– by Cory Clark –
The Word became flesh is found in the climax within the prologue of John Chapter one. Most scholars agree that John chose to write a prologue after he wrote the body of the gospel. Perhaps even more intriguing is that although John wrote the prologue after the letter, he still placed the prologue at the beginning of the book. His purpose for this is to provide focus for the letter itself. Scholars agree that John is writing his theology which provides a lens for when we read the dialogues throughout the gospel. If a person were to skip over the prologue there is danger of missing the purpose, and focus, of the book itself.
John begins by writing about the relationship between the Word and the Trinity in the first couple of verses and then moves on to describe the Word’s relationship with creation. In verses 6-9 John the Baptist is the example of a man created through Jesus, and verses 10-13 show how we are created through Jesus when we receive Him. Verse 14 is the climax of the prologue. It is also a powerful statement referring to the plan of God, which is implemented through the Word to bring people into a new birth in God (verse 13).
The Word became flesh. One might not take much notice of the word γινομαι (became) in the sentence, except for the realization that John has already used this word seven times prior to the usage here. It is also interesting that the word John uses is γινομαι since there is a more common word John would typically use to refer to becoming, or came. Instead of using the common word, John uses γινομαι and has used this word carefully throughout the prologue. It denotes change from what something once was not to something totally new. In other words, a subject becomessomething that it never was before. The force behind this word can be best explained from John 1:3, describing creation. Creation had no substance but it became a substance. It refers to a total shift into a substance that it previously never had. John 1:14 exclaims that the Word became flesh.Jesus came into the substance of humanity, when he previously did not have the substance of humanity.
What is most striking is the choice that John uses to describe the substance that Jesus takes. He does not use the more accepted Greek word to describe the essence Jesus becomes; instead he uses the Greek word σαρξ. This word is typically used to talk about the sinful body, the cursed body, or the fallen flesh. It is most often used in a negative sense. Jesus is identifying with us in two ways. He is identifying with us in the state we were in before the fall; he is taking on a body with its limitations. But it should also be noted that Jesus is enduring a body that is not merely limited by those things that limited humanity before the fall, but he took on a body that had been scared due to the fall. Jesus is taking on σαρξ which is referring to the fallen body.
Let’s be clear; we are not saying Jesus sinned. Jesus never sinned. But Jesus took on a body that was scarred by the infliction of sin. For example, Jesus aged, he probably fell sick, he grew tired, and he experienced death. All of these are examples of a body that has been scarred by sin.
So if Jesus totally absorbed the flesh of humanity and thereby emptied himself of all his abilities while he totally retained his divinity, how could Jesus live the life he lived? John 5:19 says Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. At every waking moment Jesus lives in the flesh, he always lives out of the sourcing of the Father. Jesus focus is always on the Father and he allows the Father to live his life. Jesus is totally reliant on the moving of the Father at all times. As we read through the gospel of John we should always see Jesus through this lens; operating through the Father.
This truth gives overwhelming hope in our lives. If Jesus, living totally as we live could live the way he lived, how much so could we live as Jesus lived? Colossians provides insight when Paul exclaims, for in Christ the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ. The same resource Jesus has been given is available to us in the person of Jesus. We are reproducing the life of Jesus on this earth. Somehow someone bigger than ourselves dwells within us, living a Life beyond what we can live. We begin to feel as we have never felt before. We speak as we never could speak previously. We love as we could not love. As John 1:13 says we are born of God! We have a new substance. What is in God is now in us. The way Jesus feels, is the way we feel. There is no mistake; we are sourced by Jesus as Jesus is sourced by the Father. Jesus took on flesh so that we will take on Jesus.