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Jesus the Word

Web Article for 4/30/2012


Confession time. I don’t enjoy reading the Apostle John. The engineer in me is drawn to the clear narratives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus said this, and then he went here, and then he did that. Give me a story line I can follow. But John rambles like a kindly, doddering grandfather reminiscing about the olden days and dispensing wisdom, clear to no one but himself. Vague, looping metaphors, fragments of stories and thoughts, and flowery allusions probably should speak to my inner poet, but they don’t. But John has walked the walk, and has earned the right to talk the talk, even if I have no clue what he means.

And then, occasionally, a flash of inspiration illuminates John’s wisdom for me.

John begins his gospel account in John 1 talking about a Word. “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 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.”

The Jews of the first century had lots of God words. They had the law and the prophets (words from God), psalms, proverbs, and other poetry (words about and to God), and historical narratives (words about God’s people). For all this, God had become hearsay, as distant and abstract as an American president. People knew lots about God, but few could say they knew him personally.

And then Jesus showed up, the embodiment of those words. The Word. The Greek term is logos. You know what a logo is. When you see a generic mom ‘n’ pop burger joint, you have no idea what you’ll find inside. But when you see the golden arches, you don’t need a bunch of words to describe what you’ll find. You know – for better or worse – because the McDonald’s logo means something.

Knowing Jesus – the capital Word, the logo, the tangible trademark of God – made all the words about God unnecessary. People could experience and appreciate Jesus first-hand. And then he left, and the lower-case words started flowing again as people told others who didn’t know him. We call some of those words the New Testament.

We can get caught up in the flood of words even today and miss the Word. God becomes hearsay, a famous person we’ve never met.

I’m unsatisfied with hearsay, though. I want the personal Word, experiencing God first-hand. And he’s shown up for me. We’ve gone through experiences together, and I’ve found him best described by – of all people – John.

“God is love.” (1 John 4:8) That’s the Word worth knowing.

Mike Pulley

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