There’s a word for it

I wrote this for Through the Roof (www.throughtheroof.org) and it is reproduced here by kind permission.

At my church this year we’re studying the Gospel of John. Taking a year over it means we have the opportunity to explore the book in some depth, and I am enjoying spending a couple of weeks over a chapter.

Matthew, Mark and Luke told the story of Jesus. They filled their Gospels with details of His circumstances, the stories He told and the miracles He performed. They presented Him and let the facts speak for themselves, so that people could draw their own conclusions about His divinity. Matthew, in his eagerness to present a clear picture of Jesus as the Messiah – The One who is promised – packs in as many stories as he can in as few words as possible, often giving only the sketchiest outline of an incident, or even perhaps conflating two episodes into one.

John, by contrast, is less interested in presenting a multitude of facts than in interpreting Jesus to us. He comments a good deal more on the narrative, and he offers us the sayings of Jesus at considerable length, especially in chapters 14 – 17. And in the opening of his Gospel, He is concerned to present God as the creator and Jesus as the re-creator.

John’s Gospel begins, as we all know, with “In the beginning was the Word.” I have been thinking about some of what John had in mind by calling Jesus “the Word”. Just as “in the beginning” God spoke “let there be…” and the physical world was created, in the beginning of His new creation God spoke a Word which would recreate all that had been damaged in the Fall when humans rebelled against God.

Jesus, He tells us, is the Word who is from the beginning, the Word who is with God and indeed is God. Or in other words, Jesus represents what God most longs to say to us. And if we have ears to hear, each of us will hear that Word spoken to us. We will not all hear the same thing, for as at the Day of Pentecost, each of us hears the Word in his or her own language.

The prisoner hears, “free”. Those imprisoned by circumstances or by the words and actions of others can still know the true freedom that Christ brings. The dead hears, “life”. Whether the spiritually dead who receive life as they open their ears and hearts to Jesus, or the literally dead who are promised resurrection bodies. The rejected person hears, “chosen”. The despised person hears, “valued”.

The blind person hears, “light”. That might happen literally, like the man in John 9 who was blind from birth until Jesus gave him the gift of sight. Or it might happen, as it did for Fanny Crosby who never saw in this life, but could still pen the words, “Visions of rapture burst on my sight.”

The deaf person hears, “song”. Again, there are examples where that has happened very literally in response to God’s healing touch; but other examples where a lack of physical hearing has led to a great sensitivity in hearing God.

The child hears, “come”. The hater hears, “forgiven”. The troubled person hears, “peace”. The fearful person hears, “hope”. The broken-hearted person hears, “joy”. The cynic hears, “truth”. The betrayed person hears, “faithful”. The person who believes herself ugly hears, “beautiful”. The weak person hears, “strong”. The poor person hears, “rich”.
The one who cannot walk hears, “leap, leap like a deer”! Some may do so here and now, like the man in Acts 3 who was healed and went walking, leaping and praising God. Others may not see that in this life. But, like the little girl who was repeatedly told to sit down, and eventually sat down grudgingly with the words “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” many of my wheelchair-using friends have already heard a word from Jesus, an invitation to dance, and are dancing on the inside.

I would like to encourage you to take some time in stillness to read through the opening verses of John’s Gospel and in the silence ask God what is His word to you right now. And remember that whatever He says to you, it doesn’t come in the form of a disembodied word, but it is Jesus, who is the Word of God, who comes to you Himself.

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