TEXT: John 1:1-4,14; Psalm 33
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
That’s how John begins his Gospel, his account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. These verses feature the word we are going to focus on today: LOGOS. It literally means ‘word’ but has a richer meaning that we’ll explore. And as John uses it, it refers to Jesus, who was with God in the beginning and who was and is God.
This first verse of John calls to mind the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. John is recalling those familiar words, but lifting up Jesus existence, presence, and divinity as God.
I want to show you a video clip that depicts what John is doing here. It is from the series, The Chosen, which Heather and I have been watching. It is an amazing telling of the story of Jesus: well-researched and beautifully set and acted. In this two-minute clip Jesus has been asked to select a passage from the Hebrew Scripture to read at a local synagogue. He and John have a conversation about what to read and Jesus asks what one of John’s favorite passages is. John shares that it is the scripture “about the beginning.” You’ll hear some more of their conversation, including John’s reference to the Greek logos, though he simply calls it “the word” here. You’ll also see the scene and voiceover switch between John’s experience of Jesus reading the creation scriptures and his own writing of his Gospel as an older man. I found it a very moving depiction and it helps you hear the interplay between the Genesis 1 and John 1 scriptures. I also highly recommend The Chosen!
[you can watch The Chosen online at watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen]
Logos appears over 300x in the New Testament and is a very flexible word. It can mean ‘word,’ ‘message,’ ‘speech,’ or ‘statement.’ It corresponds to the Old Testament Hebrew word dabar, which is even more flexible as ‘word,’ ‘matter,’ or even ‘thing.’ But one of the uses of logos and dabar that stand out is in reference to the “word of the Lord.” When God speaks, this is the way it’s described: the logos of the Lord or the dabar of the Lord.” And that’s the particular usage I want to look at with you today. Logos is important to us not only because it describes God speaking to us, but HOW God speaks to us and that happens most perfectly in the person of Jesus… so much so that John uses the same word to describe Jesus himself.
In the Old Testament
Throughout the OT Abraham, Moses, and the prophets receive their message with the phrase “And the word of the Lord came to…..” Some examples:
Genesis 15:1,4 – “After these things the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision…”
1 Samuel 3:7ff – “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the Word of the Lord yet been revealed to him… [but Eli instructed him to say] “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Or the Psalm that Jesus referenced in the video clip and that we heard in our Call to Worship today…
Psalm 33:4,6 – “The Word of the Lord is upright… by the Word of the Lord the heavens were made.”
In all these examples (and many more) the power and message of God comes through the “Word of the Lord.” And it’s not ‘words’ plural, but a collective message of who God is and what God is doing. That’s the “Word of the Lord.”
Take my example from the children’s message. There are some similarities. When you are at camp and get a letter from home, you don’t describe it as ‘letters’ or ‘words’ from home, but a letter. And it’s not the words or paper or grammar that is so special, it’s the connection with a real person who you long to see. The letter becomes a stand-in for the person, for the relationship. It’s not a perfect analogy, but there are similarities. God came to Abraham in a vision and conveyed who God was and what God wanted through the Word. Samuel did not yet know the Lord, but his wise teacher told him to listen and invite God’s Word in his life. When God created the world it was not by magic words, as if you or I could say the same words “Let there be light” and create sun, moon, and stars. The Word was the power of God at work.
As you hear the phrase over and over again in the Old Testament, and see the way it is received, it almost is like it is a person. It’s like the treasured “letter from home” that you can’t wait to tear into and savor, to bring near the loved one who is far away.
When Jesus first started teaching, he situated himself with respect to the scriptures. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 he said that he had not come to do away with the Law and Prophets (the Hebrew scriptures), but to fulfill or complete them. This could apply to the “Word of the Lord” as well. Jesus isn’t a replacement for God’s message to the prophets and people of Israel. Jesus IS the Word of the Lord living in their midst. It’s like mom or dad arriving at camp to pick you up! The letters from home are still treasured, but they only point to the arrival and reunion with the one who wrote them.
I liked how the video clip pulled some of that together, depicting John’s love for the creation story and the connection he made to Jesus being that “Word of the Lord” referenced as being present at and part of the creation of the world.
Jesus, the Word of God
Let’s look some at how the “Word of the Lord” is used in the New Testament. I chose three passages which you heard read already. In Luke 22 and Acts 11 Peter “remembers the word of the Lord.” In Luke 22 he remembers Jesus telling him Peter would deny knowing him. In Acts 11 Peter remembers Jesus’ teaching on baptism. Clearly Peter is remembering a moment when Jesus spoke words to him. But it is also striking to me that he doesn’t say, “I remembered when Jesus said thus and so.” But he uses that Old Testament phrase that is so prominent in the Hebrew scriptures. It’s as if he is remembering Jesus himself as much or more than the words he said.
IN FACT, In both passages Peter says both things as if to distinguish between the two: “And I remembered the Word of the Lord, how He said….” But there is a sense in which Jesus is so equated with the words that “Word of the Lord” is like a person…. I remember how “Word of the Lord” used to say…” In Revelation 19 Jesus is explicitly named “The Word of the Lord” (and also Faithful and True).
And that’s my point: Jesus embodies and brings alive the “Word of the Lord.” I think that was John’s point in describing Jesus as the Logos. He is the living breathing power and presence of God, known previously primarily through God’s Word, but now in person. It’s like treasuring the letters from home and then mom or dad arrive in the flesh. John uses Logos to say that for thousands of years God has made Himself known through letters from home, but now the one behind that message is here with us.
Are You Listening?
As I like to say, that all makes a nifty Sunday school lesson or class topic. But what do we do with that? How does it affect or bless our everyday lives?
For one, it underscores that Jesus was who he said he was: God in the flesh, among us, for us.
And the particular language of ‘Word’ offers us an opportunity: TO LISTEN. That was the old priest Eli’s advice to the boy Samuel who heard his name called in the night. “If you hear it again, say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
People often think that God is remote, uninterested, uninvolved, or holier than the likes of us. But God has always spoken and reached out to humanity, especially those who are far from home. We are often just not paying attention. We have the general revelation of God in creation, the beauty and power of nature all around us. We have the specific revelation of God in this Bible full of God’s words. In fact, we refer to it as God’s Word. And we have the personal revelation of God in Jesus, the living embodiment of God’s Word. He’s worth paying attention to; he’s worth knowing and following!
So I’d leave off there, with the old priest’s advice. God may be trying to get your attention; perhaps He has for a long time. Look to the Bible; look to Jesus. And pray this simple prayer, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Amen.
Some Music Used:
- Word of God Speak
- What a Beautiful Name
- Lion of Judah
- How Firm a Foundation – Rick Bean, piano
- That’s Why We Praise Him (Tommy Walker)
- O Word of God Incarnate
- Is He Worthy (Andrew Peterson)
- Days of Elijah