01.14-18 What do you see when you see Jesus -- Sermon 97

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December 28, 1997


John 1.14-18

                 “What Do You See When You See Jesus?”

1.      "Show Me Your Glory"

If there is a summary of John's gospel, it is this Prologue, these opening 18 verses.  And if there is a summary of this Prologue it is to be found here in these final five verse. And it is here that John speaks as an eyewitness.  He tells us what he has seen when he saw Jesus.  Listen:

V.14 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. V.15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" v.16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. V.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. V.18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,  who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

John, what do you see when you saw Jesus? John replies: "I saw the glory, grace and truth of God, the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, in the flesh."   God's glory, grace, and truth -- this is what John says he saw in Jesus. But not simply God's glory, grace and truth, but God's glory, grace and truth seen.  And this is most important.  Do you know why?

          Because John, the Jew, cannot help but recall an incident that had taken place more than a thousand years before, an incident which became for the people of Israel a defining moment in discovering who was their God.  It was a moment that became engraved on the minds of God's prophets even as it began with a great prophet pleading with God -- "Show me your glory."

Do you remember who it was?  That's right -- Moses. It was Moses the desperate man making a desperate prayer to God, for he had just heard God say the most terrible thing of all: AI will not go with you."  Sure Israel would go, go to the promised land, but God wouldn't go with them. Sure God would send an angel to go with Israel, go to the promised land, but he himself would not go with them. 

Why? God told Moses why.  AI will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."  Moses knew that but still pleaded with God to go with them, to dwell with his people. Moses said in effect, the gift is great but greater is the Giver. The promised land is great, but I want you -- O Lord. And the Lord loved Moses for that and said, "Yes, I will go with you." And at that Moses asked "Show me your glory -- show me the kind of God you really are."  And God said to Moses, no man can see God and live.  But I will show you the back of my glory.  And the next day in the cleft of the rock, Moses saw God's glory and heard God declare: "I am the Lord, the Lord, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."

It was that glorious declaration of God's glory, grace and truth that echoed down through the centuries.  You find it in the praises of the psalmist, in the prayers of the godly, and in the preaching of the prophets.  And now says John, to his amazement and ours, that glory that Moses caught a glimpse of we have seen . . .  in Jesus.

Do you see what John is saying?  He is saying that Moses' prayer, "Show me your glory" is fully and finally answered in Jesus.  When v.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."  There, says John, in seeing Jesus "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

2.      What Is God's Glory?

A.      So then, what is God's glory?  Wherein is God's glory revealed in Jesus?  And John answers: In this is God's glory -- the Word becoming flesh.  By pointing this out, John says two profound things about Jesus.

1]       The first is that Jesus is fully God. The Word, when he became flesh, didn't stop being the Word -- God.  John doesn't say that the Word changed into flesh. He says the Word became flesh.  The Son of God, when he became man, didn't stop being the Son of God.  Jesus was fully God.

2]       The second truth is that Jesus was fully man. God, the Word, the One and Only from the Father, became flesh.  It is language that shocks. John could have said, the Word became a man and he would have spoken the truth.  But lest any should misconstrue whom Jesus was, John uses the strongest language to describe what happened.  The Word became flesh

Why is this so important?  It is important for at least two reasons, the one theological and the other practical.

1]  FIRST, THE THEOLOGICAL REASON (for our theology undergirds our practice).  One of the chief heresies that has plagued the church and was present in John's day is the teaching that says the following.   "Spirit is good and matter is evil.  Spirit is real and matter is unreal. Thus, God, who is Spirit, would never, could never enter into this world of matter, of flesh." 

This teaching has been perennially present among the religions of the world.  You'll find it in Hinduism, New Ageism, and Christian Science. You find it taught by Buddha, Plato, Mary Baker Eddy and even Shirley McLean.

For that reason, John is all the more concerned to state emphatically the unequivocal truth about Jesus.  Hence, he says not "that the Word became man," but that the Word became flesh!"  He writes to shock because the truth is shocking. The Word, the Son of God, who dwelt in unapproachable light, who was before the beginning with God and was God, became flesh.  And becoming flesh, he did not stop being the Word of God, the Son of God.  Do you see how radical this truth is?  Jesus is not half God and half man.  He is fully God (the Word) and fully man (flesh).  Who is God?  What kind of God made us and cares for us and loves us -- the God who became flesh.

And that leads us to the Practical importance of this truth.

2] GOD DWELLS WITH US.  John says: "And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."  This too is part of God's glory.  If there is anything distinctive about the Christian faith it is that God dwelt among man as a man. Not merely visit, but dwell with.

You see, the religions of the east say that man is god, that each person has a god-spark in them, and that God is an impersonal force.  Thus, the biblical idea of "God with us" is  meaningless for them.

And the religions of the west (Judaism and Islam) admit that God is person but say that God cannot dwell with man.

But John says God has dwelt with us. "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we beheld his glory, glory of the One and Only from the Father."

That is why Jesus could say to Thomas: "If you've seen me you've seen the Father.  You've seen the glory of God's One and Only.

Now I've said that this is the practical importance of the doctrine.  How so?  Let me give you a brief answer by way of illustration.  As a pastor I have heard frequently people say something like this: "Oh, God doesn't know what my suffering is like. He doesn't know the loneliness, the pain, the grief, the sorrow, the temptations and the tears. Sure Jesus was a man, but he was God."  And when they say that they seem to think that being God Jesus was shielded and protected from all the things we suffer.  They envision Jesus like that actor in the films who plays him.  You know, the guy who never laughs, who always has a far off look in his eyes, who doesn't walk but floats a foot above everyone else.  No wonder our prayers are pathetic -- they should be if God doesn't draw near to us and nearer than our own skin.

Yet, that is exactly what John is saying.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

But there is yet more John would say. He dwelt among us and what we saw was the glory of God's One and Only.  And in what did that glory consist? -- full of grace and truth.

B.       Full of Grace and Truth

That is the second thing wherein God's glory is revealed, says John. God's glory is seen in the Word becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us. But it is more.  We have seen the glory of God's One and Only as a glory that is full of grace and truth. 

Again, these words are echoing God's word to Moses when he declared his glory to Moses by declaring that he was "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness."

The glory of God is the glory of God's grace and truth in the flesh.  Remember that John is speaking as an eyewitness.  He speaks after the events he records in his gospel -- that is, after he has seen it all.

And what did John see?  John looked and saw Jesus baptized by John, taking his place among sinners, though he himself was without sin. And that is the glory of God's grace.

He saw Jesus turning water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana and that too is the glory of God's One and Only.

He saw God's One and Only healing the sick and casting out demons.  Touching the untouchable leper. Raising the dead boy back to life and giving him back to his weeping mother.

John saw Jesus, the Word, God's One and Only, full of grace and truth go hungry and tired and sweaty and exhausted from working as he cared for others.

John saw Jesus, the Word, speaking a word of forgiveness: "I forgive you."  And how many he forgave: misers, and cheats, prostitutes and businessmen, and even foreigners -- like the five times married Samaritan woman.

John also saw God's One and Only rejected and finally nailed to a cross. And yet, the great surprise of all, is that too, that crucifixion, was not only a display but the greatest display of God's glory being full of grace and truth. 

What is God's glory?  Answers John: "God's glory consists in giving his own Son as a sacrifice for us. God's glory is the glory of God's One and Only who gives his life for ours.  His glory is to take your death so that he may give you life. That is what John means by "grace" not merely the giving of an unearned gift but the giving of an undeserved mercy.

3.      The Truth

If this is the glory of God, the glory of God's One and Only Son, the glory of Jesus, there is a final word that John's prologue would say to us.  TRUTH.

Even this week, on Christmas Day, the Gazette ran as their lead article a story titled: "An Historical Look at Jesus." In it a professor at Rocky Mountain College distinguishes between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith.  "When we talk about the historic Jesus, we're talking about the flesh and blood Jesus who was born, lived and died in the first century of the common era . . . not about the Jesus of faith."[1]  She continues: "The Gospels are statements of faith, they're not meant to be historical documents although they do contain facts."[2]

Do you see what she is doing?  Do you discern her own "view of truth"?  She divorces faith from facts or better. She assumes that facts can be so divorced from faith, that you can have one without the other.  She assumes in her premise what she present as her conclusion.      Let me say that this idea of faith vs. fact, or faith vs. history is a modern idea about Awhat is true."  Moreover, it is now an old idea, at least among philosophers, though it remains a popular conception (misconception) of many.

But the Biblical view of truth doesn't divorce faith from facts. No fact is neutral.  No fact is bare without a reference to God.  And neither John, nor any of the other apostles, thought of their works in that way -- that they were writing statements of faith and not historical documents.  They didn't divorce fact from faith, or history from belief. Neither did they confuse the two.  The apostles knew the difference between a myth and the real thing.  And John knew that saying anything less than that Jesus was the Word made flesh was not the real thing but a myth. There are no half-truths about Jesus. You either get the truth or you get a lie.

That is why he mentions the witness of John the Baptist in v.15. In v.6-8 the apostle had told us that John the Baptist had witnessed to the Light.  As a prophet John stood as the last prophet, the final spokesman for all the prophets of God giving witness to the Light.

But here in v.15 the apostle makes sure we know who that light is -- John the Baptist testified to Jesus. Jesus is the Light, the Word, the Word made flesh, the One and Only from the Father.

And that is why John in v.14 tells us what he has seen --"we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The apostle doesn't want you to believe a myth.  He wants you to believe the truth.   And the truth is bigger than facts.  The truth is greater than evidence. For we all know the problem with facts or evidence, don't we.  As one apologist wisely noted: "The evidence is open to all, but not all are open to the evidence."

And that takes us back to grace, because none of us know the truth about Jesus but God revealed it to us.  He gave us the blind the ability to see.

4.      We have all received

And that is the last point.  v.16 "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."  At this point John includes you and me. He says Awe have all received" and the Awe all" includes us.

It includes not only the other apostles who were eyewitnesses nor just the other disciples who also were eyewitnesses, but even those whom Jesus called blessed. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Oh, what is this thing called "sight" "faith" "understanding"?  What is this thing to know that Jesus is the Christ?  Truly, it comes out of a new birth.  Truly, it is a crown on our head.  A gift greater than the gift of sight.  For it is a gift of a greater sight -- seeing Jesus as he really is.

With that let me just conclude with John's own conclusion: "No one has ever seen God, but God, the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known."


[1] Susan Olp, AA Historical Look At Jesus," The Billings Gazette, Thursday, December 25, 1997, p. 1A, and 10A.

[2] Ibid.

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