[K:NWTS 1/1 (May 1986) 30-36]

Life, Light, Lamb and the Logos

John 1:1-18

James T. Dennison, Jr.

The Prologue to this majestic gospel declares the advent of the Logos. It is an advent with cosmic consequences. "In the beginning . . . ." We are thrust back to the beginning of the Cosmos and the dramatic declaration that Logos is Creator (vv. 3,10). Cosmos finds its origin in Logos. The advent of this cosmos-maker is expressed in creation language. Notice how creation motifs are woven into the vocabulary of vv. 4,5,12,13: life, light, darkness, sonship. The Prologue contains cosmic language, creation language, advent language.

But further, the Prologue contains language of the herald; language which speaks of a harbinger–a prophetic harbinger; a witness to the Logos–a testifier to the Word; a camel-shirted, leather-girded desert rat! Elijah! Elijah redivivus! Here is the voice of the prophets, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." Prepare? prepare for the advent of the light. Behold the light! cosmic light (yet in the world); light for the nations; light for the dwellers in darkness–darkness of the shadow-land–shadow-land of death! Dawning light is this dayspring. Rising light is this sun of righteousness. Voice of the prophets? all prophesied until John. Now–incarnation! Now–prophetic word incarnate!!

Still further, the Prologue contains language in which the times turn the corner. The Prologue contains language which demarcates looking ahead from looking back. Moses looks ahead. The Law looks ahead. The tabernacle-temple looks ahead. The hovering glory-cloud–glory-cloud hovering over tent and stone–looks ahead. Receivers of the fulness look back. Logos tabernacles. Logos pitches his tent. Receivers of the fulness look back, for Logos dwells with us. Logos is Immanuel!

Logos unveils his glory. Logos reveals his glory. Receivers of the fullness behold the glory. Yes, receivers of the fullness possess the glory. Logos is glory incarnate!

Logos and New Creation

The advent of the Logos is the transition from the old to the new, from the former times to the last times. The advent of the Logos is the transition from old to new creation; the transition from Moses to one greater than Moses; the transition from the age of the prophets to the one of whom the prophets spoke. John's gospel is the record of the surpassing excellence of the gospel age as it unfolds relative to the age of the law and the prophets. How we ought to praise God daily that we live here in this gospel age realizing, grace and truth through Jesus Christ.

The themes announced in the Prologue will be drawn out in the gospel. John's witness to Jesus is an expansion of his introduction to the Logos. Once again, notice the creation motifs. The advent of the Logos is the advent of a new beginning. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . ." "In the beginning was the Word . . . . " Genesis 1:1 is followed by John 1:1. Creation by the Word ("and God said . . ."); new creation by the incarnate Word. God said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). The Logos said, "I am the light . . ." (John 8:12; 9:5). God said, "Let the waters and the earth bring forth living creatures . . ." (cf. Gen. 1:21,24). The Logos said, "I am . . . the life" (John 11:25). God said, "Let us make man in our image; male and female; sons and daughters of God; begotten after our image and likeness" (cf. Gen. 1:26,27). The Logos said, "I give you the right to be children of God; begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man–but born of God" (cf John 1:12,13). Notice the new creation motifs which are announced and unfolded in the gospel of John: "you must be born again" (3:7); "I am come that you may have life" (cf. 10:10); "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness" (12:46).

But why is a new creation necessary? because of the darkness; because of the death; because that which is born of the flesh is flesh. The created order is under the curse and men are lovers of the darkness; abiders in the realm of death; sons of the devil. So too were you and I by virtue of our union with the old man–the man of the former (fallen) creation.

But this Son of man; this man from above; this new man–this God-man–overcomes the darkness. "He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). This new man–this God-man–is the death of death. "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes on me is passed out of death into life" (cf. John 11:25 and 5:24). This new man–this Son of God–becomes man that we who are men may become sons of God. "Beloved, now are we the children of God . . ." (I John 3:2).

Logos and the Age of Moses

The themes announced in the Prologue will be drawn out in the gospel. Again notice the themes from Moses and the law: a lamb from God–victim for the slaughter; Paschal victim–atoning victim–penal victim! In the Logos, "Behold the Lamb of God!" A serpent is lifted up; brazen deliverer from death–death with its fiery sting; a bronze serpent openly displayed. The Son of Man is lifted up, removing the sting from death, crushing the serpent as he hangs upon the tree. He climbs the tree openly triumphing over the serpentine principalities and powers who first convened at a tree to defeat the son of man.

This gospel recalls Moses and the manna–angel's food in the wilderness; bread for the Israel of God in the desert. But now the Bread of God comes down out of heaven; living Bread–Bread of Life! O Israel of God, eat, live, never die!

Moses writes, "A prophet from the midst of Israel will arise" (cf. Deut. 18:15). Moses testifies that the Lord will put his words in his mouth. This new Moses will speak the Word of God. With Moses, God spoke face to face on the mount. This one; this Logos: he is eternally before the face of the Father. He is the Word springing from the face of the Father. This one is the only begotten; the eternally Begotten! This Word–the Father's "uncreated birth!"

Logos and the Age of the Prophets

And the Old Testament prophets? Their testimony is summed up in the witness of the last one of their number. "Are you the Christ?" they asked him. John replied, "I am not the anointed one. I am not Messiah." The one whom the Spirit anoints; the one baptized with the Spirit; the one drenched with the Holy Ghost, he is the Christ. This one upon whom the Spirit of God rests, hear him! His Spirit is the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (cf. Isa. 11:2). Not a bruised reed will he break, not a dimly burning wick will he quench (cf. Isa. 42:3); not one of those who mourn will he leave comfortless. "Not I," says John. This one–this one is the Son of God.

The Old Testament prophets? They speak of a great marriage feast. They speak of a day on which the Lord will betroth his Israel unto himself in faithfulness. They project a day on which the Lord will rejoice over his people as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. On that day the Lord will clothe her with garments of salvation. The Lord will cover her with robes of righteousness. The Husband of Israel will marry her unto himself in a covenant of everlasting love.

The last of the Old Testament prophets–John the Baptist–declares: the bridegroom has come for his bride. The friend of the bridegroom rejoices, for the voice of the bridegroom is the voice of love–love for his bride. The preparation is over; the making ready for this day is done; bride and groom have come to the wedding feast. The friend of the bridegroom withdraws (cf. John 3:29). Let the marriage begin!

John maps out other prophetic motifs. The eyes of the blind are opened (cf. John 9 with Isa. 35:5). The lame man leaps as an hart (cf. John 5 with Isa. 35:6). The dead are raised up (cf. John 11 with Isa. 26:19). The King of Israel comes riding on a donkey (cf. John 12 with Zech. 9:9). He has salvation and speaks peace unto the heathen. Yes, the heathen–Samaritans and Greeks–hear him gladly (John 4; 12:20). The spirit of grace is poured out upon the house of David. They look upon him whom they have pierced and mourn–mourn at the foot of the cross (cf. John 19:37). Indeed, the true Israel mourns at the foot of the cross.

The Logos and You

You have heard the Prologue of John's gospel. From creation to the prophets; from Moses and the law to John the Baptist: all bear witness to the Logos. He fills them full! Logos fulfills the Scriptures! John's focus is Christ; for Christ is the heart of the law and the prophets. "These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31).

How will you preach?–you who preach. Will you preach yourself: your experiences, your finesse, your program, your successes? John's focus is Christ. From beginning to end, from Prologue to Epilogue, John's focus is Christ Jesus.

How will you preach?–you who preach. Will you preach yourself: your personal anecdotes, your family incidents, your accomplishments? "Moses wrote of me," Jesus says (John 5:46). Moses preached Christ. Whom will you preach?

How will you preach?–you who preach. Will you preach yourself? "We have found him of whom . . . the prophets wrote," cries Philip (John 1:45). The prophets preached Christ. Whom will you preach?

How will you preach?–you who preach. Will you preach yourself? "He must increase, but I must decrease," says John the Baptist (John 3:30). The Baptist preached Christ. Whom will you preach?

The final scene in John's gospel finds Peter before Jesus (John 21:15-17). "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me . . . ?" "Yea, Lord: thou knowest that I love thee." "Feed my lambs." The Good Shepherd says, "Feed my sheep." Feed them from the streams of living water; feed them on the meat that never perishes; feed them on the bread which will cause them to hunger no more. You undershepherds of the Lamb, feed his lambs.

What will you possess?–you who stretch forth your hands. John's gospel invites you to possess the light. There is no more darkness for you in him.

What will you possess?–you who stretch forth your hands. John's gospel invites you to possess life. There is no more death for you in him.

What will you receive?–you who reach out in faith. John's gospel assures you of sonship. There is no more illegitimacy for you in him. Rather he delights in naming you sons and daughters of God.

When you believe the witness of John, you possess the Lamb of God; Living Water; the Good Shepherd; the Son of God.

You are part of a cosmic drama–a new creation! You have turned the corner of the ages. The Prologue of John's gospel is yours–the Logos is yours!

Westminster Theological Seminary
Escondido, California