The core of the Christian faith is that God has revealed himself finally and perfectly in Jesus Christ, who is himself God (John 1:18). Our faith is based on historical events which are themselves miraculous. Without the person and work of Christ there is no Christian faith. The coming of Jesus into the world is often sentimentalised, but it is one of the greatest events in history and full of meaning. We want to consider John 1:14 The Word became flesh.
1. A new nature
‘The Word became flesh’ is one of the most amazing statements in the Bible, full of wonder and mystery. Who is ‘the Word’? We have a magnificent description in v1ff. He had no starting point – he simply ‘was’. The doctrine of the Trinity is clearly present here – the Word ‘was with God, and the Word was God’ (v1). The early church took much debate to establish the language to be used to describe God’s being, but concluded that there is one God in three eternally existing, equal persons. The Word is the Son, who exists eternally with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is also the Creator (v3), involved in all that God has made. The eternal Son ‘became flesh’ – God shares our nature. The use of ‘flesh’ indicates human nature in its weakness, such that Jesus became tired and hungry and was subject to death. He ‘became’ flesh – without ceasing to be God, he took a new nature into union with his divinity and is God and man in one person. In Jesus we have a Saviour who shares our nature. In him God has come as close as possible to us, a testimony to his love and compassion.
2. A new dwelling
In Jesus God ‘made his dwelling among us’. Literally John says that he ‘tabernacled’ among us. The tabernacle was the place where God in a special sense dwelt among his people. This echoes the covenant promise of Leviticus 26:11-12 and Jeremiah 31:33. God had previously visited men in visible form (eg Genesis 18), but the tabernacling of the Incarnation is final and permanent. In his coming ‘among us’ we see God’s condescension, coming into a world of sinners. Thus ‘his own did not receive him’ (v11). He came knowing that the path he was to walk required humiliation, suffering and death (Philippians 2:8). The tabernacle was the place where offerings were made and Jesus is the perfect offering who brings full salvation – he is ‘the Lamb of God’ (v29). His dwelling among us opened the way into God’s kingdom and ensures the fulfilment of Revelation 21:3 ‘the tabernacle…is with men’.
3. A new revelation
The tabernacle was associated with God’s glory (Exodus 40:34). Hence we read in relation to Jesus, ‘we beheld his glory’, a glory he shares with the Father. It is to the incarnate Son that John refers, the One who suffered and died. Those with the eyes of faith could see his glory. His true nature was evident in the miracles (eg at Cana, John 2:11), at the transfiguration (Mark 9), but especially at the cross. We see ‘grace’ – free favour providing salvation, and ‘truth’ – the final revelation of the trustworthy God. Note ‘we beheld’ – close scrutiny, either to seek a saviour or to learn more of him and so obey and love him more.