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

Is Not This Jesus, the Son of Joseph?

 

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Psalm 130

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

John 6:35, 41-51

 

Jesus was not content to lay claim to the title of Bread of Life; he had to add (v 38), I have come down from heavenNIV While John recorded this event several decades after it happened, I imagine he and the others were greatly troubled by the comment at the time. In the Jewish list of those who resided in Heaven, there was God, angels, and people such as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. The common belief of the time, as today, was that Elijah would return in the final days.

No one ever heard Jesus claim to be Elijah or any other prophet. Nor did he claim to be an angel. That left God. There was only one punishment for a man claiming to be God: death.

Remember that this discussion took place the day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. A couple of hundred of those whom Jesus fed followed him and asked for the bread of life. Jesus responded. I am the bread of lifeNIV God provided the manna from Heaven, but Jesus claims to be the manna. Notice: he does not claim to be God, he claims to be from God.

The full text of verse 38 is: For I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of the One who sent meCJB Jesus told them he was sent to earth by God. If we reread the first eighteen verses of chapter 1, we see that John first calls Jesus the Word of God, then in verse 14, he adds: So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truthPhillips

There is a key word in verse 14, monogenous, which has the meaning: of an only one. The Phillips translation comes closest to the Greek meaning. I searched a couple of dozen Bibles on BibleGateway that I don’t generally use before finding this version from the Tree of Life Bible: And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. The Tree is a Messianic Bible.

The interlinear New Testament from the United Bible Societies’ Fourth Revised Edition reads: And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we gazed the glory of him, glory as of an only one from Father, full of grace and truth.

Even though most English translations include Son, John did not. The word monogenous would suggest son, but it is not there. God sent the Word, and the Word became flesh. Because Christians in the Fourth Century formally declared Jesus to be the Son of God, nearly all modern translations of this passage include son. But I repeat: John did not.

This is not a minor point. Jesus claims to be from God, but not God. He does claim to have the power of God. He claims to be doing the work of God using God’s power. He calls God Father, yet he encourages us to do the same.

The most famous statement by Jesus is in John 3:16—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

Mostly, Jesus called himself the Son of Man, but he did call himself the Son of God, so what does that mean in the First Century? In the Old Testament, God uses the term (in variations) of angels, Adam, Israel, etc. Jesus even used the term to describe those who believe in him. If Jesus is the Son of God and we join him, we are adopted sons of God.

Son of God is of God, but different from God. I think it is important that we maintain that separation between God and Son. It is equally important to maintain the distinction between the one and only Son of God and we the adopted sons of God.

Every human on earth is a son of God, but not everyone accepts that reality. Too many squander our inheritance and end up feeding pigs. The true sons long to be with the Father and Jesus has made it possible even for those of us still mired in the muck.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence