on John 1:14

I was looking at John 1:14 the other day:

Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαναὐτοῦ,

δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

I know this is the central point of the passage, the center line in the chaiastic structure of the passage as it well should be.  It also forms an inclusio with Jn 1:1.  We also refer to this verse when speaking of the Incarnation.

I noticed three things about this verse in relation to the Incarnation that I thought were interesting.  I call them “elements of the Incarnation.”

First I noticed  ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.  The Word became flesh.  God became one of us.  This is significant because there were those in the highly pluralistic audience whom John was writing to who had issues with the flesh and notions of divine incarnation.  There were those who saw all matter, especially bodies as evil and too limiting for divinity to take on.  They believed the spirit was good and matter was evil so how could God become man?  Why would he do that?  John is siding with his Jewish roots and taking a highly affirmative view of both humanity and the human body.  Because Genesis 1 tells us God saw all the he made (including man and woman) and called it good.  The human body, though effected by sin, is good.  Human bodies, however limiting, are are good things and Jesus becoming human, taking on human flesh, fully embodying himself in the world and walking among us, is a very strong affirmation of this truth.

The second thing I noticed was ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαναὐτοῦ.  We have seen his glory.  In Exodus 33: 18 Moses says to YHWH, “Now show me your glory.”  Then YHWH went on to show him his glory in a limited way since he said in the next verse (19) “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”   Whereas in the past one was only able to “see”  God’s glory in the form of the cloud (hence, the shekinah glory), now we see it in it fully in the person of Jesus Christ.  Glory in the Bible includes notions of beauty, splendor, magnificence, radiance, and rapture (Dict of Biblical Imagery).  In other words, it. is. ah-ma-zing!!  It is a quality primarily attributed to God and places of his presence including places of worship and heaven. The glory of the God is an image of his greatness and transcendence.  It is seen in things like the might waterfall verse the small stream; the Sun or the Moon; it is seen in the thunder and lightning verse the rain.  The glory of the Lord is awesome.

Jesus Christ is the glory of God come down in all its fullness – and that in bodily form, a human body.  This is the awesomeness of the incarnation and a huge affirmation of σὰρξ as part of God’s creation.  Glory was associated with Jesus’ birth in Luke 1:14.  He is the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8) and the glory of God is seen in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6).

Finally, there is πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.  Full of grace and truth.  John says later in this passage that “we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (TNIV) Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth.  He is the way the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).  Romans 3:24 tells us we are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came [through] Jesus Christ.  It is through grace and truth we are saved.  Jesus is the fullness of God’s grace and truth.  I think too it is fair to say the incarnation was an incredibly gracious act on the part of Jesus.  He left the glories if heaven and came down to become one of us – he knew it was the only way.  He is full of grace too.  He came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him (Jn 3:17).  Though he has the right to judge he has graciously withheld his judgement that we may come into the light of truth, that he is.  He is full of grace and truth.

So those were some “elements of the incarnation” I saw in that verse I think it is pretty cool really.  Powerful too if you think about it.  And I think too it is something we are called to emulate in our discipleship to Jesus.  We too are to take on an incarnational approach to our relationships with other and as an expression of the People of God in this world.  As we go about our lives and as we go about pursuing God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, we are to be incarnational, living in with and among this world, though not of it, we are to live in it, full of grace and truth.