Scripture: John 1:1-18
Title: Good news of Christmas – Logos
Date: Dec 8, 2013
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
1. Did you ever notice how politicians never really answer any questions? I don’t know about most of you but I was following 2008 US Presidential Election with a great interest and I was watching one of the presidential debates between Obama and McCain in a public place. There was this man who had been watching the debate before I got there said to me “Why can’t they just answer the darn questions?” That’s when I realized that I was feeling little constipated for the same reason – there was no clean and clear from either candidates. Both candidates knew that they will not lose votes over unanswered questions but will, for sure, lose them if they misspoke so when the candidates were asked a tough question they had this way of redirecting the question so that they can avoid being on the spot – both of them would speak after a question was raised but there were many occasions where many words were spoken but nobody really answered the question. And we see something like this around us all the time. I have seen many teachers who fill the classroom time with fillers – empty words. AND, guilty enough, preachers are very much guilty of saying many words without saying much as well. Furthermore, all of us are in a special situation where either we, ourselves, OR our parents are very new to English language. With this kind of examples of “wasted words” around us, what else do we expect but never thinking twice about someone’s rambling? We might be annoyed by it but never would think “what a waste of energy” OR “What a waste of power.”
2. Well, the focus word for today is “Logos.” Greek word Logos is translated “Word” in English. Logos included in the opening act of John’s Gospel and even though Logos does not appear again after the first Chapter, proper understanding of Logos will set the correct tone for the rest of the Gospel. So please allow me to explain what the word “Logos” means in Hebrew mind set followed by Greek mind set before getting into its significance.
As mentioned, even if we might live as a generation that does not have high appreciation for carefully chosen words and speeches, the Hebrew understanding of and mind set for “word” or spoken words are different. For Jewish faith a word is also an event. The Hebrew word for “Logos” is DABAR and DABAR is not just an abstract notion or psychological idea but it is also an event. Let’s take Psalm 33:6 as an example. It says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) This is Jewish people’s actual belief – God spoke everything into being. Our generation in this room might be conditioned or trained or educated to take this verse as a figure of speech but Jewish people actually believe this verse literally – God’s spoken word has that kind of creative power. God caused entire Creation through spoken words – spoken Logos.
On the other hand, the Greeks understood “Logos” as “word” but in addition they also understood it as reason or rationality. Logos meant the inner principle of a thing, how a thing works. Explaining the Greek mind set, a professor of mind gave this example: “The logos of an automobile engine is how a cupful of liquid gasoline can be exploded to propel a two-ton car, how the engine works. The logos of a refrigerator is how electricity can keep food cold; how it works, its inner principle, the rationality of it all.” So that is the Greek mind set. While the Jewish mind set expects actuality caused by spoken word, the Greek mind set focuses on the words inner rationality.
Now, why are these important? It is important because Apostle John joins the Hebrew notion of Logos along with the Greek notion of Logos to reveal to us the nature of God and the good news of Christmas. Last week (Dec 1, 2013) was the beginning of Christian season called Advent. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on the Christmas Eve and it is supposed to be a season of preparation for Christmas. So in a way of preparation, I would like for us to understand what John is trying to say through Logos and what the good news really is about Christmas.
3. So what is the nature of God that Logos reveal to us? First of all, Logos is NOT a creature or a result of creation. It says in the beginning was the “Word” the Logos. If it is NOT a creature then Logos must be God. Secondly, it says the Logos was with God. Now, to the post-moderns would notice the distinction between Logos and God in this sentence and would conclude that Logos is not God but to clear up (or perhaps to confuse you even further) John says, thirdly, that the Word was God. To some of you, it looks as if Apostle John is trying to confuse you or he, himself, is confused, isn’t it? First he says, Logos is before creation (OK so he is not created so he must God), then he says Logos was with God (wait, so logos is NOT God?), then finally he says Logos is God (wait what?)
So what do we have here? How should we understand this? What we have here is the description of Father-Son-Holy Spirit relationship of ONE God. The technical term for this belief is “Trinitarian monotheism” and this is what we, as Presbyterians, believe. In fact, this is what main stream Christians believe. Trinitarian an adjective form for Trinity (everyone here should know that Trinity refers to Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) and Monotheism’s mono means one or single. So overall the belief is in three distinct persons in one God head – Father is God, Son is God and the Spirit is God. They all share the same essence.) Judaism insisted on monotheism despite the fact that it was surrounded by polytheistic nations. Some nations around Israel literally have thousands of gods and when other nations thought oddly of Israel for its monotheistic belief, Israel survived with Monotheism which we, Christians, inherited. But let’s not get too caught up with the theology and move on with the authorial intent. Through Logos John shows that Jesus Christ is the word of God, the power of God, the event of God which, just like any other words, cannot be unsaid or undone and at the same time, John shows that Jesus Christ, the logos, embodies the rationality of God – in fact Jesus IS how God works. What Jesus did in his human form, indeed, is the action of God. This is hugely significant in the light of the fact that Jesus saw his entire life as a journey to the Cross. THIS is what that simple word Logos reveal to us – that Jesus who is distinct and yet the same as the Father is indeed God.
4. And here is the good news of Christmas. That Word of God has become flesh – our flesh – and dwells among us. In the verse 4, it says “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” Light, amongst many things, reveals. The word (logos) reveals to mankind the nature of God, the identity of God, the character of God AND the actions of God. Jesus as the Logos is not just a representation of what God would do but Jesus IS what God would do. For those who struggled to know how to obtain eternal life OR those of you who yearned a meaningful relationship with God OR those of you who still has no idea who God is, the good news for you is that you do not need to look any further than Jesus Christ. I know that human faith is awfully feeble and that it constantly seeks something visible to wrap its faith around. Look what happened to Israelites while Moses went up the mountain for short while. They created a golden calf thinking that IT saved them from Pharaoh. One of the good news of Christmas is that we have this visible, verifiable and verified human form of God in Jesus of Nazareth. How many of you have met your great grandfather? I know I am from my father and my father is from his father. Even though I have met my grandparents, I have never met my great grandparents. Most of you have not either but yet you have no trace of doubt that they existed. Jesus’ existence is witnessed everywhere in history. His influence is globally felt. So if you are ever in doubt whether there is God in the first place, don’t look anywhere else, look to Jesus and what he did. He said he is the way and the truth and the life. You want to know who God is how he functions? Turn to Jesus, He has the right answers for you because he IS the answer.
5. Another Good news of Christmas is that God exists in relationship. Trinitarian monotheism insists that even though it is ONE God, there are three distinct persons in it. The logos, the son, existed before the creation. This means being in relationship is the essence of God and God, by his nature, wants you in a relationship with Him. We know this because Jesus invited all of his hearers to a relationship with Him (follow me.) Jesus in his personhood will NEVER betray the very nature of God because he IS God. Don’t let this good news of Christmas go by you this Christmas but dwell on it and make it yours – the Word is inviting.