Monday John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the Word was God
We are so accustomed to hearing this verse and those that follow it, which are called the prologue of John’s Gospel, that we tend to pass over them without considering how odd they are. Even the opening verse confuses and baffles if we are listening intently. Try this thought experiment. In the story is a man, the man had a boat, and the man was the boat. It doesn’t make sense does it? We tend to brush over the oddity of this phrase by assuming that it metaphorical or theological. I want to suggest that we not be so quick to sand down these rough edges.
Lets look at another example in this weeks verses; Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. Which sounds good except that children cannot be born without natural descent, human decision or will. The writer of John is talking to us about life in these verses, the life that the Word (Jesus) brings. But it is not a kind of life that we are familiar with, not the kind of life that we can control. The writer of John is using words that we know, but shifting their meaning, changing their use, trying to say something new.
In it’s historical context, the gospel is definitely challenging the ‘good life’ that the Roman Empire purports to create and maintain, a good life that they often called ‘the Golden Age.’ This Golden Age did produce aqueducts and paved roads grand colosseums and public baths, not to mention great wealth. What went unsaid in Rome’s story of itself was the fact that the peace of Rome was based on the threat of violence, that its grand architectural achievements were based on a tax system that forced the colonized peoples of Romes empire into poverty, and that the wealth only grew for 1-2% of the elites, leaving the rest of the population to struggle for subsistence.
At its most challenging, the Gospel of John will challenge us to listen carefully to the stories that our culture tells about the good life, what it is, and what our leaders tell us about where it comes from. The gospel of John challenges both the definition of life and the method of pursuing life in the Romand system. John’s Gospel, through it’s strange use of language also encourages us to carefully consider and prayerfully discern what life means for us. What are our values, our goals? How do we define and pursue the good life? Is the eternal life of Christ at the center of the story of our lives?