And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
The first chapter of John has held the attention of these posts for the last few weeks. For background to today’s study feel welcome to catch up via these links: John 1:1-5, John 1:6-9, John 1:9-13, John 1:14. As you can see, today is the second time we’re focusing on 1:14. What can I say? I love this verse. We’re going to come back to it for a couple more weeks yet.
The Word became flesh–
John (the writer of the book), you remember, has not yet told us who the Word is by name. Instead, he has spent multiple paragraphs establishing the sovereignty and deity of the Word, getting into our minds the fact that the Word is God himself. Then, here in verse 14, he uses his narrative to draw that Word–that Creator, that Sustainer, that Light of Men–down from the heavens and the spiritual realm to the broken time-and-space trapped realm of flesh. This is not a man who will become God, John says, this is God becoming man.
He makes his case quite clear, I think, for any reader of any background. You see, it seems as if throughout the whole opening to his book John has allowed us a spiritualizing of the supernatural, by which I mean he hasn’t spoken from his own religion’s common terms (much as today we might say one isn’t speaking “Evangelical Christian-ese”). Instead, John appeals–whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know–to our universal yearning for a Higher Power, our ubiquitous searching for our origins and roots. But then John draws us to a point and says, The Word, that Creative Force, the Universal Being, God, in all the ways we understand him and in all the ways he has shown himself to man, this Word became flesh. He became a human just like you and I. This is the sticking point, forever. The encasing of the Creator God in human skin and bones is the first claim of Christianity on our hearts, long before the claim of the death and resurrection of Christ. Did God or did not God come to earth as a man? John says that he did.
–And dwelt among us.
So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. I find the word dwelt incredible. Skenoo in Greek, dwelt (as far as I understand it) is a verb form of the noun skene which in English is translated tabernacle. A tabernacle is a tent. Using tabernacle as a verb one could say, I tabernacled in my tabernacle–the way we can use the word house as a verb: I house my children in my house.
What this passage literally is saying is that “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” He pitched his tent and dwelt in our midst. He set up residence, established his home, made the earth his dwelling place. The Word became as we are in every way (except in sin, we will be told) and experienced life as we do. The book of Hebrews refers to this reality when it tells us that the Word is able to empathize completely with humanity.
I absolutely love to think of the Word of God pitching his tent and dwelling amongst the lot of us–and dwelling just as we do, in flesh. He didn’t just pass through, this Creator of the World, he put down roots, he took up residence within the work of his hands. He came to our level, abided with us in person–and now in spirit, abides with us still. I can’t help but think of this song.
Matthew Henry says the Word didn’t become flesh and then dwell with the angels–no, no, he dwelled with us.
Next week we will look a bit more at skenoo and the significance of Jesus tabernacling in the flesh. It’s going to be good.