It was a dark age, with only faint glimmers of light.
In primal forests and plains; where to survive was to succeed; the dignity of the barbarians barely exceeded that of their prey.
The remote gods of Olympus devoted themselves to deceit and conniving, so mere mortals were safer in the distance.
Athenian mathematicians and philosophers occupied their own world of thought, wallowing for days on end in the luxury of debating and dissecting each other’s ideas in search of the Ultimate Reason, or “Logos.” They were far removed from where ordinary people had to make ends meet in the supposedly evil world of matter.
Euripides and other playwrights offered no light for anyone. They defined hope as an unfulfillable fantasy; a cynical tease from the gods whose reputations were dubious at best.
Not even the mystical, invisible Jewish God; with a reputation for dramatic deeds and declarations – including a long-promised Messiah; had spoken for centuries.
Messianic wannabees had taken his silence as endorsement for stirring up followers, but Bar Kochba (“son of the Star”), Judas the Galilean and Judas Maccabeus had all rapidly soared and sank without trace.
Yes, God was silent; but he was far from idle.
Throughout the world-wide spiritual hunger within this darkness, while the Romans were uniting Europe with their roads networks and legal system, and promoting Greek language and culture to simplify communication and raise living standards; God was ushering in his cosmic plan.
Far away from any political and intellectual power-base, the light of Jesus, a Galilean carpenter-rabbi, began its assault on the darkness. And anyone – princes, prostitutes or plain-vanilla people - who received his light also found healing, forgiving love. Better still, through his death and return to life, Jesus could open up the hope of life that reached way past death.
But who could communicate this offer of light and life?
Matthew, an accountant-disciple, named shaped his methodical report of Jesus’ life and ministry, drawn from the rough notes of a young follower named Mark. A third record came via a doctor called Luke, who added some carefully-researched oral accounts to these notes. But these three synoptic, or ‘seen together’, gospels mostly addressed Jewish traditions and readers.
It was left to John to bridge across into the wider world’s darkness. He had met Jesus as a fiery character with an equally-aggressive brother, a fishing business and a doting mother, but his attitudes and values took a 180 degree turn as he grew in his love for his Master.
Using the most basic terminology, John began his gospel by identifying the elusive goal of the Greek philosophers and touching it with absolute divinity: “In the beginning was the Logos/Word, that was with God and that was God!” *
This introduction also fulfilled the Jewish prophecies. For unlike the Greeks who searched for purely academic information, the Jews knew God’s Word to be an active, creative force that evoked moral responses and accountability.
John continued: “And the Logos/Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory, of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth;”** to emphasise that God was stepping into our world: revealing the Messiah to the Jews and ushering Greek readers into a fresh dimension of personally knowing this elusive, otherwise unattainable Logos in their everyday lives.
John’s gospel demonstrates the ultimate skill in communicating, as his mind and heart lifted in response to what God’s Spirit was pouring into his being. For rather than lingering in rarefied academic air of unifying the greatest thoughts of the centuries, he willingly steps from these heights into detailing everyday human events.
His gospel punctuates these events with miracles that demonstrate Jesus’ power and that declare Jesus’ divine identity, for he wants everyone to know the greatest secret of all….
That God’s love for our world moved him to give up his only son, so anyone believing in him should never die or become brittle, but live forever through him.***
John modestly admits the limitations of his work, but fearlessly asserts that belief in Jesus is not merely a means of having accurate information, but that all believers may have life in his name,**** whatever darkness we may be facing.
* John 1:1
** John 1:14
***from John 3:16
****from John 20:31
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