John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word became flesh. Since we know the story, it is easy to become numb to the shock of this verse. it is all very well to say the Logos is God and is with God. It is very well to say that the Logos is some kind of cosmic person, a great intelligence or mind behind the making of the universe. It is all very well to say that this great rational “He” is the light and life of men. These are wonderful truths, and great things to think about.
However, it is altogether different to say that this Person, this Logos who is life and light, the very Creator, became flesh! Who would dare say that the Creator Himself would become a flesh and blood man? It seems so outrageous and so impossible that we must be sure to look and see that this is indeed what John is saying here. This is truly the normal orthodox Christian position, held universally by all denominations for the entire history of the church.
This is a scandalous assertion, and we dare not dilute the shock of it by declaring it as merely a necessary orthodox doctrine. It may be a necessary orthodox doctrine, but this means that orthodoxy is a very wild beast indeed! In fact, most heresies stem from the tendency to dull the impact of the difficulty and wildness of the claims of Christian orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the wild and shocking beast: God Himself, creator of all that exists in every dimension and realm, has become a flesh and blood human being.
The Word became flesh. The Person of God, who was God and was with God, became flesh. He was in the beginning, and was not flesh, and had eternal intelligence and being. At that time He was not flesh, but He stooped to become. He transitioned. As in Philippians 2:7, we find he forsook equality with God in the form of God, and took the form of the likeness of men. This is no ordinary man by any stretch. This is the eternal living God, Creator of all things, become flesh. He was found in appearance as a man, as a result of the kenosis (the emptying) and the process of becoming, but He is very God.
We do not grasp the magnitude of this little word “became”. He was in the form of God. He became flesh! Can the infinite and all-knowing and eternal God even do this? Can He become flesh? Is it possible to say that the infinite God can change at all, can be one thing and become another? Can He change from infiniteness into finiteness? Can eternity be contained by mortal flesh? Can this possibly be true? This is a shocking thing to believe. Make no mistake, it is a big deal to believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh as the only begotten Son of the Father, the eternal God. You don’t just flip this idea off like it is common knowledge. You must be surprised and scandalized by this or it suggests you are not comprehending what is being said. You must be challenged. You must struggle to believe such a thing. A suffering servant Messiah I can believe in. No problem. But the Word became flesh? This is most amazing, and most wonderful!
The point that makes this belief possible is this: we are talking about God. God can do anything He wishes, because He is God. If you think, it is impossible for the infinite God to become a man, you have to remember that we are talking about God. He can, after all, do anything. He worked it out. So it is certainly possible for Him to do so if He so wished. Apparently He did wish, because He had the humility of mind to regard our interests as greater than His interests (Phillipians 2:3).
He dwelt among us. This means, He tented or encamped among us. It suggests a temporary situation. One encamps in a place where they don’t intend to stay. Nomads who move around a lot use tents. Farmers who are going to stay in one place and till the land tend to stay and build permanent housing. So, this becoming of flesh was an encampment, a temporary housing situation. Before He became flesh He existed in the form of God, and He would return to that situation after all of this. During the time of His earthly ministry, He camped among us. He is the infinite God taking a little excursion into finiteness among us.
I think it is important to note that since He made the cosmos in the sense of the entire universe, and the cosmos in the sense of the community of mankind did not know Him, that we as the teleological end of the fine-tuned universe and the rational thinking part of the universe, represent that realm of creation into which He came and dwelt. He dwelt among us. We may search the cosmos with telescopes and satellites and such thinking that the great mysteries of existence lie therein, but according to this verse God deems all of that a backdrop for the human race, where all the real cosmic action is happening. We have no record that He became space dust and dwelt in the Crab Nebula. The action isn’t there, it is here, among people, on this tiny speck of dust we call earth. The little gathering of humans on planet earth is a suitable place for God to pitch His tent. In contrast to the idea that we are insignificant worms on an insignificant rock in a tiny backwater galaxy in a random and insignificant part of the universe, this says that we are important enough to warrant a personal visit from the maker of it all.
we saw His glory. When He came, we beheld His glory. We didn’t just see it in passing; the Greek suggests that we took a good long look. We examined His glory. We didn’t look from afar; we came and took a close look. What we saw was not frightening, like visitations from angels seem to be. Upon examination, we found glory. We discovered beauty. It was not immediately apparent, because many did not know Him or perceive who He was. When people took a look, they found something beautiful and compelling and entirely inspiring. In a somewhat veiled and secret way, He was glorious.
It was not our glory in discovering who He was. It was apparent if you only looked. The glory was His. We did not demand that He become flesh, in fact all who were involved were quite scandalized by such claims. He decided to become flesh, and the glorious and incredible nature of His place in the godhead was apparent. I think that when you began to talk to Him, when He looked at you, you could see that it was God who was seeing you. He was seeing you as an important representative of the created universe, as a cosmic individual, and with great compassion and love He spoke. And John says, we saw this, and it was glorious. It was radiant. It was a very great wonder.
glory as of the only begotten from the Father. As in the creed, He is begotten, but not created. He was not glorious in the sense of having a perfect physical body or of being perfect in a business sense or something. He was glorious as the only begotten from the Father. He was glorious in having a sense of being loved as a Son by a very wonderful Father. He was glorious in being the only begotten — He was distinctly and uniquely glorious. He was glorious as being begotten and not created from the Father. And He was glorious as having a source or genesis outside of time and space, as one being of the very nature of God from the Father. And all of these things were evident, they were perceivable glories. John says, we saw these things in Him. He came to us and dwelt with us and He was glorious in these ways.
Full of grace and truth. His glory was such that He was full of grace and truth. We see these words together in this passage: grace and truth. We don’t see some empty fantasy of grace, some ivory tower ephemeral academic theological grace. We see grace and truth. We don’t see dry and dead and condemning expositions of the law and the prophets, or useless expositions of speculative philosophy. We see truth that is coupled with grace. It is grace and it is truth He is filled with.
His glory is not a condemning and frightening glory. It is not a glory which causes us to be mindful of our lack of glory. His glory is a gracious glory, and welcoming beauty. His glory is not wishful thinking, a beautiful myth that we might hope for but a fiction nonetheless. It is a truthful glory. His glory is born of grace and it is born of truth. The law, as we shall see, tells us theoretically how we should live, but His glory takes us as we are and speaks to us as we are. His glory loves us as we currently exist in the now, as grace and as truth. The moral theory of the law that no one lives up to has been supplanted by the compelling glory of the grace and the truth that is in Jesus Christ. The Word that became flesh has come with a far greater word than the theoretical and fading glory of the law that was given through Moses from angels. Grace and truth were directly beheld by the apostles in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.