With this study, we continue our examination of the prologue of John's Gospel.
14The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We have been told of "the Word", that "He was in the world" (vs. 10), and "He came to that which was His own" (vs. 11). Here, we are told specifically how "He came to that which was His own". The Word did not come as a spirit, nor did He make His presence known through the dreams and imaginations of His followers. No. So that there would be no mistaking His message: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." He spoke directly to us. We have the actual words He spoke. He spoke also through His actions, through His life. We do not have to rely solely upon the visions of prophets. We have the life of God Incarnate to teach us about God and the things of God. As the writer of Hebrews points out: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1,2).
Verse 14 supplements verse 1 of John's prologue. In verse 1, we were told: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here in verse 14, we see that, whereas the "Word was God", He took on a new form of existence: "The Word became flesh". And whereas, "the Word was with God" (vs. 1), here we see He took a new dwelling place: "The Word. . . made His dwelling among us." We need both of these verses to get the whole picture. Jesus is God, we learn from verse 1; and He became a man, we learn from verse 14. God and man. As John here points out, Jesus, as a man in the flesh, still had "the glory of the One and Only", the glory of God. He lost none of His deity when He "became flesh". And yet, except for sin, He was a man just like us: He had the same cravings, desires, drives; the same need for food and water; He put His pants on one foot at a time (so to speak). John, to emphasize this, seems to go out of his way to express Christ's manhood as crude as he could: "The Word became flesh." John did not say: "The Word became a man", or "The Word joined the human family". No, to emphasize that Christ, in His incarnation, took on all the trappings of being a man, John said: "The Word became flesh." John wanted to prevent people from saying (as some have), "Oh, Christ was a spirit in the guise of a man." No (John says), "the Word became flesh." It was not a big charade. Christ was born, grew up, experienced and felt everything we experience and feel (but without sin). This is important. Because of this, "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Christ is the perfect mediator between God and man, because, having been a man, "dwelling among us", He understands our weaknesses.
There is another reason that it is important that Christ was a man, that "the Word became flesh", and was not some spirit in the guise of a man. His sacrifice was meaningful only if He was a man, who experienced temptation, yet remained sinless. It was His sinlessness that made it so He could die for our sins, since, being sinless, He Himself was not under any judgment. Moreover, Christ's sacrifice was meaningful since He was a man, because He could feel the pain and endure the suffering of His death for us. Christ's sacrifice would not be meaningful if His incarnation was a charade and He did not feel pain as a man does.
So, Jesus is God; Jesus is man. Fully both. Admittedly, this is a profound mystery, a very difficult concept to grasp. We with our finite minds are not able to fully comprehend the incarnation of an infinite God into the body of a man. But then I say, I would not want to worship a god small enough for my mind to fully understand. What kind of god would that be? I am glad that there are things about the True and Living God that I do not fully comprehend. I read the Word of God and learn as much as I can about the mysteries of God. And the things that I cannot fully comprehend, I take these things on faith, and trust that they will be revealed to me in due time.
The Word not only "became flesh", but also "made His dwelling among us". Literally, the phrase says that the Word "tabernacled" among us, or even "pitched His tent" among us. These two renderings can suggest different things. The phrase, "pitch His tent among us", suggests to me familiarity, friendship, peace with us. He did not pitch His tent on the next dune, but rather, among us, because He sought to be friends with us. The phrase, "tabernacled among us", conjures up images of the tabernacle in the Old Testament, where the glory of God, the "shekinah" glory, dwelt among the Israelites in the desert (see Ex. 25:8,9; Ex. 40:34). So, John, by using this phrase, sets the presence of God in the tabernacle as a type of the presence of God among us in Christ.
And as the Israelites in the desert witnessed the glory of God in the tabernacle, so also, John says: "We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only." Though He was "flesh", He still had His glory, He was still God. His glory was seen throughout His life: in magnificent ways, and in ordinary ways. The magnificence of His glory was seen on the mount of Transfiguration, in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in the feeding of the five thousand, and in the countless other miracles He performed. But His glory was also seen in the ordinary: in His service, in His washing the feet of the disciples, in His patience in teaching His followers, in His prayers for His disciples. It is glory when the God of the Universe, who could choose to remain aloof to His creation, condescends to become a man and serve His creatures. Most of all, His glory was seen in His great love for us, as demonstrated by His sacrifice for us on the cross. For that, He receives all glory in heaven and earth, for ever and ever. As the multitude sings before the throne: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Rev. 5:12).
It is a special privilege for us that His glory was witnessed by men, as John says: "We have seen His glory." The writers of the New Testament are all eyewitnesses to His glory. In the Gospels, we have first-hand accounts of the glory of Christ. Many men and women saw the miracles, the healings, the signs and wonders. Many saw, even touched, the risen Christ. Because of their accounts, along with the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we can read and believe, and then, we too, by faith, can see His glory. "And truly 'tis better to see Christ by faith than it is to see Him by sight, for a sight of Him by faith saves the soul; but we might see Him with the eye, and yet crucify Him, yet be found amongst the greatest rebels against His government and power."[Footnote #2] Yes, many saw His glory but ignored it, rejected it. John's gospel has many cases of this. His glory is discerned through the eyes of faith. The same people saw His signs and wonders: some embraced Him, some ignored Him. The same is true today. The same people today read His Word, have the testimony of the Spirit, see the work of Christ in the lives of His people: some embrace Him, some ignore Him.
John ends this verse with a description of the glory of Christ: "full of grace and truth." The purpose of the glory of Christ when He dwelt on earth was not merely to exalt Him, but to show His "grace" and to demonstrate the "truth". All His miracles and works of glory did one, the other, or both. The "grace" of Christ is shown in the feeding of the five thousand, the many healings and raisings from the dead, His many acts of service, and (first and foremost) His own death on the cross. By "truth", what could be meant here is the fulfillment of the types, shadows, and prophecies of the Old Testament. Christ was the "truth" to whom these things pointed. So, the "truth" of Christ was seen in the glory of fulfilled prophecy in His life: His birth in Bethlehem as a son of David, the preaching of John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ's teaching, the many fulfillments of prophecy surrounding His betrayal, arrest, trial, and death. As Christ said: "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Truth cannot be known apart from Christ.
Father, lead us in Your truth, through Christ. We praise You that You sent Your Son to dwell among us. May His glory be evident through our lives. Make us, by Your Spirit, worthy of the name of Christ as Christians. To Him be all the glory in our lives all our days. In His name we pray these things, Amen.
2. C.H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. VII, pg. 532.