John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”
In the wildly popular Harry Potter series Lord Voldemort is the name of the ultimate bad guy. He’s a vile and dark wizard who’s evil has ripped apart his own soul and devastated many lives. He’s so wicked that people fear even to speak his name. Throughout the series he’s referred to as, “He who must not be named,” or simply, “You know who”. It’s an interesting story telling device that adds excitement to the audience as they anticipate Harry’s inevitable face-to-face confrontation with his arch-nemesis.
The Jewish culture has a name they wouldn’t speak. It wasn’t the name of someone vile and wicked, but awesome and righteous. It was a name handed down to them from Moses, a word so important they considered it holy and unspeakable. It was the name YHWH (Yahweh).
Standing in front of the burning bush Moses is told by God to return to Egypt to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Moses asks, “Who should I tell them sent me.” God responds, “YHWH” – “I AM“. It became a word so holy that Jewish people wouldn’t speak or write it. They found other ways to express it. They would use other names for God or simply refer to “the word“. Just like, “You know who” clearly identifies the bad guy in the Potter series, “The word”, for any Jew was easily understood to identify the great I AM, Yahweh, God.
Understanding this makes reading John 1:1 even more interesting.
John’s gospel is different from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John is not trying to lay out a biography of the life of Jesus. Instead, the sayings of Jesus highlighted by John are designed to convince you that Jesus is Messiah and Savior of the world. In Matthew, Mark and Luke the miracles of Jesus are used to demonstrate His power. Not in John. In John they are called signs – semeion in the greek – or distinguishing marks. The miracles reported by John are the signs, the distinguishing marks, that prove Jesus is Messiah, the Savior. John doesn’t simply want to tell you who Jesus is or what He did. He wants to convince you to believe Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
So he begins with something every Jew would understand. “In the beginning was the word.” You know, the word. (wink, wink) The word we don’t speak or write. The word that in your head means God. The word YHWH, the one who is I AM. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”
John begins his gospel painting a picture. The Word we’re not supposed to speak or write, The Word made holy by the law, set apart from us, an impersonal reflection of the Most High God – this word has become flesh and now lives with us. That which once we couldn’t even speak we can now see, touch and experience. The Word, I AM, walks with us. Then in John 1:17 he reveals who this Word is, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
What do you believe about Jesus? Do you see him as a good teacher, an influential figure of history? Do you think of Him as an interesting idea of the past? What do your words and actions cause others to believe about Him? John makes the case. Jesus is more. He is not the impersonal word that can never be spoken. He is the great I AM, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is Messiah and Savior. He is not a distant, unspeakable idea but God in the flesh whose life, death and resurrection insured He could have an intimate relationship with His people.
Do you believe it and will your words and actions cause others to believe it today?