So far, John hasn’t told us the identity of the Word. He continues now in verses 6-9 by giving us some history. Verses 1-5 have been very theological, kind of vague, maybe hard to understand. John knows he needs to start getting more specific. So he introduces us to a man named John. He is not talking about himself. In the Gospel of John, the name John is always talking about John the Baptist. See for yourself by reading John 1, verses 6-9.
As you can see in verses 6-9, the author John only mentions the name of this other guy, who happens to also be named John. The author John does not yet tell us that the other John is also the person who was famous for baptizing people. We’ll hear about John’s baptizing ministry in the passage we study next week. For now, the author John writes that this other John was sent from God to testify concerning the light, so that through him all people might believe in the light. John (the baptizer), we learn, wanted people to believe in the light. John himself was not the light of the world. John was simply a witness, giving testimony, and pointing people to turn to the Light.
In these verses the author John introduces a word that we will see frequently in his gospel: believe. Specifically, he wants people to believe in the Word, who is the light of the world.
In verses 10-13, the author John continues this theme about believing in the Word who is the light of the world. Read those verses to learn what John has to say about that.
Did you notice that in verse 10, John repeats what he already said about the Word in verses 1-5: The Word created the world, but the world did not recognize him. Then in verse 11, John gets more specific. He says the Word came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him.
The clues about the identity of the Word are starting to bring the identity of the Word into focus. The Word is God. The Word came to his people, but they didn’t receive him. Do you know who the Word is yet?
I will admit that in verses 10-11, John has become a bit negative or dire, talking about darkness and people not receiving the Word, but he quickly turns 180 degrees to a message of hope. In verses 12-13 John shares one of the most wonderful passages in his Gospel. He writes that any person can receive the Word, can believe in the Word, and as a result, can become children of God. Any person can be adopted into God’s family! This is astonishing news. Adoption is central to the story of God’s family. God’s heart beats to adopt children, to expand his family, to receive and welcome all. What a message of love. Whatever this Word is, the Word brings light into the darkness. If we receive the Word and believe in his name, we can become adopted children of God!
In fact, as we continue, we will now see the extreme measures God takes so that people can be adopted into his family.
Look at verse 14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The Greek word John uses for “made his dwelling” is skeneo, and as you can see, it is where we get our English word “skin.”
What it means is “to take up residence or to come to reside or to come to dwell IN A TENT.” You can see why the New International Version of the Bible translates this phrase as “made his dwelling among us.” The mental imagery here would be astounding for the Jewish mind. The Jews are a people that started as a nomadic tribe, going back to the time of Abraham, and the idea of tent dwellings was very near and dear to them. Abraham lived in tents. But there is more.
When you think of a tent what material do you think of? Probably canvas or nylon. But in ancient times, tents were made of what? Skins! Animal skins. There was one tent in particular that was made of animal skin that was incredibly important to the Jewish people. The tabernacle.
I invite you to open a Bible to Exodus chapter 26, and there we can read about how the tabernacle was made. At the beginning of the chapter, God talks with Moses about the curtains that will form the interior and exterior walls of the tabernacle. Then in verse 14 he instructs them to make a covering. This would be a large exterior roof, and it is to be made of ram skins dyed red and over that a covering of sea cows, which were native to the area. When you looked at the tabernacle, then, you saw animal skins. No canvas or nylon. It was a tent covered with animal skins.
And where did God reside in the Old Testament? In the tabernacle, made of skin.
Turn back to John 1:14, and we meet this God in the skin. John uses powerful imagery, saying that the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. He tabernacled with us. Who was God in the skin? Who was the Word?
We’ll find out in the next post.
Photo by Austin Lowman on Unsplash
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