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What a Savior! (John 1)

Let’s start with a pop quiz. Without knowing anything about this painting, just by looking at it, go ahead and name the artist.

Picasso it is!

That name—Picasso—is forever linked to the cubist style of art. You immediately know a Picasso when you see it.

But there’s more to Pablo Picasso that is revealed in his full name. The full name given by his parents is “Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.” Each of those names carries significance to those who named him.

And so it is with Jesus. Welcome to week two in our brand-new series in the gospel of John. We began last week by marveling at the vast journey that Jesus took, which John describes in the opening verses of chapter one—that for us, Jesus journeyed from heaven to earth, from eternity to time, he journeyed to spirit and body, to deity and humanity, and he did it all, that great journey, in order to save us from our sins. That, John makes clear as he begins his gospel, is why Jesus came.

But John is just getting started. Because the balance of chapter one continues to deepen our appreciation for Jesus with seven titles given to Jesus. The number seven in the Bible often speaks of perfection and completion. Genesis speaks of creation in terms of seven days. Joshua and his people marched around Jericho seven times, with priests blowing seven trumpets, before the city’s walls supernaturally fell. The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave us is a series of seven petitions. Jesus spoke seven sayings from the cross. In the book of Revelation, Jesus gives seven letters to seven churches, and later in that book, we encounter prophetic imagery of seven seals, seven trumpets sounded by seven angels, and seven bowls filled with God’s wrath carried by seven angels.

John’s gospel itself is structured around seven miracles of Jesus and seven claims of Jesus. And this opening chapter in the gospel of John is structured around seven titles ascribed to Jesus, each one carrying tremendous significance. Altogether, these seven titles perfectly portray who this is whom we worship, love, serve and soon will see face to face.

So if you have a Bible or Bible app, open it to John chapter one. If you like to take notes, the first title John ascribes to Jesus is that…

1.       Jesus is the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

John borrows the Greek word logos to begin his gospel as big as possible. That word carried deep significance both to Greeks and Jews, to Jews and Gentiles.

In Greek philosophy going all the way back to 500 B.C., logos was a single-word capture for what shaped, ordered, and directs the universe. The Greeks weren’t sure who or what that was, but they called it the logos.

For Jews, the same Greek word was used as shorthand for God himself. So by calling Jesus ‘the Word,’ John is telegraphing right from the start that Jesus is the embodiment of all of God’s wisdom and revelation and power. Jesus whom we worship is the One who shaped, ordered and directs the universe.

To explain the Word another way, we can say it like this:

Jesus is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

For all the opinions out there on the big questions of life—on God and sin and forgiveness and heaven and hell and purpose—Jesus is heaven’s final Word. In Jesus, God has spoken. He has come to us.

I like the story of an atheist and a Christian publicly debating the existence of God. On a whiteboard behind the podium, the atheist wrote in all capital letters, “GOD IS NOWHERE.” He then cited a litany of the evils that have taken place throughout history. To him, those horrors prove that there is no God.

When it was the Christian’s turn to respond, he shared his story of how he came to faith in Jesus, and then to summarize his argument, he stepped to that same whiteboard where it read “GOD IS NOWHERE.”

He erased the word “nowhere,” and rewrote the same letters in a different arrangement, to spell that because Jesus has come, “GOD IS NOW HERE.” We’re no longer alone. We’re no longer on our own. In Jesus, God has spoken. He has given us his final word, in the Word—the logos—Jesus.

Second, John declares…

2.       Jesus is the Light.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5, 9

Six times in this chapter, John contrasts light against darkness.

·         Jesus is the true light, he says.

·         Jesus gives light to everyone.

·         This light, John says, Jesus, made the world. And so on.

Light and darkness are recurring themes in John’s writings: he declares that God is light (1 John 1:5); that we all love either light or darkness (3:16-19); that those who truly trust in Jesus are children of light (12:36).

This title for Jesus is closely related to a similar theme in John’s gospel and that is witness. All a witness does is declare the truth—the same thing light does when it shines on something that until then was in the shadows. John uses the noun “witness” 14 times and the verb 33 times. Witnesses and light do the same thing: they show. They expose. They reveal what is, so that we can see what needs to be repaired or restored. An anonymous poet has put it this way, that in Jesus we find…

More light than we can learn,
More wealth than we can treasure,
More love than we can earn,
More peace than we can measure,
Because one Child is born.

In Jesus the Light is still shining brightly, friends. Run to his light. Warm your heart and mind by it. Pursue it. Chase away the darkness by walking in the Light of Jesus.

Jesus is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

Jesus is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness. And third, John declares…

3.       Jesus is the Son of God.

John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’…No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:15, 18

John the Baptist’s witness concerning Jesus was earth-shaking when Jews first heard him. He was claiming that Jesus is eternal, that although John was born before Jesus, in fact Jesus predates him because of who he is, the unique Son of God.

Verse 18 goes even further, saying that Jesus is himself God…and has made God known. Jesus explains God to us in ways that no one else ever could, because of his unique relationship with the Father.

This is the first time in John’s gospel that the title Son of God is used. You’ll hear it at least nine times as we continue through John. And at the conclusion of his gospel, John explicitly states his goal in writing, saying…

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

We can paraphrase John as telling us that…

Jesus is God’s Son come to introduce us to his Father.

And if that isn’t enough to move you to praise, consider this 5th-century meditation from the North African Christian leader Augustine as he wondered at Jesus being the unique Son of God. Augustine wrote:

“God became a man for this purpose: since you, a human being, could not reach God, but you can reach other humans, you might now reach God through a man. And so the man Christ Jesus became the mediator of God and human beings. God became a man so that following a man—something you are able to do—you might reach God, which was formerly impossible to you.”

Augustine, A.D. 354-430

Jesus is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

He is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness.

He is God’s Son come to introduce us to his heavenly Father. And fourth, John declares that…

4.       Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Look with me at John 1:29. Speaking of John the Baptist we read…

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:29

This title is one way to capture the entire theme of the Bible: Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Genesis has Isaac asking, “Where is the lamb?” (Gen 22:7).

The gospels give us the answer as John announces, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Here he is!

Peer ahead in time into eternity, and we learn from Revelation chapter 5 that the song which will be sung by untold numbers of angels is, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Rev 5:12).

To which all of the redeemed will shout back our own praise to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—praise because he took away our sin!

John’s baptisms visually foreshadowed what Jesus would accomplish as the Lamb of God. In going under the water and rising again, baptism foreshadows Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for us.

Robert Coleman tells the fictitious story of a traveler visiting a foreign country when his attention was drawn to a beautiful spire that rose over a grand stone building. About two-thirds of the way up the spire, he noticed the figure of a lamb carved on the wall.

He asked if there was some significance to that lamb—and was told that it marked the place where a construction worker had lost his balance and fell. The traveler asked, ‘Did he die?’

‘No,’ the local resident explained, ‘it was a miracle. A lamb was walking by, and as that worker fell, the lamb broke the worker’s fall and saved his life, at the cost of his own.

The lamb for us…is Jesus, who broke our fall saving us, at the cost of his life. So we echo John in exclaiming behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

He is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness.

He is the Son of God who came to introduce us to his Father.

He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Fifth, John declares…

5.       Jesus is the Messiah.

Continuing in John chapter one and verse 40 we read…

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). John 1:40-41

We know this title. Choirs sing Handel’s Messiah every Christmas. We sang the contemporary praise song recently titled Jesus Messiah. Messiah (meshiach in Hebrew) means anointed, as does the Greek equivalent Christ. In the Old Testament, it was prophets, priests and kings who were anointed with olive oil as they were set apart to serve the Lord. Jesus is all three: prophet, priest, and king.

Jewish kings especially were known as God’s anointed. So when Jews spoke of Messiah, they were thinking of the king who would deliver them from foreign oppression and establish God’s kingdom among them.

I love the anonymous poem that celebrates Jesus being Messiah, God’s chosen One. It reads…

He Is a Path, if any be misled;

He is a robe, if any naked be.

If any chance to hunger, He is bread;

If any be a bondman, He is free.

If any be but weak, how strong is He!

To dead men life He is, to sick men health.

To blind men sight, and to the needy wealth.

A pleasure without loss,

A treasure without stealth!

Praise God for anointing Jesus as Messiah.

He is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

He is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness.

He is the Son of God who came to introduce us to his Father.

He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He is Messiah, anointed and chosen by God.

Sixth, John declares…

6.       Jesus is the King of Israel.

John 1:43-49 describes Jesus calling Phillip, then Phillip in turn inviting his brother Nathanael to come and see the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. Nathanael is skeptical, but when Jesus speaks something about Nathanael that no one could naturally know, verse 1:49 gives us Nathanael’s stunned reaction:

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” John 1:49

As with Nathanael, so with us: Jesus knows you fully, and came to be your King, leader and guide.

Nathanael’s encounter is very similar to what we see in John chapter 4, where a Samaritan woman remarks to her neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me all the things I ever did!” (Jn 4:29). King Jesus knows us thoroughly and invites us to come gladly under his leadership.

I love Wayne Dyer’s take on the king of King Jesus is, writing…

“Christ uncrowned himself to crown us and put off his robes to put on our rags, and came down from heaven to keep us out of hell. He fasted forty days that he might feast [with] us to all eternity; he came from heaven to earth that he might [bring] us from earth to heaven.”

— William Dyer

Jesus is heaven’s final Word that cuts through the world’s empty words.

He is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness.

He is the unique Son of God who came to introduce us to his and our heavenly Father.

He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He is the Messiah, heaven’s chosen one.

He is the king whose leadership we all so desperately need. Seventh and finally, John proclaims…

7.       Jesus is the Son of Man.

Here’s how John concludes chapter one. In response to Nathanael coming to believe that he is king, Jesus replies:

“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” John 1:51

This would have floored John’s 1st-century Jewish readers. Jesus is alluding to a dream in Genesis chapter 28 given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob. In his dream Jacob sees a ladder or stairway reaching into heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it.

What that staircase was to Jacob, Jesus is to you and me. He is the One who came from heaven, who would ascend back to heaven, and who can bring us to heaven.

Pair that with the title Son of Man that Jesus uses of himself. Son of Man is cited 83 times in the gospels and at least 13 times in John’s gospel alone. This title speaks of both the humanity and deity of Jesus. He is fully man, and fully God. To say that another way…

In Jesus heaven meets earth and earth ascends to heaven.

This is who we love, trust, worship, and serve:

Jesus who is heaven’s final Word, piercing through the world’s empty words.

Jesus who is the true Light in a world dimmed with darkness.

Jesus who is the unique Son of God who came to introduce us to his Father.

Jesus who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus who is the Messiah, heaven’s chosen one.

Jesus who is the king whose leadership we all so desperately need.

Jesus who is the Son of Man, the only One in whom heaven meets earth and earth ascends to heaven.

John’s witness is unmistakable—that Jesus alone stands alone, apart, and unique—the only One worth our full devotion!

We have a great need for Christ, friends. In just the opening chapter of his gospel, John makes clear that we have a great Christ for our need!

And so I conclude with a poem that looks back at Jesus’ birth, and the wonder of who it is that was born that day. Receive this:

Praise God for Christ.
Praise Him for the Incarnation
for Word made flesh.
I will not sing
of shepherds watching flocks
on frosty night or angel choristers.

I will not sing of stable bare in Bethlehem or lowing oxen
wise men
trailing distant star
with gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Tonight I will sing
praise to the Father
who stood on heaven’s threshold
and said farewell to His Son
as He stepped across the stars
to Bethlehem
and Jerusalem.

And I will sing praise to the infinite eternal Son
who became most finite a Baby
who would one day be executed
for my crimes.

Praise Him in the heavens.
Praise Him in the stable.
Praise Him in my heart.

Praise him in your heart, friend. If you have never asked Jesus to come into your life as Savior and Lord, it would be our pleasure to help you with that. Simply use this form https://www.y-church.com/contact-us/ and we will be in touch quickly. You’ll never regret inviting Jesus into your life!