(John 1: 1-18)


When I was in the Houston Police Academy our instructors used to tell us there were two kinds of information.  Good to know and need to know.  In the academy context need to know meant we would see it again on a test so when some particular piece of information would be shared by an instructor a confused cadet would raise their hand and inquire if it was good to know or need to know information.  Those of us who didn’t raise our hands would make a notation in our notebooks that it was need to know.  An example might be that good to know information was making sure you had an extra pen in bour briefcase just in case your pen ran out of ink while you were writing a ticket.  Speeders rarely allowed you to borrow their pens.  Need to know would be knowing the elements of a crime before you place someone under arrest, so the case didn’t get rejected offhand by the reviewing assistant district attorney.  That would be embarrassing.


And providing that “need to know” information is what the Apostle John is doing in his gospel.  He gets right to it, no backstory, no history backdrop, no birth story.  He wants his readers, us to know, what is important right up front and he’ll fill in the details later.  His gospel was written somewhere between 85 and 90 A.D., well after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and before his exile to the island of Patmos.  His audience was primarily new Christians and searching non-Christians who were looking for answers in a world that offered no answers to the uncertainty of the times.  His goal is to prove inconclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.


He jumps right in with both feet by starting his gospel saying: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  To us this seems odd and doesn’t make much sense, but John’s Greek and Jewish readers would have understood.  In Greek philosophy, the Word was the principle of reason that governed the world, or the thought still in the mind, while in Hebrew thought, the word was another expression for God.  To his Jewish readers “the Word was God” was blasphemous.  To the Greek readers, “the Word became flesh” was unthinkable.  But to John, this new understanding of the Word was gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He continues by saying: The Word was with God in the beginning.  Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.  John’s description shows clearly that he is speaking of Jesus, a human being he knew and loved, but at the same time the Creator of the universe, the ultimate revelation of God, the living picture of God’s holiness, the One in whom all things hold together.  This is the premise that John is basing his gospel upon and if you don’t get it there is no point in reading on.  Understand, it’s not as if Jesus was an unknown entity.  Even if you lived in a cave somewhere chances are you had heard about this Jesus, heard about his life, his ministry, his death, and his resurrection.  Think about it, even the non-believers who live among us, live in our neighborhoods, live near our church, have heard something about Jesus.  So John is saying that if you want to know more, want to know the truth, sit back and open your mind.


Now that he has their attention, he begins laying his gospel foundation when he says: What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.  When John says that the darkness has not understood it, he’s referring to the fact that the darkness of evil never has and never will understand, overcome, or extinguish God’s light.  Jesus Christ is the Creator of life, and his life brings light to mankind.  In his light we see ourselves as we really are, sinners in need of a Savior.


The Apostle skips all of Jesus’ early years and goes right to another guy named John who was sent from God.  He says that this John came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light.  This John wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.  The Apostle was, of course, talking about John the Baptist who some thought was the light.  The Baptist knew he wasn’t the true source of God’s light.  He knew his task was to announce the coming of one whose sandals he was unfit to tie, the coming of the true light of the world.    The Apostle continues by stating: The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world.  The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.  The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him.  But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God.  Those who knew some of the story of Jesus’ ministry knew what John was referring to and those who knew little or nothing would likely want to know the rest of the story.  John says that the Word became flesh and made his home among us referring to God taking human form in Jesus.  He says that we have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  By becoming flesh Jesus became the perfect teacher in that in his life we see how God thinks and, therefore, how we should think.  Jesus became the perfect example becoming a model of what we are to become.  He shows us how to live and gives us the power to live that way.  Additionally, he was the perfect sacrifice for all sins and his death satisfied God’s requirements for the removal of sin.  Before Christ came, people could know God partially but after he came, people could now know God fully because he became visible and tangible in Christ.  Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form, someone we can relate to and understand.  To reinforce his point, John says: John, meaning John the Baptist, testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’”  The Apostle says that from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace and as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.  The nature and will of God were revealed in the law; now the nature and will of God are revealed in Jesus Christ which means that as we get to know Christ better, our understanding of God will increase.  John closes out this portion of his recounting of the Word by saying: No one has ever seen God.  God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.  In Christ, God revealed his nature and essence in a way that could be seen and touched.  In Christ, God became a man who lived on earth.


What the Apostle is saying is that all who welcome Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God.  And it’s through faith in Christ that this new birth changes us from the inside out rearranging our attitudes, desires, and motives.  Being born makes you physically alive and places you in your parent’s family but being born of God makes you spiritually alive and puts you in God’s family.


We, like John the Baptist, are not the true source of God’s light.  Jesus Christ is the true Light; he helps us see our way to God and shows us how to walk along that way.  Christ has chosen to reflect his light through us, his followers, to an unbelieving world, and it’s our witness that indicates our role as reflectors of Christ’s light.


When we follow Jesus, the true light, we can avoid walking blindly and falling into sin.  That’s good to know.  He lights the path ahead of us so we can see how to live, and he removes the darkness of sin from our lives.  That’s need to know.  So let Christ guide your life, and you’ll never need to stumble in darkness.


Let us pray.


We are God’s people, the chosen of the Lord, born of the Spirit, established by the Word.  Our cornerstone is Christ alone, and strong in Christ we stand.  Gracious, merciful, forgiving, and loving God, how we praise you for choosing us and accepting us as your children.  How grateful we are to be born of the Spirit into your family.  We revel in your Word, the word of Truth that leads and guides us as we go out into the world reflecting the light of your love, the light of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ who is our cornerstone and in whom we stand with a strength that cannot be shaken.  Allow us to live transparently and walk heart to heart and hand in hand as we serve you in all we do.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.