The Unknown Became Known

Heritage Presbyterian Church

January 3, 2021
Second Sunday of Christmas
Scripture reading – John 1: 10-18

Anyone studying Biblical Greek quickly learns which passages in the New Testament to embrace for translation and which ones to approach with fear and apprehension.  This is especially true if one is not very strong in Biblical languages.

The Gospel of Mark is straightforward, clear, with brief sentences, and concise descriptions.  Small wonder that Mark wrote the shortest of the four Gospels.  

Matthew also tends to get to the point, but he also makes a LOT more points than Mark.

Luke is the story-teller…and you know how those people can talk!  So his passages tend to go on for a bit.

Then we have John’s Gospel, and here is where Greek Biblical students shudder if they are weak in the language.  John’s passages tend to go on for a long time as John explains over and over what Jesus was saying, what he meant, and how his ministry gives clear proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the One long-promised to God’s people.  John makes that case…but he also adds another lens that makes it harder.

John’s Gospel is considered the Gnostic Gospel.  Many other Gnostic documents exist, and all them tend to focus on the mystic elements of faith, that which cannot always be seen – or even clearly understood.  While many of those Gnostic documents are dismissed as historical but not necessarily accurate or worthy of being included in the Bible, they do add to the mystical view of Jesus Christ.

So when John refers to Jesus as “The Light” which came into the world, John links this to the beginning of the Bible itself.  Notice the similarities:

  • Genesis begins with, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth…”
  • John’s Gospel begins with, “In the beginning was the Word…” meaning that which came from God.  John then goes on to link the Word to Jesus…but notice how he does it.  John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

Clearly, John was saying that Jesus was a human being, of the same flesh and blood as any other human being.  But John doesn’t say it as clearly as we would like.  The Greek only makes the explanation more difficult to comprehend. 

Perhaps it would be simpler to pick out various words and phrases from John’s long, mystical, gnostic sentences and explore them to help us get a clearer picture of John’s purpose.

“In the beginning was the Word…”

John links Jesus, the Son of God, to the Father from the very beginning that human beings can understand; namely, when God created the Heavens and the earth as described in Genesis.  Just as the beginning of life started with creation in the Genesis account, so is our “new beginning” possible because of Jesus Christ.

“The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

Other Gnostic documents debate and even deny that Jesus was truly a human being.  One of them states that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross; that if he were truly divine, this could not have happened because God could not die.  John abandons that portion of the Gnostic mysticism that focuses perhaps too much of on the divine side of God and states very clearly that Jesus was a human being.  That is, he ate, drank, slept, became tired, cried, grieved, got mad, was either cold or hot depending on the weather.  He got wet when he was outside and it rained, his feet got tired when he walked all day.  John saw all this in his three-year period of Jesus’ ministry when the Apostles were with him almost every day. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

What a beautiful set of words to describe all that Jesus did during his time on earth – and beyond.  Theologians say that “Jesus Christ as the Light” only means something when the attempt is made to dispel the prevailing darkness.  Have we had ANY of that in 2020, prevailing darkness?  Let me count the ways:

  • Hurricanes
  • Murder hornets
  • Explosion in the harbor of Beirut that destroyed much of that Lebanese city
  • Explosion in the middle of Nashville, Tennessee
  • Demonstrations and riots in the streets that seem to occur almost daily
  • Stockpiling toilet paper because of fear!
  • The 2020 election, which is not officially finished just yet.
  • The Houston Texans crummy season
  • And…of course…the Covid-19 pandemic.

Darkness has prevailed throughout much of this past year, but people of faith have managed to keep their faith and even find new ways to celebrate and worship in God’s everlasting, ever adapting love.  

Yes, the darkness has won some days this year, but it is not undefeated by a long shot.

“No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

See what I mean about some of John’s passages being a little tricky?  This one contains an extremely important detail that is hard to determine, namely that when we see Jesus, the Son, we also see God the Father.  To look upon the face of God was to die…the ancient people knew this and we know it too.  However, with the love and kinship of Jesus of Nazareth, this becomes possible.  How comforting!  How beautiful!  And how wonderful this is to know!

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…”

According to much of the Old Testament, there were children of God…and there was everybody else. Nothing else.  In order to become a child of God, one had to be born within the correct set of people.  What about everyone else?  Just skim parts of the Old Testament, especially that part about the Promised Land, and you will get a sense of what happened to the other people on this planet.

Yet, much of the work Jesus did on this earth involved those who would have seemed lost to most of us: Roman soldiers, the lame, blind, and deaf; lepers, the Greeks, the prostitutes, those possessed by demons, the paralyzed, the woman at the well married 5 times, tax collectors, and the murderous Zealots.  

To most people, Jesus reached out to these “others” and told them by his words and by his actions that they were also children of God…they were included…they were saved too.

“…yet the world did not know Him.”  

Perhaps many did not know Jesus or chose not to.  Perhaps those who did know Jesus only saw what they wanted to see or hoped to see; perhaps a military leader who would lead a godly revolt against the Romans and perhaps King Herod too.  Perhaps many who saw Jesus were not impressed because no prophet had appeared in almost 400 years…until John the Baptist arrived, that is.  

And yet in the works that Jesus did, I’ll bet some people came to know him well:

  • When he fed the 5000;
  • When he calmed storms and even walked on water;
  • When demons were cast out quickly and easily;
  • When his apostles gained the power to heal;
  • When he laid his loving hands on people and they were cured…and even later when the tassel of his cloak was touched by the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years;
  • When he raised the dead…and when he himself was also raised on Easter morning.

Those who knew him or came to know him were given the power to become children of God.  It became a choice, not necessarily a birthright.

In all that John wrote, even as difficult as much of his Gospel is to clearly understand, he was clear about one thing:

“That which was unknown became known”…or 

“See for yourself that God is with us.”

Jesus was divine from the beginning or he could not have been divine at the end.  John bore witness to all of it, and he tells us the same thing even today:

“That which was unknown became known to us.”  Amen!