John’s prelude to his Gospel leads up to these startling and amazing words – the Word became flesh. The preexistent Word of John 1:1, “In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God” became human. The creator entered and became part of creation. It would be like a watchmaker becoming one of the gears, sprockets, or springs of their creation. But this was not a Prince and the Pauper lets see how the other half lives, kind of visit. Christ’s purpose was amazingly grand and glorious.
John the Apostle writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John (the Baptist) testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (John 1:14–18, NASB95)
One quick observation before we dig into the meat. John the Baptist’s declaration of “for He existed before me” again emphasizes Christ’s preexistence. We know from the other Gospels that John was conceived and born before Jesus. Some in the audience of both John the Baptist and John the Apostle probably knew that little bit of human genealogy as well.
In this section, John the Apostle bookends with one Greek verb, “engeneto.” It’s actually a simple word that means to be, to become, to take place. The two bookends are “the Word became flesh” in verse 14 and “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Christ incarnate in the world, grace and truth incarnate through Jesus Christ.
In a way, this is like the opening of Charles Dicken’s story A Christmas Carol. “There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.” Jesus is the Word made flesh. God incarnate. The creator of the world entering His creation. This must be completely understood, or nothing which follows has any meaning at all.
John the Apostle is striving to make this one point very clear. Jesus is one with God and is God. That is the dividing line of those who “follow” Christ’s teaching and those who follow Christ. Following Christ’s teachings is like the transference of the Law from God to Moses to the People. Following Christ means a direct connection, grace and truth realized in our own hearts through Jesus.
Now, those following Christ do follow His teachings. The difference is a matter of faith and of motive. Do we believe that Jesus is God the Son or just a good moral teacher? Do we do things to earn points with God or because we love Him? Do we know Jesus or only know His teaching? Are we chasing after grace and truth, or have they been made alive (realized) in our heart, soul, and mind?
As John’s Gospel unfolds, he will provide the how and why of this declaration. We’ll see it in the nighttime discourse with Nicodemus, in the noontime discussion with a Samaritan woman, and ultimately in the death and resurrection of Christ.