December 12th: The Glory of the Word Made Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

JOHN 1:1

There have always been sectarian groups who have resisted the mystery implied in these two phrases: “the Word was with God” and “the Word was God.” They say, in their bondage to merely human conceptuality, you can’t have it both ways. Either he was God, or he was with God. If he was with God, he wasn’t God. And if he was God, he wasn’t with God.

So to escape the truth of these two sentences, sometimes they change the translation. But what this verse teaches is that the one we know as Jesus Christ, before he was made flesh, was God, and that the Father also was God. There are a plurality of persons and a singular God. This is part of the truth that we know as the Trinity. This is why we worship Jesus Christ and say with Thomas in John 20:28, “My Lord and my God!” John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Why was he called “the Word”? One way to answer this is to ponder what he might have been called and why this would have been inadequate in relationship to “the Word.”

For example, he might have been called “the Deed.” One of the differences between a deed and a word is that a deed is more ambiguous. If we think our words are sometimes unclear and subject to various interpretations, our deeds are far more unclear and ambiguous. That’s why we so often explain ourselves with words. Words capture the meaning of what we do more clearly than the deeds themselves. God did many mighty deeds in history, but he gave a certain priority to the Word. One of the reasons, I think, is that he puts a high value on clarity and communication.

Another example is that John might have called him “the Thought.” In the beginning was the Thought. But one of the differences between a thought and a word is that a word is generally pictured as moving outward from the thinker for the sake of establishing communication. I think John wanted us to conceive of the Son of God as existing both for the sake of communication between him and the Father and for the sake of appearing in history as God’s communication to us.

A third example is that John might have called him “the Feeling.” In the beginning was the Feeling. But again, I would say, feelings do not carry any clear conception or intention or meaning. Feelings, like deeds, are ambiguous and need to be explained—with words.

So it seems to me that calling Jesus “the Word” is John’s way of emphasizing that the very existence of the Son of God is for the sake of communication. First, and foremost, he exists, and has always existed, from all eternity for the sake of communication with the Father. Secondarily, but infinitely important for us, the Son of God became divine communication to us. One might say, in summary, calling Jesus “the Word” implies that he is “God-Expressing-Himself.” To us.