Begin at the Beginning

John 1: 1 – 18

We perceive and know through our senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste. For John, the basis of perception is the ‘Word’—the mind or ‘essence’ of God. The ‘Word’ is the conveyor of life and meaning. Without the ‘Word’ nothing is understood, and if it is not understood then it might as well not exist (v. 3). The ‘Word’ illuminates and enlivens creation. Constantly available, it is there for those who will receive it—rather like radio waves or television signals. They are all around us, but we need to switch on our receivers before we can tune in to their message. For those with difficulty in tuning their sets, God has sent an engineer—a TV evangelist by the name of John the Baptist. He will show us how to switch on and select our programme. The function of an evangelist is to convey good news, to ensure it is understood and to witness to its veracity. This is precisely the role of the writer of this Gospel. Ingeniously, he projects these same characteristics on the Baptist (vv. 6–8).

Once we have received the transmission, we may suffer interference. Sadly, there is in the airways a jamming system set to block or distort the signal we are receiving. The evangelist identifies this interference in verse 5 as darkness and again in verse 10 as the world. We shall encounter both these concepts throughout the Gospel. Both interfere with the signal by trying to either distort it or reject it. At the onset we are warned that the message or revelation does not have an easy passage, but there is the promise of great reward for those who persevere.

Those with good reception and understanding will be given power to become ‘children of God’ (v. 12). Suddenly, it will become clear and the penny will drop. The picture will come into focus. We shall not only hear the ‘Word’, we shall see, taste, touch and smell it. For the ‘Word’ will become flesh and even ‘pitch a tent’ with us (v. 14). Then we shall know grace and truth in all its fullness. We shall even ‘see’ or ‘understand’ the very nature of God as he has been made known in Jesus Christ (v. 17), the one who is in the bosom of the Father (v. 18). This is the great theme of John’s Gospel—perceiving, ‘seeing’ and understanding. He will provide us with a series of clues, signposts and pointers, so that we may believe and know Jesus Christ as the revealer of God and in believing this, we may have life in his name (20:31).

McFadyen, P. (1998). Open Door on John: a gospel for our time (pp. 2–3). London: Triangle.