Hearing God’s Voice in the Gospel of John – Part 1

The first stop in the book of John is actually the last verse.


And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written. (John 21:25 NAS)


John is stating that what he just wrote in his gospel isn’t the whole story. At the same time, he is implying that what he did write down are the most important parts of the story. And that brings us back to the beginning of the book.


Like any good writer, John’s introduction tells us what he’s going to be talking about: “The Word.” We moderns often think of Jesus as “the Word of God” without considering that he had a much more profound meaning. In Jewish thought, “the word” or memra, was the active part of God’s will. This comes primarily from Psalm 33:6, “By the word of Yahweh the heavens were made.”


The rabbis weren’t content to let this description of “and God said” from Genesis 1:1 stand uninterpreted. Over the centuries, the memra changed from a “word” into a person in their commentaries, the Midrashim. Thus, when the Psalm says by God’s “word” everything was made, the rabbis made it into by the “person sent from God” everything was made.


“In the beginning was the Logos.” The phrase “in the beginning” is what the rabbis called “remez.” That word speaks of ideas that are “in the air” surrounding the hearer. In this phrase the hearer is taken back to Genesis 1, where God creates the world. But a second character is listed in that scene: the Spirit of God. When we move to John 1, with the Logos as the creator, we suddenly see the Trinity in the completed picture of Genesis 1. There are God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus (the third person) the Son as Creator.


There’s a second key element of “the Word” that John may not have even been aware of, but that bit shows us how wonderfully inspired the Bible is. Percolating up through Greek philosophy is the idea that an ultimate divine being, the Logos (have we heard that name before?) was pure spirit and pure goodness. But through multiple levels that pure goodness was degraded into a semi-god named the “Demiurge.” This guy was the creator of the earth, but wasn’t really divine. This set of beliefs became “Gnosticism” in a few decades after John. Shortly we’ll see that John’s intro is an in-your-face slam to that Greek philosophy.


Verse 3 says that “the Logos/memra” made everything. So much for the Greek view. But this fit perfectly with Jewish thinking. As we move forward, we’ll find a challenge for them, too. But for the memra to be “light” and “life” is perfectly natural. God is the source of all life. His memra is the sustaining power of the universe (Heb 1:3).


John the Baptist came as a “lesser light” to reveal the “greater light” (1:6-8). But, as a prophet is without honor in his own country (4:44), their “own did not receive them” (both John and Jesus). John was beheaded, and Jesus was persecuted by the leaders who should have recognized their deliverer. That deliverer did something totally outside the realm of the expected. Anyone who received Jesus into their heart was given the authority to be a child of God. The heritage has nothing to do with blood. A child of God has been reborn, as Nicodemus will discover.


The Greek word for “authority” is most emphatic. If you receive Christ, you have a special authority. It’s not what God chooses, but your choice. And once you have become a child of God, the Holy Spirit will give you good gifts (Matt 7:11). Which gifts you receive are still God’s choice (1 Cor 12:11), but you will receive something that the world cannot receive.


“The Logos/memra became flesh and pitched his tent among us. (v 14)” Yes, that’s what the Greek says. And again John’s using remez. Yahweh “pitched His tent” among the Israelites in the wilderness. That tabernacle allowed Yahweh to stay close to His people without killing them by His mere presence. Jesus, who is God, came to be among His people and explain Yahweh to them in a language and example that they could understand. Unfortunately, like the ten unfaithful spies in the wilderness, most of the Jews ultimately chose not to understand.