He Who Finds Me Finds Life

 

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 
Psalm 147

Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7 
John 1:1-18 

In the days of Jesus, few people could speak Hebrew, and even fewer could read in any language. Targums were developed to help the people’s understanding in the synagogue discussions. They were written in the common language of Aramaic and included both a translation of the Hebrew and some explanation of the text.

We should have no problem understanding the idea because all churches today use Targums. The difference is that we do not read the Scripture in Hebrew or Greek, we go right to the English Targum followed by the worship leader’s explanation of the text, also based on Targums we call commentaries.

As we read the Gospels, we can see Jesus providing his explanation of the Aramaic. What we have is the Targum of Yeshua. “Thou shall not kill. But I say….”

John used the basics of the Targum in today’s reading. Here are two translations of the first two verses. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginningNIV At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginningPhillips

Associating Word with God has an old tradition in Judaism. In Genesis 3:8, heard the sound of the Lord GodNIV and 3:10, I heard you in the gardenNIV was associated in the Targums with God Speaking, that is, with the Word. The phrase, The Word, was mostly substituted for any anthropomorphism in the synagogue discussions. If the Hebrew reads, I will cover you with my hand, the leader of the synagogue would substitute: I will cover you with my Word. It is not done today but was so common in the First Century it is easy to see why John wrote this section. Jewish readers knew at once what he meant.

In verse 3, Through him all things were madeNIV John seems to take away all the power of God and give it to Jesus. John did not have that in mind. We should read, through The Word all things were made. The same is true in verses 4 & 5. The Word is the light of the world.

Starting in verse 6 the Gospel writer, John, moves away from the Targum image into the world and the humans involved in his story. He begins with the Baptizer but does not yet completely leave the Heavenly sphere. He has the Baptizer tell the world that the Light of God has arrived. Now we know to read it as the Word of God has arrived.

The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognize himNJB It should not be surprising that the Gospel of John has many references to light, including 8:12. Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ESV [The word “light” appears in all the Gospels, but only John associates it directly with Jesus.]

John has a powerful verse 12. But to as many as did receive him, to those who put their trust in his person and power, he gave the right to become children of GodCJB In verse 14 John goes on, So the word of God became a human being and lived among usPhillips We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only SonNIV

This phrase is not just a throwaway. John calls The Word the Son of God, not yet having used the name, Jesus. John then has The Word become a living person.

Don’t forget that to look upon God is to die. John is careful to maintain that separation of God and His Word. We look at his Word all the time. This whole physical universe is God’s Word. But what John wants us to understand is that The Word is much more than what we can see.

In the last two verses of today’s reading, For the Torah was given through Moshe; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the only and unique Son, who is identical with God and is at the Father’s side — he has made him knownCJB

The identification of all these terms—Word, Life, Light, Son of God—with Yeshua/Jesus is what the rest of the Gospel is about. As we watch the human drama unfold, we do not see Jesus until verse 29 when he and the Baptizer meet.

As begin to read the human storyline at verse 29, we must be mindful of the message tucked away in verse 12. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of GodESV I do not doubt that John wanted this verse to be the central point of the 18 verses. The fact that we can become children of God is a central point of the Gospel. God is more important than we are. The Word/Yeshua is more important. But for us, verse 12 is most important. It is our salvation.

Several translations read, sons of God, and that is proper because the Greek words are teknon theos, where teknon means child, son, daughter, children. John makes it clear that Jesus is the one and only Son of God who existed before time as the Word. We, on the other hand, will be adopted children and cannot expect to be equals of the Word/Son of God. Yet, we can expect to live forever basking in His Light/Life.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A Gift from the Father

 

1 Kings 8:1-43

Psalm 84

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69

 

Many of Jesus’ followers could not understand the idea of eating his flesh. Even if we take it as a metaphor, the image was too appalling.

Chapter 6 is loaded. Bread is the theme. In all of this, verse 65b is a key. This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the FatherMSG

Mercy is the gift. It comes from God, not Jesus. Jesus is what God would be if he could be human. God is God, One and Only. Jesus is a flesh-and-blood human who obeyed God every day without fail. The Messiah—God’s representative on earth—existed before Creation. Think of the Messiah as that part of God which serves as the blueprint for humans.

Yet, that is too limiting. The Messiah is the blueprint for the countless stars, planets, rocks, trees, grass, and animals of the universe. God created all of it in the image of the Messiah. When the time was right, the Messiah was born to a human body.

But his essence was God. It is easiest for us to call Jesus the Son of God because that is the closest human connection in our experiences.

When John sat down in his later years, possibly as the last surviving Apostle, to write his version of the Life of Christ, he returned to Genesis. For John, it is crucial that we understand Jesus has always existed. Even before the creation, Jesus existed.

But notice, In beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the WordUnited Bible Society interlinear translation The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the WordMSG At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginningPhillips

 

For John, God speaks, and all we see comes into existence. The Word is all God needs to create a universe. God speaks to a teenage girl, and she carries a child. He speaks, and the child is named Yeshua—Jesus. When Yeshua speaks, he speaks the Word of God because he is the Word of God.

 

Chapter 1, verse 4: In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankindPhillips This short line is so often overlooked, and so powerful. It is John’s thesis statement. Jesus is the Light, and he is the Life. He uses both terms more than the other gospels, especially Life.

Jesus is Life. Bread is life. To have life we must eat Jesus.

We know that the body of Jesus is gone. John does not record the ascension, so we will look at Luke 24:51. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heavenESV We cannot eat his body in the physical sense, but that is not what he meant anyway. As William Barclay put it: When he told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he was telling us to feed our hearts and souls and minds on his humanity, and to revitalize our lives with his life until we are filled with the life of God.

For John, it seems we eat and drink the Holy Eucharist when we sit with other people and share a part of our selves with them. Jesus did that at the beginning of chapter 6.

By the time John wrote, the Eucharist was being celebrated in many ways by Jews, Greeks, and a UN of others. For John, it must be about Life. How we eat and drink is not the important point. Eat the bread that is the Word of God. Drink the wine that is the Life of the Word of God.

Bless and be blessed.

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence