I used to avoid the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John. Too abstract to understand, I thought. The other Gospels’ openings suit me better. Luke offers a more down to earth explanation of how Jesus got here, spinning a wondrous story to which we all seem to relate and regale year after year in Christmas pageants. Matthew’s version recounts the bare bones genealogy of Jesus' earthly lineage and then explains how God intervened through His angel. Mark skips the Nativity, straight forwardly explaining the deity of Jesus before launching into accounts of His ministry.
But this "In the beginning was the Word," "Word became flesh," prologue of John - one must have to be a theologian to make any sense of that.
I blame this narrow reasoning on my journalist background. Observe, ask questions, take notes, write the story. Learn more in order to report more facts, but stick to the facts. Don’t conjecture. Philosophy is for the Editorial Page.
This mantra has served me well in professions beyond the newsroom. Listening and note-taking demonstrate to others that I am paying attention. Accurately and honestly relating the facts is always appreciated, even when I deliver an opinionated recommendation.
In my pragmatism, I was fine skipping the first fourteen verses of John. Leave them to the scholars, I thought, while I sink my teeth into the factual teachings of the Bible. After all, there are 31,089 other verses available.
I did keep reading, and soon found myself studying verses. The more time I spent reading the Bible, the more God blessed me with understanding.
My study notes transformed into journals from my heart. My summaries of the facts became prayers to live better, to trust God more and to serve Him. I attributed time spent in prayer to my deepening faith. Then I found a verse that revealed the real source. Deuteronomy 8: 3:
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
God sent that truth to the Israelites in the wilderness, but He also delivered it straight to my heretofore “just the facts” head. Jesus quoted this very verse when tempted by Satan to turn rocks into bread while he was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus answered every temptation with quote from scripture, and the devil retreated. The Word of God is powerful, and more vital to our sustenance than food.
Ah-ha! The source of my growing faith was the Word! Then a second revelation came: The Word has all of the power and strength of God because it IS God. God created us to be in His image, and the Word contains His image, His character, His holiness, His beauty.
These thoughts sounded familiar. Where had I read them? Oh yes. John 1: 1-14, which begins,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
It is not so difficult to understand now. God from the beginning permeated all of life. Through the Word and grace of God, He called the Israelites to be His people, to be a nation to testify to His light. Then, miracle of miracles, God sent His Son, the light of all mankind, so that no darkness could overcome the Word.
Sometimes parts of the Bible are still difficult for me, but I have learned that it is worth persevering to figure them out. It is worth it for you too. By God’s grace, we ALL are given access to the saving power of the Word.
It’s right there… floating around you, moving though you, pulsing with power to overcome any sin, any denial, any evil that may entrap you. The Word says to ALL who believe in Him, “he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
THAT comes from the first fourteen verses of John too!
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