Text: John 1:14-18
Greek philosophers thought of the Word as the perfect force by which the universe is structured. In Jewish writings personified wisdom, the Word and the Law were identified with one another and they believed that God created the world through His Wisdom•Word•Law. Greek philosophers saw the Word as invisible and eternal, which to them, was the ideal; therefore, they could not conceive that the Word might become flesh. Jewish teachers rightly taught that a man could not become a god; however, they never considered that God might become a man. My favorite passage in Scripture is Exodus 33-34, and for good reason: it is God’s revelation of His glory to Moses and it parallels the theme of our text. Let us take a look at how Exodus 33-34 and John 1:14-18 parallel.1
God dwelt among his people in the tabernacle (33:10); Moses pleaded that God would continue to dwell with them (33:14-16)
The Word dwelt among His people in human flesh (1:14)
Moses beheld God’s glory (33:19
The disciples beheld Jesus’ glory (1:14)
The glory was full of grace and truth (34:6)
The glory was full of grace and truth (1:14)
The law was given through Moses
The law was given through Moses (1:17)
No one could see all of God’s glory (33:20) but the glory of God passed by Moses (33:22)
No one could see all of God’s glory (1:18a) but the glory of God is fully revealed in Jesus (1:18b)
Inclusio is a literary technique used by ancient writers to emphasize the point that they want the reader to understand. The author brackets or frames a passage using similar words, a similar event or theme at both the beginning and end of the passage.2 This is an indication by the author to the reader to pay attention to what is written between the brackets. In John 1:1 and John 1:18 the author uses the theme that the Word is God to bracket the proclamation that the Word Who became flesh is Jesus Christ.
God became a man in the person of Jesus, the Christ, the only begotten Son of God and dwelt among His disciples. These men and women saw God act and heard God speak in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did and said exactly what the Father would have done and said if He were a man walking on the earth. However, do not misunderstand, the Father did not become a man, the Son became a man and dwelt among us. The Father and the Son are one in nature but are separate persons. The Son is the very love of the Father. The love that the Father has for the Son is beyond our ability to comprehend. Some of us have tasted this love when we saw our own children shortly after their births, but the love that a human father has for his offspring pales in comparison to God’s love for His Son.
The disciple whom Jesus loved said, “and we beheld His glory.” In Scripture, glory is often associated with bright shining light coming from the presence of God, but also means the perfection and the excellency of God,3 which is the glory proclaimed in Ex 33-34 and seen in the Son (Jn 1:14). Jesus followed John in earthly birth and in ministry, but Jesus was preferred before John, was greater than John, was worthy of more honor than John for the simple reason that He existed from all eternity as the Son of God.4 The law being given through Moses was not a display of grace, for the law held with it both blessings for keeping the law and curses for breaking the law. (cf. Dt.11:26) In John 12:47 Jesus proclaimed: “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Jesus came to give eternal life to His sheep; therefore, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Part of the announcement of Divine character proclaimed on Mt. Sinai by God to Moses as He passed before Him was that He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In the first coming we see the Son having compassion, grace and truth; and we see the Son of God forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but it is at His second coming that the Son will execute judgement and by no means leave the guilty unpunished. All that God spoke of His Divine nature to Moses in Ex 33-34 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ already and not yet; therefore, repent and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; so that by believing you may have life in His name. (Jn.20:31)
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nded. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 249-250.
J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012) 104.
William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary In One Volume,4thed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1468.