'In the beginning was the Word ...'
The introduction of John’s gospel packs more punch than anything else you will ever read.
The world is used to grandiose claims, of course. According to a recent article in the Guardian, followers of TB Joshua, a Nigerian preacher who died recently, believe that his birth was foretold by a prophet; that before birth he was in his mother’s womb for 15, rather than the more normal 9, months; and that he received divine revelation after a period of 40 days and nights of fasting. Ridiculous, yes?
We tend to dismiss extravagant claims, ancient as well as modern. Once upon a time the Roman senate recognised Julius Caesar as divine and built a temple for him. Alexander the Great was said to be fathered by Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks. And Tutankhamun’s name meant ‘the living image of Amun’, the king of the Egyptian gods. Where are they now?
But Jesus Christ is different. Categorically different, as John makes clear. And Jesus still has millions of followers today. Despite this, although he has the most compelling claim for attention of anyone in human history, most people in the UK don't take Jesus too seriously now.
But take a look at the first verses of John's gospel. John says that the vast extent of all that exists is bound up with the life of one particular human being. No-one else has a claim that comes anywhere close. John starts with exalted language about the eternal Word who created all things, then brings it right down to earth, literally - first of all, with the mention of another John (the Baptist, as he became known). But this John is only part of the supporting cast. His job is to point to the star of the show, the life and light of the world, the glorious Son of God, full of grace and truth. And it turns out that the eternal Word has come into the world he made, in the person of Jesus Christ. Breathtaking, mindblowing, heartstopping, when you think about it - IF you think about it.
Please do think about it. We Christians don't always do a good job of communicating our faith. It's easier to get caught up in details, even easier to say nothing. But at the heart of what we believe, at the centre of our lives, is Jesus Christ. If we could tell you just one thing it would be this: get to know him.
How? Through reading about him in the Bible. Through hearing the Bible explained. And then coming to your own conclusion about who Jesus really is. We can't impose faith or trick people into it. It has to come in the mind, from the heart, based on evidence and experience. And John goes on to provide his evidence in his gospel, recording what Jesus did and said for us to read so that we can make up our minds and respond in our hearts.
According to John, those who receive Jesus have the right to become children of God. Anyone can. A ridiculous claim, of course - unless it's true. So, how much do you really know about what Jesus did? About what Jesus said? About who Jesus really is? Surely it's worth taking a bit of time to find out?