In our Gospel reading, we kept hearing the term “The Word”. It comes from the Greek word Logos, which was introduced by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus. Put very simply it meant that it was the explanation of how everything in the universe hung together and worked. The Stoic philosophers identified Logos with “the divine animating principle pervading the whole Universe”. In his Gospel, written in Greek, John used the term Logos to refer to Jesus. So each time we hear “The Word”, we can substitute it with “Jesus”. It would go like this: (The middle paragraph is omitted because “The Word” isn’t mentioned.)
John 1:1–14 with substitution (Good News Bible).
Even in the beginning, Jesus already existed; Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. From the very beginning Jesus was with God. Through Him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without Him. Jesus was the source of life; and this life brought light to humanity. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
Jesus was in the world, and though God made the world through Him, yet the world didn’t recognise Him. He came to His own country, but His own people didn’t receive Him. Some, however, did receive Him and believed in Him; so He gave them the right to become God's children. They didn’t become God's children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God Himself was their Father.
Jesus became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw His glory, the glory which He received as the Father's only Son.
Do you get the impression from that passage that Jesus is fairly important in the whole process of where the world has been, where it is and where it’s going? We can read about Jesus in all the Gospels, but to understand why it was necessary for Him to die, when and in the manner He did, we have to go back, as is often the case, to the Old Testament of our Bible.
Now, whether you believe in Adam & Eve, the apple and the serpent or not, the important thing we need to believe is that at some point in the idyllic and beautiful world that God had created, sin entered into the equation. We entertain lots of ideas about sin these days. We say it’s a sin to eat a chocolate bar when you’re on the Atkins diet. In ice-hockey, they have sin-bins for players who’ve committed an offence. Some regard it a sin to speak out in defence of one’s faith — only the Christian faith of course. I read the other day that people are trying to make it so that if anyone says that Jesus is the Son of the one true God, they’re committing that new “catch-all” phrase, a “Hate Crime”. Sin in the Bible and in our Christian belief, is simply doing or saying something that’s an offence to God.
But God created a perfect world, so why did He allow things go wrong? He’s all-powerful, so why didn’t He just keep it that way. It was because of God’s greatest gift to us; that of free will. Why would He give us that, when it allows us to rebel against Him and go our own way?
Think about it. What can we possibly give to God, that He doesn’t already have? We have nothing of our own that He didn’t provide for us and that’s why we owe Him so much. No one in the world has any talent that God didn’t give to them. Does someone have a talent for making money? God gave that to them so that they could help to feed and care for His people, not to buy the biggest yacht they could afford or fly around in a private jet. Does someone have a beautiful voice? God gave them that to sing His praises, not to use it to make a name for themselves and have people worshipping them instead of Him. Does someone have a brilliant mind? God gave them that so they could use it to better understand Him and pass on that understanding. Or to discover cures for diseases, or help His people in many other ways, not to invent violent computer games or weapons of mass destruction. Isn’t there anything at all that is truly just ours and no one else’s? Only one thing — our love! And it’s ours to give. And that’s all God wants from us.
You may have heard the saying that God hates sin, but loves the sinner. Clichéd or not, it happens to be true. God is perfect and therefore can’t let sin touch Him. So, after sin entered the world, there came a separation between God and mankind. This is known as “The Fall”, or “Fall of Man”, because that’s what we did; we fell from the grace of God.
God was in a paradoxical position. He loved mankind with a love so intense that none of us could possibly even imagine its depth. Everything about God is so huge that it’s beyond the comprehension of human beings. And His love is the same. Just think of having all that love for someone and yet not being able to enjoy close contact with them.
Centuries before the time Jesus was born in human form, God made a particular people his chosen race. These were the descendants of a man, obedient to God, called Abraham. His grandson was called Jacob, but God changed his name to Israel. His descendants became what we’ve all heard of as “The Children of Israel”. As their numbers dwindled, they became mainly centred around the tribe of Judah and came to be the race we now call the Jews.
To try and show them the way they should live, God gave them certain rules to abide by. These started with what we know as The Ten Commandments. Later on came other laws, most of which involved sacrifices of animals to make atonement for various sins. Together they were known as The Law of Moses. The animals for sacrifice had to be perfect in every way. The rituals were a constant reminder to them of how they were supposed to live and, to a degree, it was effective for them. But the sacrifices only worked for the one thing they were designed for. And they were continual rituals, going on day after day, week after week and year after year. Their sin was never going to be truly forgiven. This went on for the best part of a couple of thousand years. There was only one purpose of the Law and Saint Paul said it in his letter to the Roman Christians. He said that, “through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20) In other words, if people weren’t made aware something was wrong then they’d just continue sinning.
But God had a master plan to reconcile mankind to Himself by one heart-rending sacrifice — that of His only Son, Jesus Christ. No man could ever have been sacrificed to atone for sin before, because no one had ever been perfect and completely free from sin. But Jesus was — totally free. Therefore His life was offered as one final payment, or a substitution, for all our sins — for all time. There would never have to be another. As we heard in our New Testament reading, Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.” (Colossians 1:20b).
In just eight days, we’ll be celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Son of the one true God, whom our God was prepared to offer as a sacrifice that would give everyone the opportunity to be reconciled to the Creator of the World, instead of remaining separated. That reconciliation gives us the chance to spend eternity in Paradise with Him. Who wouldn’t want that? The alternative is not good. All we have to do to begin the journey to Paradise, is to accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Saviour. Amen.
1. When struggling to understand a passage in the New Testament, what is your first port of call?
- A concordance?
- A Christian book on the subject?
- The Old Testament?
2. What do you use as your own “Sinometer” (keeping a check on yourself with regards to avoiding doing or saying anything that you know God would find offensive)?
- Trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life?
- Constant/regular self-awareness?
3. Do you ever wish that God hadn’t given mankind quite so much free will?
4. Do you believe categorically that God hates the sin but loves the sinner?