We’re almost ready to move on from the prologue. (I promise.) But before we leave it behind, I want to give it one last look. We’ve spent five days dissecting its poetry and theology, which can leave it a bit like a dead lab specimen in pieces all over the workbench. So I’d like to offer this paraphrase as a way of putting the bits back together and sewing it up, hopefully with a bit more understanding of what’s going on inside.
Read it slowly, then spend some time thanking God for sending Jesus to become one of us, so that we might know God and experience his eternal favour. After all, that’s the whole point of John’s prologue – and his Gospel.
In the beginning was the creative power and embodied wisdom of God; at the same time in relationship with God, yet also being God himself. The divine in perfect community.
Through him all things were made – everything we see, everything we hear, everything we feel and touch and taste – everything we chase after, everything we idolise, everything in which we search for meaning – he made it. There is nothing that was made apart from him.
And in him was the pinnacle of creation – life itself. Both the natural life given to each of us as we were breathed into existence; and the spiritual life offered through him, the power that reanimates us even while we were dead in our sins.
That life is a light to everyone. A light that reveals who God is. That guides us in paths that lead to life. A light that springs forth from the pages of Scripture, enlightening the eyes and illuminating the path for our feet.
In a dark and ignorant and hostile world, that light shines; the light of truth and knowledge and hope. A light that the world couldn’t grasp, nor could it extinguish.
And this light – this offer of illumination and salvation – it has come into the world, and is one day coming again.
For he was in the world – the world that he himself made – but the world didn’t get who he was. He came to his very own people, but they refused to welcome him; they shut him out; they rejected him.
But to whoever will welcome him – whoever will trust that he is indeed the one he claims to be – to them he will give them great favour. They will become part of God’s family. Not a human family which is defined by birth and ancestry, but a spiritual family which is a brand new creative act by God himself.
And this creative power, this sustaining wisdom, took on a human body; he pitched his tent among us and lived as one of us. Even then, the family resemblance was unmistakable. Even then, we could see his glory – how he radiated the character of God, his Father. Favour and understanding, grace and truth – it flowed freely from him.
And from that flow of grace each of us has received – God’s favour given to those who respond in grateful thanks to the one who represents him. After all, that’s how it’s always been – in the Old Testament, the shadow came through Moses; now the fulfilment has come through Jesus, the Messiah, the one of whom the Old Covenant screams out in joyful anticipation.
We might not have seen God; indeed, that’s not possible if we would want to survive such a terrifying encounter. But God himself – the one who has been in eternal community with himself – has now made it possible for us to be in community with him. In Jesus, the invisible God has been made known. In Jesus, he has made it possible for us to see God and live, by forgiving our sin and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.