We are blessed by the ministries of the great literary artists and evangelists of our faith tradition who found and made the time to write the Gospels. For years, the story of Jesus was told and retold by the people who actually knew him. They had walked with him on the road, seen him in the marketplace, heard him on a hillside. But as time passed, they began to die.
Jesus lived in the first third of the first century, but the Gospels weren’t written until the last third of the first century. These books, the Gospels, came to be known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but we don’t really know who wrote them. Names weren’t assigned to these books until sometime in the second century when early Christians were trying to tell them apart.
Most mainline scholars date the Gospel of John from the decade of the 90s, near the end of the first century. So the community from which this gospel emerged had decades — two generations, or more — to reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and … to try to figure out how to tell the world who he was.
Matthew and Luke begin their stories of Jesus with his birth, which of course we are still celebrating. Mark begins his story of Jesus by telling about Jesus as a young adult, leaving his home and his family and his business to go hear a radical preacher by the name of John the Baptist.
The Gospel of John’s story of Jesus is really different. It starts all the way back before the creation of the world. John’s Gospel opens with a magnificent prologue. “Prologue” is just a fancy term that means: it comes first and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Some scholars think John’s prologue is an adaptation of an early Christian hymn.
John’s very first words are exactly the same as the first words in the first book of the Bible. Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning…” it reads. Likewise, John writes: “In the beginning…”
John goes on to tell the world in powerful imagery that the word of God became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth; that Jesus is the embodiment and the revelation of what can be seen of the Word of God in a human life. Jesus reveals the character and passion of God.
In churchy language this idea is known as the doctrine of “Incarnation.” Practically speaking, what it means is that God is “all in” with humanity. In Jesus what it looks like for a human being to live for the Kingdom of God on earth, take a look at Jesus; hear what he says; think about what he does. This is what John is trying to tell us. Please see John 1:1-18.
-excerpt from Hal Murry’s Sermon, Jan. 3, 2016