By Pamela Lewis
A Reading from the Gospel of John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
We are immersed in words. Though they are imperfect conveyors of our thoughts and emotions, yet we rely on them to tell our stories and to express our needs, desires, and points of view.
John begins his gospel by referring forthrightly to the Word, a term that was used in different ways by both Jewish and Greek theologians and philosophers. In Hebrew Scripture, the Word was an agent of creation (Ps. 33:6), as well as God’s means of communicating his law. Here, John is clearly speaking of Jesus as the Word, — the Logos — who stands above all others because he embodies “grace and truth.” Unlike other words, this Word is perfect, in that it derived from God and was God. Whereas our words are arbitrary and often fail to communicate their intended messages, this Word, being eternal, never fails.
Although not a biography, John’s Gospel is a reliable account of one who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry, and whose task here is to reveal Jesus’ true identity as the light of the world. But John deftly layers his account by witnessing, in turn, to another witness: John the Baptist. Although not “the” light, the Baptist came as a witness to testify about that light. Many paintings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance show John the Baptist pointing to Jesus to signify that he should be the focus of our attention.
The grand takeaway from both John and John the Baptist is that Jesus’ life became deeply bound up with ours when he walked among us and made it his mission to share his grace with us and to give us the right to become part of God’s family. That mission came at a high price. God spoke through prophets, but no one ever saw God; but when the Word became flesh, God became visible. May we be ever thankful for these two powerful witnesses.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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All Saints’, Beverly Hills, Calif.
The Diocese of Jaffna – The (united) Church of South India