Word became flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’”) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side —he has revealed him. (John 1:1-18)
John—the apostle, that is—is no mere biographer of Jesus. He has a higher purpose in mind than simply recording historical facts. He does record the facts in his Gospel, of course, but he writes the following events so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:31).
John is on a mission to save the world. God’s Spirit has led him to select the right stories, conversations, teachings, and miracles in the life and ministry of Christ to give his readers every reason to trust in Jesus for eternal life. Furthermore, he doesn’t waste any time. Even his Gospel’s prologue from the very first sentence identifies Jesus of Nazareth as God in the flesh.
Jesus is the Word of God (Jn 1:1). To the average Jew, the Word represented divine will because God always communicated his will through words—namely, the words of the law and prophets. If you want to know God, read or listen to his words. They communicate everything we can know about him. According to John, if you want to know God and his will, look no further than Jesus. He was present at the beginning of all things. More than that, he was with God, having face-to-face discourse with the Father before time itself. Better yet, he was God. “I and the Father are one,” he will later say (Jn 10:30).
John knows what he’s doing here. The slanderous misidentification of Jesus by pretty much everyone in Israel is a regular occurrence throughout this book. We cannot afford, however, to be confused about who Jesus is. Eternal fates hang in the balance. Some will receive him and believe in his life-giving name, proving they are born of God and possess the right to be called his children, and some will not (Jn 1:12, 13). The latter group does not recognize him for who he truly is (Jn 1:10).
As Jesus will later teach, “Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God” (Jn 3:18).
To receive Christ is to take hold of him, to grasp him, like a man clinging to the side of a boat before he drowns (Jn 1:12). In other words, it is more than acknowledging an historical figure, even if we view that figure as a wise teacher or all-around great guy. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if Jesus isn’t the Son of God, the only reasonable conclusion we can make is that he was either a liar or a lunatic because wise teachers and so-called great guys don’t go around claiming to be the Son of God. They certainly won’t die for it.
To believe in Christ’s name is to embrace his entire person—the whole of who he is, what he has said, and what he has done (Jn 1:12). He is himself God (Jn 1:18). He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). He is the true light that gives light to everyone, which is to say he is even more than the creator and giver of life (Jn 1:9). He is also the purest manifestation and clarity of that life. God previously revealed himself through creation—see Romans 1:18-21—and the Old Testament—see 2 Peter 1:20, 21—but we see him, not to mention his plan of redemption, most clearly in Jesus. He has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1:2).
Even so, Jesus was in the world, and despite that the world was created through him, the world did not recognize him (Jn 1:10). To them, he wasn’t God. He was a lunatic or a liar. They were so blind, in fact, John the Baptist had to testify about the light that was currently shining in the darkness (Jn 1:8, 5). How blind does one have to be to not see the brightest light of all piercing an otherwise dark place?