(A) Introduction (Read the reference.)

This beautiful and moving passage, one of the best loved in the New Testament, almost defies analysis. I approach it as an art historian might a wonderful picture. Words cannot do the picture justice. It was created to gaze upon in awe. Similarly the opening verses of John's Gospel are there for each individual reader to ponder in amazement. They are a glorious introduction to whom Jesus was and a call to belief. I feel that the key verse is the last, verse 18: No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (Son) who is at the Father's side, has made him known. Jesus has made God known.

(B) Christ's Credentials.

(1) John's confidence in Jesus is rooted in experience.
He writes: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only (Son), who came down from the Father, full of grace and truth. v14.
From the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another. v17.

In his first epistle John writes: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1John1v1.

Nobody knew Jesus better than John. It is possible that they were cousins. He was an intimate of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. From the beginning he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. See John1v40and41. He hung on Jesus' every word and, as an enthusiastic student, recorded many of them. John was present at the joyous miracles and listened to the frequent heated altercations with the Pharisees. He saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain top and crucified on a hill called Calvary. He was with Jesus in the good times when he ate and drank with friends and in the bad time when he prayed alone in Gethsemane. John observed Jesus make friends with prostitutes and traitors yet drive the racketeers from the temple. The beloved disciple heard Christ laugh and watched him cry; he heard him sigh and watched him bleed; he saw him curse a fig tree and take babies in his arms to bless them.

John assures us that the life of Jesus was like a lovely, pure light. He was: The true light that gives light to every man ... . v9. He was like the light of a fine spring morning - gentle sunshine that warms the earth, brightens every bloom, kisses the babies' cheek, puts a song in the mother's heart and cheers even the old and house bound.

(2) John's inevitable conclusion.
John is sure, from experience, that Jesus, whom he calls the Word, was God. The word was with God and the Word was God. v2. He is convinced that Jesus shared in the very creation of the world: Through him all things were made. v3. John had witnessed Jesus ascend to heaven and so can confidently assert: No-one has seen God, but God the One and Only (Son) who is at the Father's side. v18. John would argue that the only satisfactory explanation for the remarkable life of Jesus is that he was the Son of God, the Word made flesh and the light shining in the darkness.

No-one has higher qualifications than Jesus! Men must listen to him. He is the authoritive Word of God. God, himself, bore this out when he said at the transfiguration: "This is my Son whom I love; with him I well pleased. Listen to him. Mt17v5. We spend just so much time listening to others - specialists, experts, pundits, commentators, consultants and advisors - and remain to deaf to God's spokesman. The writer to the Hebrews joins with John to highlight the unique credentials of Jesus: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Heb1v1and2. See exposition on Hebv1to3.

(C) What Christ made clear.

John calls Jesus the Word and the light. Both of these make things clear. I have spoken several times at Christmas about Jesus as God's word of truth, explanation, declaration, concern and acceptance. He is also a guiding, transforming and cheering light. In this exposition I will look at what Christ makes clear about God. How does Jesus make God known? He shows us:

(1) God's Grace.
I have just finished reading Philip Yancey's disturbing book, 'What's so amazing about Grace?' In it he told the story of a pastor trying to cope with a wayward 15-year-old daughter. The girl was on the pill, stopping out all hours and unwilling to give her parents any information about her late night escapades. The pastor always awaited the teenager's return with mixed emotions - anger, fear and longing. When his daughter finally came home he wanted nothing in the world so much as to take her in his arms, to love her, to tell her that he wanted the best for her. He was a helpless, lovesick father.

Jesus told a story about a lovesick father who longed for his prodigal boy to return home. He had been badly hurt when his thoughtless son asked for his inheritance. It was tantamount to wishing his father dead! Yet when he spotted that foolish, callous, young man limping homeward he ran to meet him. Eastern dignitaries didn't run! But this father ran to greet his son. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke15v22. That was grace!

Whenever God receives a sinner he displays his grace. On Songs of Praise for October 31st 2004 a Welshman named Richard gave his testimony. He was raised in Swansea one of five boys. Unfortunately his father walked out on the family. Richard drifted into a life of drugs and crime. One day in prison he took up a Gideon's Bible to tear out a page for a roll up. The Bible opened at John 1. He began to read the well known words. He didn't understand them but, perhaps, they triggered memories from his boyhood. Richard cried out, "God if you are there - please change me." It was a cry of desperation because his life was such a mess. It was the cry God, the lovesick father, was waiting to hear. He saved Richard by his grace. He was adopted into God's family. He is now a Methodist minister in Wales. Richard was able to say with the tears welling in his eyes: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2Cor5v17. Such is God's grace.

(2) The cost of God's plan of redemption.
The parable of the prodigal son does not tell the whole story. The lovesick father and his errant son were reconciled and only the fatted calf had to die. It did not cost the father so much to forgive his boy.

God, the Father, paid a high price for our redemption. It demanded the sacrificial death of his One and Only Son. John hints at the sacrifice Jesus made in these opening verses of his gospel: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. v14. John does not say that the Word became man. Instead he emphasises the vulnerability and frailty of the Word. There is the awful possibility that God might die.

Eventually we read in John's Gospel: So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him. John19v17and18. This dreadful deed was in the will and purpose of God the Father. Paul, writing to the Romans, makes this clear: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Rom9v32. God's grace is hard edged. Our salvation is dependent upon more than kindly benevolence. It has been purchased by the shed blood of God's own dear boy.

            My song is love unknown,
            My Saviour's love to me;
            Love to the loveless shown,
            That they might lovely be.
            O who am I,
            That for my sake
            My Lord should take
            Frail flesh, and die?
                  (Samuel Crossman)

            Well might the sun in darkness hide
            And shut his glories in,
            When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
            For man the creature's sin.

                  (Isaac Watts)

(3) God's peculiar hatred of what keeps men from profiting from his redemptive purpose.
There were many sins Jesus could have preached against. Why didn't Jesus condemn the brutal punishments meted out by the Romans like flogging and crucifixion? Jesus had little to say about drunkenness, prostitution or slavery - all of which were familiar to the Jews of Jesus time. Only three miles from Nazareth was the Greco-Roman new town of Sepphoris that served as the capital of Galilee. Some of the worst sins of the Gentiles would be practised by the inhabitants of this multinational city including cruel entertainments in the theatre, infanticide and paedophilia. Jesus did not condemn such wickedness. In this respect Jesus was very different from today's evangelical right who campaign against homosexuality, gay marriages, abortion and pornography.

Jesus criticised religious people - highly moral individuals like the Pharisees - because it is their sins that keep men from being saved. The sins of the Pharisees were pride and self-righteousness, complacency and self-satisfaction, legalism, self-deception and hypocrisy. It is these, more than anything else, that keep men and women from turning to Jesus for salvation. Nothing distances a man from God like the attitude of the Pharisee who prayed: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." Luke18v11and12. Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke5v32.

I am afraid that sometimes evangelical Christians congratulate themselves on their disciplined living. We need to adopt the tax collector's demeanour and really mean his prayer: "He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God have mercy on me, a sinner.' ...... For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke18v13and14.

(D) New life through Christ is dependent upon belief.

(1) An intimate relationship.
There is no better way for an orphan to get to know a father than to be adopted into his family. My brother and his wife, who have four children of their own, foster a young man called Adam. There is no doubt that Adam has greatly benefited from the arrangement. He has also made an important contribution to the family. Adam has got to know Philip, his foster father, very well. As I listen to him I get the impression that he is a shrewd but rather detached observer! One thing Adam can never know and that is the measure of my brother's commitment. Adam is fostered but not adopted.

Those that believe in Jesus are born of God and given the right to be called the Sons of God. We are adopted into God's family. We do know the extent of God's commitment. In order to adopt us he delivered up his only begotten son to an ignominious death on the cross. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke22v42. God was not willing to take the cup from Jesus. He was required to drain it to the last bitter dregs.

(2) The mode of entry.
There is only one way of entering the family of God and that is through belief in Jesus. It is a narrow gate and few there be that find it. We must believe in his name; in his name as:
(a) Saviour and ask for help.
(b) Lord and offer him our service.
(c) Great High Priest who intercedes at God's right hand and pray to him.
(d) The resurrection and the life and rejoice. He has conquered death for us. We are on the victory side.

So many respond, "Well I don't see how it is going to make any difference to my life to believe in Jesus." Get started and find out.

Not long ago I heard a very moving testimony on Songs of Praise from a Japanese prisoner of war whom I will call Bob. For many, many years he hated the Japanese for what they did to him. Eventually he longed to be free of the destructive bitterness that consumed him. So Bob joined a peace mission to Japan with a group of other men who shared his terrible experiences. The former POW's were placed with Japanese families as part of the reconciliation process. One morning Bob's hostess suggested that he take her two little daughters down to the local river to feed the fish. Bob didn't want to go. He would much rather have met with the other Brits for a glass or two of sake. However, Bob agreed. He was in a bit of a huff and so he strode out in front of the two small girls. Then he felt a little hand in his. He looked down and there, by his side, was a tiny Japanese girl holding his hand. It was a small trusting hand. They went on together to feed the fish. Bob said to himself, "God I cannot hate these people any more ... ." Peace replaced his anger. Bob ended his testimony with the tears rolling down his craggy cheeks, saying, "I just love that little girl."

The point I wish to emphasise is that Bob's anger would never have been replaced by peace if he had not taken a risk and gone to Japan and if he had not agreed to take the girls to feed the fish. He didn't know how healing could come to his bitter heart but he took the necessary first steps in faith. Peter on the day of Pentecost urged his hearers to take those first steps of faith with the promise: "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Talk to Jesus, confess your many failings, ask for help, offer him your allegiance, be ready to serve him, be baptised, join the church, meet with Christians at every opportunity and prove God true.

(3) A dramatic change.
When a man enters God's family it is like leaving the darkness for the light. We come into the light of fellowship with both God our Father and our brothers and sisters.

Nearly 40 years ago I was on holiday with two friends in Austria. My two companions wanted to join up with a Fellowship of Youth House Party for the day. I preferred to go walking in the mountains. I was shown on my map the hotel where the Christian group was staying and dropped off at the foot of a very steep valley side before my friends went on to their assignation. I have to say that I undertook my exploration of the Alps with more optimism than sense. I had no compass, no waterproofs, nothing to drink, only a bag full of apricots for sustenance and no experience of walking in such severe conditions. After 11 gruelling hours I found myself trudging along a main road in the pitch dark. The headlights of on coming vehicles did nothing for my peace of mind. Finally, weary beyond belief and utterly exhausted, I came to what I hoped was the right hotel and knocked on the door. It opened and someone said, "Are you John Reed? We have been waiting for you." I was ushered into a large, well-lit room full of happy, smiling faces. I came out of the darkness into the light. I came from my lonely ordeal into Christian fellowship. Cheerful voices cried out: "Where have you been." "What took you so long." "We've been worried about you." "I am so glad you made it." So was I; so, so glad!

(4) The distinguishing feature of belonging to God's family.
When we believe and are adopted by God into his family we have an enthusiasm for Jesus.

On Friday April 1st in 1994 the Daily Telegraph contained a very moving article by Robert Philip. It was about baseball star, Hank Aaron, the Homerun King. Twenty years previously, in 1974, Hank Aaron became the finest homerun hitter of all time by beating the legendary Babe Ruth's record of 714.

The year Hank chased Babe Ruth's record he received 3000 letters a day and 9.330.000 in all. It was almost all hate mail. Why? Because he was black! He got letters like this:

            Dear Henry,
            Go back to the trees before
            a big, white hunter puts a big
            silver bullet between your eyes.

Hank Aaron has kept those letters - a souvenir from his glory days! But Hank likes to say, "The letter I remember best, the one which affected me most, wasn't a letter of hate at all."

            Dear Mr Aaron,
            We were watching as a family from
            room 306 at Morton Research Hospital
            in Dallas when you broke Babe Ruth's
            record. Our eight-year-old grandson
            died just a short while later. But
            before he died, he kept saying, 'Hank
            can do it tonight.' And when you did,
            this little child, lying there with
            needles stuck all over his arms,
            saluted the TV and yelled, 'He did it
            daddy! I knew he could'.
            He had been very ill for quite some
            time with leukaemia and pneumonia, and
            I'm telling you all this so you will
            know how much joy you brought to this
            courageous child. We all love you for
            what you've achieved and the manner
            you've achieved it. How we wish you
            could have seen our grandson smiling
            and yelling at that moment.
            The entire third floor of the hospital
            knew about it. He was so proud of you.
            Thank you very much for giving him the
            the chance to see you do it.

The sick little boy believed in Hank Aaron. Do we believe in Jesus like that? The boy cried out, "He did it daddy! I knew he could." Hank Aaron did it - he beat Babe Ruth's all time homerun record. But what is this compared to what Jesus did? Think of what he did. He defeated sin, and death and Satan and became the first fruit of them that sleep. He did it, yes, he did it!

            He broke the bonds of death and hell;
            The bars from heaven's high portals fell;
            Let hymns of praise His triumph tell:

The grandparents wrote of Hank Aaron, "We love you for what you've achieved and the manner you achieved it." Do we love Jesus for all that he has done for us? He gives us the right to be sons of God.

The little boy, albeit desperately ill, smiled, yelled and punched the air - he was so enthusiastic about his hero. Why don't we smile more, yell and dance and punch the air in triumph at the spectacular triumph of our living Head.

Finally the grandparents said of their poor sick grandson, "He was so proud of you." I am so proud of Jesus - so proud of that life full of grace and truth, so proud of his transforming power, so proud of all that he accomplished at Calvary, so proud of a Saviour who has risen from the dead, so proud of the One and Only Son who is at the Father's side and who has made him known. So, so, SO proud.