John’s Gospel looks at the life of Jesus in a different way to Matthew, Mark and Luke. He is looking for deeper meaning, and he begins this gospel with an astonishing passage: John 1:1-18.
There are a lot of things we could draw out of this passage, but what I want to concentrate on this time is that the difference between Christianity and other religions is: God took the initiative.
God didn’t just visit, he became flesh. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)
This raises questions about the nature and purpose of God and the implications for us.
At a summer fete, some boys went into one tent which was set apart from the others and found it to be full of food. They were sent out because it was the VIP tent. The VIPs visited the fete but they didn’t have to mingle with the ordinary people. God didn’t act like a VIP, he got involved, he joined in. He laid aside his majesty.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil.2:6,7)
Can you grasp that? Who do you say Jesus is?
God is not distant
The Police had a ‘hands in pockets’ day when the bosses go out on the beat with the rank and file. It changed how ordinary people perceived the police. God is not removed from our experiences.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
God is not disconnected
Church theology used to be that his mind was made up. This was changed by the holocaust. How could he allow it, how could he not be moved? God experienced it in Jesus, so he empathises.
God is not dispassionate
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Mother Theresa worked among the poor in Kolkata (Calcutta). An American missionary asked to come and watch. When there was a delivery of secondhand shoes, Mother Theresa swapped her shoes for the worst pair. She wouldn’t wear a better pair than those she served.
The end of the 2017 London Marathon saw Matthew Rees help struggling runner David Watt across the line. Twitter lit up with the news because it touched people’s hearts.
Words of encouragement are not enough, you need to walk alongside them, as God moves you.
God is now incarnate in his people. We are called to be part of his plan. What is the implication for my life? [See next week]
[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk