Jesus, The Word Became Flesh – John 1:14-18

Throughout this week I am going to share some daily encouragement (gems I have found in my studies) on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, as we consider the biblical truths surrounding His birth, we can all slow down and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. As you are encouraged… please share with others the hope of Christ this Christmas season! (The running commentary is from The Incarnation in the Gospels)

John 1:14–18 (ESV): 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Our Christmas celebrations are like Israel’s exodus from Egypt. This great migration took on a great splendor, laden down with the treasures of the Nile, just as our Advent season glitters in red and gold. But the true glory of the exodus was not the shimmering colors of Egyptian prizes, nor even the uplifted faces of the people following Moses to the Promised Land, but the presence of the glory of God in their midst. At the center of their camp was the tabernacle of the Lord, over which rested the cloud of fire that God sent to guide his people. Inside was the ark of the covenant, with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. So it is for Christmas: its true glory is the glory of Christ himself, as he is proclaimed, trusted, and praised in the midst of his people. Indeed, the glory of God’s people year-round is the Christ who is present in the proclamation of his Word. John writes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The Word Became Flesh

It was to make this great statement that the gospel of John was written. John’s prologue has been telling the Christmas story in theological terms. He began by stating that Jesus is the eternal Word who was with God before the beginning. The Word came as a light into darkness. Now, John 1:14 tells us how this happened: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This verse states the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem. But the second person of the Trinity did not come into being at this birth. John says, “In the beginning was the Word,” and then at a certain time, “The Word became flesh.” God the Son—the Word—did not come to existence in his incarnation, but he became a human being in addition to a divine being. The Westminster Confession explains, “The Son of God … being very and eternal God … did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” (8.1). Christ’s incarnation means that the Son of God became human in the fullest sense, without losing any of his divinity. Paul says, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Likewise, Jesus is sinless without losing his full humanity. His is uncorrupted, true humanity.

We do not understand how one person can be both God and man. But the Bible shows that Jesus possesses two distinct natures—one divine, one human—without any mingling or confusion between the two. The Greek mythologies spoke of gods coming down to earth for a while, until they got tired and returned to the clouds. But nowhere in the ancient world was there any idea of God becoming man, the Word taking up flesh. “Lo, within a manger lies / He who built the starry skies.… Thus to come from highest bliss / Down to such a world as this!” What does this say about God’s desire for our salvation—that he actually stepped into our world and became one of us? This shows the value of every human life, given the dignity God gave to humans above all other creatures. First God created us in his own image (Gen. 1:26), then he sent his own Son to become a son of man, so that we might become in him the sons and daughters of God.

He Tabernacled among Us

John tells us not merely that “the Word became flesh,” but also that he “dwelt among us.” This phrase employs a verb form of the Greek word for “tabernacle” (eskenosen). Literally, John writes, “The Word tabernacled among us.” Undoubtedly, John is directing us back to the exodus, when God dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was a canvas structure about forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide. It had three areas: the outer courtyard where priests made sacrifices and washed themselves before entering; an outer room (the Holy Place) housing the golden candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense; and an inner room (the Holy of Holies) containing the ark of the covenant, where God himself dwelt. Everything about the tabernacle was symbolic of spiritual realities and especially of Jesus Christ, who came as God’s true tabernacle.

Beholding His Glory

The tabernacle was also called the “tent of meeting.” It was the place where the people met with God and saw the Shekinah glory cloud that shined from within (shekinah = radiance). John applies this to Christ’s coming: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

This begs the important question, Do you see the glory of God in the person, provision, and revelation of Jesus Christ? If you trust in him, you not only will see his glory but you will partake of his grace and truth. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). Then, if you have trusted Jesus, are you drawing from his grace to live for him—for his honor and his kingdom? Is his grace flowing through you to others? “From his fullness” every believer has received “grace upon grace.” The fullest glory of the Christmas Savior is that glory that grows year by year in our hearts and which we share with the world. So Peter urges, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Full of Grace and Truth

John concludes his great theology of the coming of Christ, saying, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Here are two specific aspects of God’s glory that Jesus revealed: his grace and his truth. These are why Jesus is not only more glorious than John the Baptist, but even more glorious than Moses, who delivered Israel in the exodus. John writes, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

To the world, the cross was the most shameful of all things. It involved physical torture, personal humiliation, and a cursed death. This was God’s way of showing us the shame of our sin. But because the perfect Son of God died in this way for us, the cross displays the grace of God to the highest glory of his name. And it is by seeing the glory of God’s grace in the cross that we are saved. Is the cross your glory? Is it your hope? Is it the place where your sins were put away and God’s glory shines into your heart? Paul speaks for every Christian heart when he exclaims, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

This is why of all the glorious activities of the Christmas season, the most glorious of all are spent with God’s Word. No longer can our eyes behold the Christmas star of Bethlehem, any more than we can see the cloud of fire that hovered above the ancient tabernacle. But with our very eyes we can see—with our ears we can hear—and in our minds and hearts we can know—the true glory of Christmas, the glory of the Savior who has come, from the pages of God’s Holy Word. And if through faith we behold the glory of his divine person, his gracious provision, and his revelation of grace and truth, the light of God will shine out from our lives.[1]

[1] Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels, ed. Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 175–187.

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