In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
This is often called an “introduction”, but I think of it more as a “thesis”. It’s part summary, part explanation, and part argument about what we’ll read over the next twenty-four chapters.
The first five verses are the most quoted part, and probably the boldest statement. It purposefully reflects Genesis, but adds (or perhaps contradicts) that God was not alone, the Word (Jesus) was there too. This forms the backbone of our understanding of the Trinity. God and Jesus are somehow separate, but one. And the Light (and I could be mistaken here) I understand to be the Holy Spirit. Again, one with God, but also different. Also, it’s very important to note that everything (including you!) came in to the world through Jesus. We are also a part of God!
Verses six through nine deal with John. He is clearly an important man, the only person other than Jesus to be mentioned in this intro, yet his importance is downplayed by the author, both here and in verse fifteen. Based on this I expect some people at the time thought John was the Messiah. The author wants to acknowledge John’s teaching, but make it clear he is not the important one.
Then verses ten to eighteen summarize the Gospel message. Jesus became a man so that we could know God. Yet we didn’t recognize Him. But by knowing Jesus we can become children of God and receive grace, thought what exactly that means isn’t specified yet. I expect the author expects us to understand. And finally, the author again emphasizes that it is only through Jesus that we can have a relationship with God, because Jesus became and human.
Wow, the power of this intro is especially evident immediately after reading the three synoptic gospels. They only address the concept of grace and forgiveness through Christ implicitly, expecting you to read the prophets to figure it out. But in John it’s right here, first thing, really pushing emotional buttons. It’s easy to see why people love John, even if maybe they don’t intellectually understand every word and phrase. I know I’m certainly missing some subtleties (and probably not-so-subtleties too…) here.
I’m re-reading, and this is a very analytical, thoughtful response. Not the passionate, emotion-driven response I’m used to seeing from this passage. Fear not readers, I wasn’t completely unaffected! I just don’t really know how to write about how this makes me feel. It’s not the kind of emotion that explodes, just kind of warms gently. But rest assured, I did feel something.