In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
We should pay attention to what Jesus has to say. “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God,” he notes of himself in John 3:34. In fact, five times in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that his words are God’s words. So, we’d better listen.
But that’s not exactly what John 1:1 means. Here, it’s not just that Jesus is saying what God is saying, it’s that Jesus is what God is saying.
“In the beginning was the Word.”
If I had put together the Bible, I would have made John the first book of the New Testament. Then the Old Testament and the New Testament would have started the same way: “In the beginning.” That’s how I would have done it. But no one asked me.
John is trying to get us to remember the Gen 1 story. He is retelling it here. He is not saying the first story was wrong. Rather, he is saying that first story is actually better than we even thought.
This is why the Bible is so beautiful. It was read for centuries but then Jesus, “the Son who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3), changes the calculus. Suddenly all these old stories mean even more than they did. The blanks are filled in. The footnotes become headlines.
John knows that in the beginning God is speaking. But John also knows Jesus. And so he suggests something easy to miss, and yet breathtaking:
Jesus is what God has always been saying.
In the beginning was the Word … with a capital W.
You have to sit with that for a minute. You have to realize this is a dramatic departure from much of what we claim at church sometimes. We tend to think about the Old Testament as giant story of failure. It was God’s attempt to have a people on the earth who weren’t terrible, and it failed. God tried a bunch of different options: put them in a garden, gave them prophets, judges, the law, a king, a promised land. But they kept messing up. So God had to go back to the drawing board, and in the fourth quarter with no other options, God threw a Hail Mary in the form of Jesus. God didn’t want to send Jesus, because (goodness sakes) he is God’s son. But God had no other choice. So God sent him. And the people killed him, but our sins were forgiven. And God was able to raise Jesus from the tomb. Praise the Lord.
John is saying something very different. He’s saying Jesus has always been the plan. Jesus has always been what God is saying.
The Bible is not what God has always been saying. The church is not what God has always been saying. God has always been saying Jesus. Jesus is the Word God was speaking in the beginning.
Now of course we only know Jesus as well as we do because the Bible preserves his story, and the church has preserved the Bible. But don’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the center of both the church and the Bible. Jesus is the point. Jesus is the reason we exist. He’s the reason those pages were written. He’s the only the thing really worth saying.
Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.