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The conversation dies as the lights dim.

A spotlight focuses on the orator:

Two households, both alike in dignity,

    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

    Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. 

This is the beginning of the fourteen-lined prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Despite the audience’s unfamiliarity with the story, they are immediately conveyed to Verona in Italy where two noble households have a history of violence fueled by the hidden force of an ancient grudge. From this platform, a state of mind is established that anticipates a romance set in a hostile environment. For an attentive audience, this raises a host of questions and expectations. Who are these two families? What are the ancient grudge and the new mutiny? How does this all resolve—if at all?

Now, take a moment to listen to John 1:1-18, the prologue to John’s Gospel

Who does John introduce? What conflicts are present? What questions and expectations are raised?

Let’s consider a few of these questions.

1. The word

The first sentence is:

In the beginning was the Word, and

    the Word was with God, and

        the Word was God.

“It is difficult to imagine the first sentence of a book that would be at one and the same time so simple and yet so profound, so brief and yet so stately…” (Murray Harris).

“In the beginning was the Word”—the logos. John has chosen words that reverberate with the opening statement of the Creation narrative: “In the beginning God created …” (Genesis 1:1). The logos already was in that beginning—therefore, the logos was not created.

Not only was the logos not created, we learn the logos created (1:2-3):

He was with God in the beginning.

    Through him all things were made; 

        without him nothing was made that has been made.

Through the logos all things were made. This is affirmed in the negative: “without him nothing was made that has been made.”

The Word (logos) is fully engaged in the Creation not only with God, but as God! How can this be?

2. Creator

The first creative act mentioned in Genesis is light. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

At God’s spoken word, light bursts forth in the primeval darkness.

At least ten times in Genesis 1 we read of creation expanding with the phrase “And God said.”

The acts of Creation were responses to God’s Word—the logos.

3. Life

“In him was life.”

In him, life resides. As such, he is the source of all life—“and that life was the light of the human race.”

In this we begin to perceive the conflict between light and darkness.

We will come back to this when we consider the question “What difference does it make?”

4. Became a human

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (1:14) One rendering of this stunning revelation is: 

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

The words are unmistakable. The Word—God—became a human being. How can this be? 

As we near the end of the prologue, John names the Word. He is Jesus Christ. 

5. The glory of God

In language reminiscent of the tabernacle in the Wilderness during the Exodus (Exodus 40:34-38), we read:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling [or, he tabernacled] among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)

‘Glory’ is one of those words we often use without really knowing what it means. One definition of glory is the outward manifestation of inherent worth. 

One instance of the manifestation of this glory was the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Peter, John, and James. The face of Jesus “shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)

Peter later recounts this incident: “[Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.’” (2 Peter 1:17)

What difference does it make?

Although there are many reasons, I’ll limit them to two:

First, God is made known

The word “god” can mean anything in our culture. It is one of those plastic words that is used to describe anything—and nothing.

Eugene Peterson says it well when he writes about the vagueness and meaninglessness of our “god” language: 

the name and person of Jesus “gathers all the diffused vagueness into a tight, clear, light-filled focus.”

Jesus Christ is the ultimate self-disclosure of the One True God who is Creator of all.

Second, life is offered to all in Jesus Christ.

John will introduce the term “eternal life.” This is not mere existence, and it is much more than life that is everlasting. We shall explore the fullness of this “life” in due course. 

For now, we realize that to receive Jesus Christ is to be born of God. 

John writes (1:10-13):

the Word, Jesus Christ, “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 

Not to recognize Jesus Christ is not to recognize the One True God. Not to receive Jesus Christ is not to receive the One True God. 

To receive Jesus Christ is to receive the One True God and become a “child of God”—receiving the extravagant gift of the life of God, and relationship with Him as His child.

What more did you learn from John’s prologue? What questions and expectations has it raised for you? Let me know by clicking here.

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