21 May, 2024

Dec. 24 Lesson | The True Light Enters the World

by | 18 December, 2023 | 0 comments

Unit: Gospel of John (Part 1) 
Theme: Light and Life 
Lesson Text: John 1:1-18 
Supplemental Texts: Luke 2:4-12; John 8:12-18 
Aim: Celebrate Jesus’ birth and revel in the wonder of his world-changing glorious arrival. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Doug Redford): LOOKOUT_Dec24_2023.

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By Mark Scott

Prologues involve introductions. But sometimes prologues/introductions go way back, as is the case with this one. William Shakespeare said, “The past is prologue.” That is very true for the Christmas story. The true light that was entering the world began in eternity past. The simple vocabulary and theological profundity of the prologue to John’s Gospel are unmatched in the Bible.  

The passage concerns the Word (which translates the Greek word logos and occurs four times in this prologue). In Greek thought it meant highest reason. In Hebrew thought it went back to God’s powerful word that created the universe—dabar (Psalm 33:6) and brought about the fulfillment of prophecies through historical events (2 Chronicles 36:21-22; Jeremiah 1:11-12; 39:16). For John the Word was a person: Jesus. John was writing in Greek, but he probably was thinking in Hebrew. By God identifying himself as the Word, we understand his interpersonal capacity. He both speaks and acts. 

Before There Was Light, There Was the Word 
John 1:1-5 

The first recorded words of God in the creation account were, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). But John affirms that before there was light there was the Word. We are clearly dealing with the pre-existence of the Word. Before there was anything, there was the Word. Whoever this Word was, he was with God, and more stunningly, he was God

The Word not only accompanied God in the beginning, the Word assisted God in creation. He actually made things. As Co-Creator, he brought life into being, and that life was the light (knowledge, reason, and moral excellence) of all mankind. This light shines in the darkness as literal light did in creation (Genesis 1:3-5). The darkness does not stand a chance against the light. It can neither understand it nor overcome it.  

Before There Was Jesus, There Was John the Baptist 
John 1:6-8, 15 

This same text was covered in the first lesson of this unit. God sent (a major word in John’s Gospel) the Word into the world, and he also sent the Word’s predecessor, John the Baptist, into the world. The latter John was the lesser light giving testimony to the greater light. John knew his place—i.e., he was not the light. He simply shone his light on the true light. Later, John would say, “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). John’s humility is clearly demonstrated in verse 15. Jesus surpassed John because he pre-existed before John. And the purpose of John’s witness was to help people believe in Jesus. This was the intention of his whole Gospel (John 20:30-31).  

Before There Was Reception, There Was Rejection 
John 1:9-13 

Jesus was coming into the world—that is the essence of the Christmas story. It could be argued that Jesus was already in the world by his unseen presence. He is, after all, omnipresent. While the Creator should have been known by his creation, the sad truth was that the world did not recognize him (i.e., know him).  

Verse 11 is perhaps the saddest verse in the Bible. Jesus came to his own (the nation of Israel—particularly the religious leaders), but they did not receive him. This is the united testimony of the Gospels. But immediately following what might be the saddest verse in the Bible is one of the gladdest verses. To all who did receive him (i.e., welcome him into their lives) by believing in him, he gave the right (authority) to become the children of God. What a glorious privilege that is (1 John 3:1-3)! That a Jew wrote the next line (v. 13) was nothing short of revolutionary. The way into the messianic family was not through having the proper lineage, or by the will of the flesh, or by a husband’s will, but by being born again through God. This is the lesson Nicodemus learned, as we saw in a previous study. 

Before There Was Grace, There Was Law 
John 1:14-18 

This Word entered our world. The word commonly used to refer to his entrance is incarnation, meaning “in flesh.” The Word became flesh, which literally means that he “tabernacled” among people. Once on earth, he manifested God’s glory (his weighty presence and shining brilliance). This true glory of God was full of grace and truth and always balanced the two. The fullness of that grace blessed the apostle John and his first-century readers, and it continues to bless all since that time who have chosen to believe in Jesus’ name (v. 12).  

God gave the law through Moses. God also gave the balance of grace and truth through Jesus. Notice that grace is always mentioned first (vv. 14, 17). Jon Weece has said, “We lead with grace and land with truth.”  

The Old Testament declared that no one had ever seen God. To see God was to die. But we can look at Jesus because he, who is himself God, has made him known. Those three words translate a Greek word from which we get the word exegesis. That word is usually applied to what a preacher or teacher does with God’s Word. How fitting that it should describe what the Word who became flesh did!  

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