Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Big Picture in the Prolouge to John's Gospel... John 1:1-18.... From Eternity to Here (Part 2)


The 1997 movie contact tells the story of a relationship between a theologian and a scientist. It’s sci-fi so yes it is about alien contact. When it comes to how John chooses to start his story of Jesus I can’t help but think of the way the film Contact begins, with its sweep out from earth, out from the solar system following radio waves, out through even our sun looking like that the pale blue dot image, out through the pillars of creation, out beyond the milky way, through the star forming hearts of neighbouring galaxies, even through Hubble’s far fields to a cascade of infinite universes seemingly coming into being, an explosion of light like a big bang and then we find ourselves entering the story through the eye of a child. Why don’t we take a moment and watch it…

..Contact starts with the grandeur of the universe and steps that into a story of one person. That’s what John does in his prologue as well. He starts in the beginnings, with the eternal word that was with God and was God and very quickly, in eighteen short verses, we meet Jesus coming to John, the Baptist, to be baptised. It sets the context for the cry of a child born in a stable, because there was not room at the inn, it gives meaning to the child worshipped by shepherds still dazed and amazed by angelic choirs, in Luke’s account. It puts in context, Jesus detailed Whakapapa, the sages journeying from the east, political intrigue and paranoid dictators which is the focus of Matthew’s birth narrative. It places in context, that meeting, between John the Baptist and Jesus, Where the gospels of John and Mark choose to step into the narrative of Jesus life. It starts in eternity and journeys here. It starts in eternity and then steps into our world, the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. It starts in eternity and journeys to here, to you and I, but to all who would receive him he gives the right to be sons and daughters of the God most high.


It paints the big picture for us.

 The big picture of God.   
1 John 4:8 (that’s the letter of John not the gospel) makes an amazing and succinct statement about the nature of God, before talking about what Christ has done for us and how we should treat each other in response. It says “God is Love”. That love is painted large in the prologue of John’s gospel. WE see it in the eternal relationship between the Word and God. So intimate and close that they can only be described as one. The word was with God and the word was God. That love painted in the way the prologue then uses the relationship we are more used to in our Trinitarian formulas, Father and Son. That no one has seen God except the beloved son, who is able to show us the full extent of the truth and grace of God, because as Eugene Peterson puts it, he comes from the heart of God. The Greek word has that idea of being held to ones bosom. It paints the picture of the Son being able to show us the heart of the Father because he has rested his head on God’s chest and heard the very rhythm and beat of that heart. 


It paints the picture of God being the creator, being the source of all life in the universe.


It paints the picture of God revealing himself to his creation. We see it in the law being given through Moses, that God wanted a people to be able to reflect what God is like by the way they lived and treated each other and the world around them.


When you read through the Prologue to John’s gospel there is an interruption to the flow of John’s thoughts and poetry in verses 6-8 as we look at John the Baptist.  But in painting the big picture about God’s self-revelation John stands as an important figure. He stands as the last of the Old Testament Prophets, because he is calling people back to being faithful to their covenant relationship with God, as such he is the last of the line of prophets who had done that for the Jewish people. God was constantly inviting his people back to himself.  But also he stands as the herald of the dawning of a new day as he proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand, he witnesses to who Jesus is. One tradition has John the writer of the gospel in Ephesus, and the emphasis on making sure people do not confuse John the Baptist with the light fits in well with that. In Acts when Paul comes to Ephesus there are a group there that has already been baptised, but not as followers of Jesus but of John, so this John here makes sure they see John the Baptist, as yes an important man, but important because he bears witness, as do all those who have gone before him, to the light that has come into the world in Jesus.

The prologue paints the big picture of God’s love because it tells us for our sake that God stepped into our world, the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. The light came to shine in the darkness. By the way the tent here does not signify a quick visit, like our Christmas holidays, it’s the word tabernacle, and signifies God presence being with us for the whole journey. Even though  His own did not recognise him, it’s the big picture of God reaching out to us.

Here we step onto the canvas of that big picture because the prologue paints the big picture about the human condition.

It paints the big picture that we were created and made to find our life in relationship with God through Jesus, God’s Word. My friend and mentor Jim Wallace in his study series ‘discover life’ talks about human life using two Greek words one being bios, where we get the word biology, which talks about our physical life, the life we share with all creatures. But John also uses the word Zoe which has an idea of life that is more than just the MRS GREN my children talk about over meals… Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excreting and Nutrition.

 The word life (zoe) is used some 36 times in John’s gospel and another 13 in the letters of John. In fact John tells us that the reason he has written his gospel is that we may have life.  We were created to find the ultimate fulfilment of our life, eternal life, abundant life… in knowing and being known by God, and living in his light.

The prologue paints the big picture that as humans we live in darkness.  We are fallen and broken. All the way through John’s gospel the motif of light and darkness is used to explain Jesus mission in the world. After that most famous verse in John, John 3:16, that God so loved the word, that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life… John says the reason that people did not receive the light is that we prefer the darkness. One of the things that light does is that it reveals the truth, and says John people see their works are evil. When the light comes when God’s truth is revealed it shows up the extent of our brokenness. Our need for God and that is not comfortable.

The prologue then paints for us the big picture of God’s love, in the Word made flesh, in the beloved son inviting us back to relationship with him. Not only is God’s truth revelled but God’s grace as well. God grace stepping into our world, God giving his son, It’s the big picture that is painted in a babe in a manger, and that child grown into a man, dying on a cross. It paints the picture that to all who would receive him he gives the right to be sons and daughters of the most high.

Songwriter and Presbyterian Minister Malcolm Gordon in his sermon for the first Sunday in advent this year wraps this big picture up for us…  “Our Advent hope is that God will send his beloved one out after his wayward ones. And that no matter how badly that might seem to go for God and for his beloved one, God will somehow win the salvation of many through it.”

It’s the big picture but it’s not some abstract hanging on the wall of a lofty gallery, surrounded by security, unless it may fall into the wrong hands. It’s not some CGI Master piece the beginning of contact which would look  even better if it was in 3D. It makes contact…It’s a big picture that as I said before comes from eternity to here. Its real.


It reaches into the lives of people who encounter Jesus in John’s gospel. It is the offer of new birth and new life made to a Pharisee so worried about his public appearance that he came to see Jesus at night. But so wanting to find light and truth that he comes seeking Jesus.


It is living water that can quench the thirst of a women, so ostracised by her people , that she had to endure the mid-day sun to  come to her local well and draw water. Jesus speaks life into her life. She goes back not with the scent of bad news about her but as the herald of Good news “witnessing to her neighbours… he told me every thing I had ever done… could this be the messiah”.


It speaks healing and wholeness into the life of a cripple, who had been on a waiting list by a pool in a major city for thirty eight years, he is made well when he meets Jesus.


It opens the eyes of a man born blind. Lifting him up out of the dust of the road side where he sat as a beggar.  It would bring comfort to Mary and Martha as Jesus showed his solidarity with their grief and wept at the death of their brother Lazarus and then did the unthinkable and raised him to life again.


It gave the example of love and service to one another, as the master and teacher, stopped to wash the feet of his disciples and commanded all who would know him to  love to love one another.  


It’s the big picture that shines into peoples lives, not only as we cherry pick our way through John’s Gospel but in lives today…

Maybe I could go on and share many other people’s testimony and cherry pick the most spectacular... But the big picture came here to you and I.  For me I grew up in a home where my Mum would go to church, in fact she was a Sunday school teacher, but my dad wanted nothing to do with Church and Christianity.  I grew up in the Church. As a teenager I went to Youth Group for purely social reasons, we went to the beach and out on Saturday night, I was a bit of a nerd and these folk actually seemed to care. When I was asked are you a Christian  I would proudly say “ No and I don’t want to be”. One weekend at a family camp, where we’d been dragged up from playing on the beach to listen to a very boring speaker, that big picture of God’s love stepped into my life, I heard God say “I want You to follow me” and I knew God was real. So I responded.  Life has been up and down since then it hasn’t been all beer and skittles. But I know I am loved and have found amazing life in knowing and following Jesus.

The Big picture… from eternity to here, God’s Word stepping into our world.

The big picture from eternity to here, the here and now, not just the then and there.

The big picture of God’s love… from here to eternity… to you and I… bringing new life to all who will receive him.


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