Thursday, December 11, 2014

Touching Base, Part 258

TB 258 – 14 Dec 14
Part 1 -
“Through Him, All Things…
Without Him, Nothing.”

You can download the PDF of this blog here

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Some of the things that John writes in his gospel are so startling that, even in the 21 st-century, after millennia of Christian history, to grasp them and to utter them seems blasphemous. No wonder in 1 st-century Palestine some picked up rocks to stone Jesus to death. His claims were (and are) breathtaking.

Read John 1:1-3.

I grew up in a Christian tradition that downplayed the celebration of Christmas because of its pre-Christian customs and current materialism, thus paying only minimal attention to Christ’s birth as well. Instead, Christ’s death was elevated, and the scriptures that ask Christ-followers to remember him in death were emphasized. Instead of Christmas, the Eucharist (communion) was the most prominent, even in December.

It is accurate that the cross should overshadow the manger, for even the “no vacancies” in Bethlehem predict the forsaken Christ of Golgotha. But in this Touching Base and the accompanying sermon we are going to turn from the cross and instead focus on the heart of the Christmas story – the Son of God’s incarnation. We need to get things straight. His incarnation and who he is precedes his death and what he did for us.

Our text is highly theological – expounding a “high Christology” – but highly practical. The most theological texts are always the most practical because they are foundational, and everything, including day-to-day living, hinges on them.

John’s Gospel:

This gospel is different from the other three. Here Jesus’ audience may have been the sophisticated
theologians around Jerusalem rather than the Galilean crowds of the synoptic gospels, and so there is less narrative and more of the arguments that might have suited contemporary synagogue teaching.

And Jesus is unmistakably presented as God having taken on a human body and nature.

This begins with the first 3 verses. Read them again. Not only are we starting before the crucifixion, we’re starting way before the virgin birth. “The other gospels begin with Bethlehem; John begins with the bosom of the Father. Luke dates his narrative by Roman emperors and Jewish High Priests; John dates his ‘In the beginning’. Matthew and Luke take us to the cradle and the manger, Mark to the prophecies of old, but John takes us back into the mists of eternity” (MacLaren).

“The Word” is a confusing term, but its meaning can be summarized this way. In the Old Testament, the Word of God is how he accomplished his greats acts – of deliverance, of judgment, and especially, of creation. Read Psalm 33:6 and, of course, Genesis 1 – “And God said…And God said…” Also Isaiah 38:4, Psalm 107:20. Then, in the world of the New Testament and John’s audience, the Word (or logos in Greek philosophy) would have had connotations of something of great significance and that was from beyond the tangible world.

But that is all that Hebrew tradition, Greek philosophy, and the Old Testament can say about the Word. So John, with divine inspiration, then strikes out for new territory, a frontier never-before trammeled, one wild and dangerous. This Word, he writes, that was in the beginning was with or toward God (connoting intimacy and relationship) and, in fact, was God. John is a Jewish monotheist (believing in only one God), but he says this Word was God. He goes on to write that this Word is none other than Jesus, the man he knew so well. As he writes in his first epistle, he has seen this “Word,” has looked right at him, and has touched him. Read 1 John 1:1.