human flesh, has several implications.
A. Jesus is here
Two young men on a battlefield in World War II made it to the safety of a foxhole in the midst of enemy fire. As they looked out before them across the battlefield they perceived the horror of dead and dying men. Twisted barbed wire, the earth scarred with deep holes left by cannon fire. Some men lay lifeless, others cried out for help. Finally one of the men yelled, "Where in the hell is God?" As they continued to watch and to listen soon they noticed two medics, identified by the Red Cross on their arms and their helmets, carefully making their way across the perilous scene. As they watched, the medics stopped and began to load a wounded soldier onto their stretcher. Once loaded they began to work their way to safety. As the scene unfolded before them, the other soldier now boldly answered the honest, but piercing question of his friend: "There is God! There is God!"
Jesus came in the midst of the loneliness and the horror of a world gone mad. Yet in the chaotic and confusion Jesus announced that God is here. Where in the world is God? God is here in Christ.
B. Jesus is real
The word truth in John 1:14 literally means "that which is open to view, that which is unconcealed, that which is transparent." In Moffat's translation of the Bible, this word is translated as "reality." Jesus was full of grace and reality. Do you hear what that is saying? Jesus was real-the most real person who had ever lived, who was living then, and who has ever lived since.
When Jesus became a man he showed that God was not merely a principle but a person. Not a myth, but a man who was God at the same time. Not a figment of someone's imagination, but a living presence. Jesus was not an idea of God, not a picture of God, but God himself in human form. He was real.
C. Jesus wants to be involved
Jesus is not like some distant relative that you see ever couple of years. He wants to take of residence in your life. He wants to be the "go-to" person of your life. He wants to be engaged and involved. Most often we think of God as being up there, far removed from the cares and concerns of this created world. But because Jesus became a man God came down here, living in our midst. We could never reach him up there, but in love he came down here to us. He became touchable, approachable, and reachable.
D. Jesus identifies with our pain
In the act of becoming human he identified with our pain. The pain of loneliness, he felt it. The hurt of rejection, he felt it. The sadness of losing a loved one to death, he felt it. The scars of mental or physical abuse, he felt it. When Jesus became a man, he understood us, he identified with us, he felt our pain, and he hurt.
E. Jesus offers grace
In other words, the one gift we all need for all of eternity can be found at only one source. The gift is salvation. The Giver is Jesus. He is the One present you can't live without. The One who met the conditions of God for the payment for your sins and now offers forgiveness on the basis of his grace.
Jesus stepped out of heaven, coming for you. He brings with him the amazing gifts of grace and truth.
She was fifteen and he was seventeen when they met. All through high school they dated and, after high school, it was not a surprise to anyone that they were married. Four years later, she was standing in her kitchen with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, two children at her feet, and a pile of dirty diapers in the corner. Tears were streaming down her face. Looking back, she could never be quite sure why she made the decision, but she did. She took off her apron and walked out.
She called that night and her young husband answered the phone. He was, understandably, quite worried and, also, quite angry. "Where are you?" he said, his concern and his anger fighting for control of his voice.
"How are the children?" she asked, ignoring his question.
"Well, if you mean have they been fed, they are. I've also put them to bed. They are wondering, just as I am, where are you? What are you doing?"
She hung up the phone that night, but it wasn't the last of the phone calls. She called almost every week for the next three months. Her husband, knowing that something was seriously wrong, began, in those phone calls, to plead with her to come home. He would tell her that the children were with their grandparents during the day and were well cared for. He would tell her that he loved her. He would tell her how much they all missed her and then he would try to find out where she was. Whenever the conversation turned to her whereabouts, she would hang up.
Finally, the young husband could stand it no longer. He took their savings and hired a private detective to find his wife. The detective reported that the run-away wife was in a third-rate hotel in Des Moines, Iowa.
The young man borrowed the money from his in-laws, bought a plane ticket and flew to Des Moines. After taking a cab from the airport to the hotel, he climbed the stairs to his wife's room on the third floor.
If you had been there, you would have seen the doubt in his eyes and you would have noticed the perspiration on his forehead. His hand trembled as he knocked on the door. When his wife opened the door, he forgot his prepared speech and said, "We love you so much. Won't you come home?"
She fell apart in his arms. They went home together.
One evening, some weeks later, the children were in bed and he and his wife were sitting in the living room before the fire. He finally got up enough courage to ask the question that had haunted him for so many months. He asked, "Why wouldn't you come home? Why, when I told you over and over again that I loved you and missed you, didn't you come home?"
"Because," she said with profound simplicity, "before those were only words. But then you came."
Jesus came. He personally comes to each of offering grace and truth. He didn't stand off at a distance. He is personally reaching out to you. Will you come home to him?