Divine Mystery

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Now we are telling you about this eternal life that was with the Father and appeared to us. (CEV)

He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. (NLT)

… we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us … (KJV)

Again we see a little theme with John — Jesus, the Word, the Eternal Life, was “with the Father.” This echoes back to John’s Gospel, where he writes, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

For thousands of years, the people of Israel had daily recited, “Hear, oh Israel. The Lord your God is one!” For them, the idea of multiple gods was not only foreign, but blasphemous.

John wanted to insure they understood … God had revealed a new facet of His glorious being: He is one God, but three Persons — Father. Son and Holy Spirit.

We try to make up analogies for it — a troika that thinks and acts as one, a cake whose 3 separate ingredients don’t taste good on their own, but blended are delicious …

But it’s no good. Those don’t really give us an idea of God’s true nature, because it is a mystery.

CS Lewis said if we came from a two-dimensional world where all was flat, and someone tried to describe a cube to us, we’d be flabbergasted, because in all our flat world, there had never been anything with depth or height, and so there wouldn’t even be words for depth and height. So it is with the Trinity, a kind of Being for which we have no words and only poor analogies.

But here’s the exciting part — through Christ we’re asked to join the Trinity! Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would become one with Him and the father!

We can’t imagine it now, total union with a Being who is Love itself … but I believe those of us who are saturated in Him now have a little grasp of what it is like, and it is wonderful!

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Face to face with the Savior

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The life appeared; we have seen it … (NIV)

This life came to earth. We saw him … (Worldwide English)

What a great, great passage for Easter season. The Life appeared, was manifested, came to earth. The Greek word used for life here, “zoe,” in the Bible is used often to refer to eternal life, or spiritual life. The Greek word “phaneroo” used for appear has a subtle meaning of something hidden that is revealed.

The spiritual life that was hidden from us was suddenly revealed!

The soul-connection with God we were intended to have, which was hidden from our eyes by the sin of Adam and Even who sundered humanity from union with God, was restored in our sight!

The body of Christ that was life-less and broken for us was hidden away in a tomb and then on Easter Sunday revealed! Appeared! Manifested!

Remember that Adam and Eve hid from God after they ate the Forbidden Fruit. They didn’t want to be seen, and I think in trying to keep themselves from being seen, they also lost sight of something — the face-to-face fellowship with God they once enjoyed.

That privilege was hidden away, just as they hid themselves away. They couldn’t see God anymore, and they didn’t want Him to see them.

So, what was it, exactly, this spiritual life which was hidden from us by sin, taken from us when our First Parents chose to desert God’s way and follow their own? It was, I believe, the life of complete union with our heavenly Father.

His is, Himself, love. When He created our world, for love of us, He walked daily in the Garden with Adam, communed with him as a friend. This, I think, was the spiritual life that was intended for us, and which we lost sight of.

And now, in Christ, it appears again, revealed, manifested. “We have seen it,” John testifies. “We saw Him,” the Worldwide English version says.

The Life of Eden is manifested in Christ, for us to see … blessed sweet communion resurrected, because now we can see God face to face again.

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That’s life

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The one who gives life appeared! (CEV)

The Word of Life appeared … (MSG)

… the Life was manifested … (Young’s Literal Translation)

Ah … the one who gives life appeared! Life was manifested. This is such tremendous good news! As we mediate on 1 John 1:2, let’s begin with two important words …

Life and Appeared.

Life, we know, means something animated, something alive, has life. The Greek word John uses here is transliterated as “zoe.” From it we get words like “zoology” that deal with living animals.

If you’ve read much CS Lewis, you may have run into this word before, he uses it to mean the spiritual life, as opposed to physical life, respiration, animation, etc.

In the Bible, too, this word “zoe” often connotes the life of God, or life in God, or life eternal. The unending spiritual life we share with God, let’s say.

And “Appeared” here is the Greek word transliterated phaneroo, which means manifested or was made apparent or, more literally, something hidden that was revealed.

When I was asking Jesus about this phrase, I felt like He brought to my mind the book of Genesis and how our spiritual life, our zoe, was “hidden” when our First Parents turned from God’s path. The eternal life of communion with the Divine Mystery was hidden away after the disastrous choice to reject God’s plan for humanity and pursue our own plan.

But now, through the coming of Jesus, the “one who gives life,” it is revealed!

 

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Word up

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The Word that gives life … (CEV)

The Word of Life appeared … (MSG)

He is the Word of life … (NLT)

John calls Jesus “the Word.” His Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Now here, in our passage, he says … “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we did behold, and our hands did handle, concerning the Word of the Life …” (Young’s Literal Translation).

I was asking Jesus about this – clearly John is talking about Him, but rather than saying Jesus, or the Christ, he says that he has seen, and heard, and touched “the Word.” Doesn’t this add needless confusion? You can see and hear a word, but touch it?

Jesus seemed to be reminding me of something we have discussed before, that because “God is love,” where we see representations of God in Scripture, we can substitute the word “Love.” Thus John 1:1 becomes, “In the beginning was Love, and Love was with God, and Love was God …”

And if we do the same thing here, we have John saying something quite extraordinary – that he had seen and heard and touched LOVE Himself!

And you and I, we have done, and can do, the same. When we devote ourselves to walking in daily intimacy with Jesus, we are burrowing deeper and deeper into love, in God, who is love.

In the portions of the verse quoted above, we can see something more – not only is this Word, Love, available to be touched, seen, and heard, but it gives life. If we play the same game and replace “word” with “love,” Jesus becomes “The Love that gives life.”

And it’s so true! Once you begin to experience Jesus on a deeper, more intimate level, what you feel flowing from Him, always and intensely, is love, love, love … it’s “love that gives life.”

I pray you are seeing it, hearing it, feeling it today.

 

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What’s the good word?

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… this we proclaim concerning the Word of life … (NIV)

We are writing to you about this Word of life … (Worldwide English)

… of the word of life … (Douay Rheims)

So far John has told us that he heard, saw, looked upon and touched Jesus, whom he now declares to be the “Word of life.”

That word word, in the Greek, is “logos,” and the primary definition is that it’s a part of speech – “a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea.” Jesus was somehow uttered by a living voice, to embody a conception or idea.

And here John tells us, as He does in His Gospel, that this Word was spoken, was present, from the very beginning. (John chapter 1 tells us that this Word was with God – and was God – at creation, and that nothing which was created was created without this Word).

How can a Person be a Word?

What did God “speak” through Jesus – what concept did He embody in this everlasting Word?

I bet you can guess, if you’ve been journeying a while with me …

I believe the Word God speaks that Jesus embodies is the same as the substance of God Himself, and it is revealed to us just a couple chapters later in 1 John 4:8 – “God is love.”

The Word is LOVE! This is the conception or idea embodied in Jesus, this is the word uttered by the “living voice” of God to the world He was creating: love, love, love.

When God speaks, love is His Word, because He is love. And somehow, I have come to believe along this journey with Jesus, that word, LOVE is the answer to every equation (Crystal Blue Persuasion, y’all!).

There is not a more important, better, more needed, more powerful Word in all of creation. Because Jesus is the Word, and the Word is Love.

 

 

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Finishing Touch

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… verified it with our own hands … (MSG)

… our hands have touched … (KJV)

A final thought, I think, about this part of the passage.

Scholars say part of John’s purpose with writing  First John was to defeat the heresy of the gnostics, who contended that Jesus only appeared to be a man, but was in fact 100% spirit. The gnostics thought that spirit was good, and material was bad. Thus anything you could touch, anything solid, was bad.

They contended Jesus, God the Spirit, came here looking like a man to get our attention and give us directions about how we, too, could become 100% spirit. They liked Him as a Savior and God, but didn’t want Him to be a man. John here is proving that Jesus had substance and was not simply spirit – he knows it because he touched him.

I like this, not only because it silenced the gnostics of the day, but also because it makes plain that Jesus didn’t have some unknown and unattainable (for us) “God strength,” but was fully human and able to follow God’s plan for his life simply by staying close to God, in all His human-ness. This is encouraging for those of us who don’t feel super-human.

It also shows us how much God loves us little material beings. He wants us to touch each other, and thus express love for one another. Just as we were discussing last week, Jesus is touched when we touch one another with compassion, tenderness and mercy. Our bodies are His body, too.

I read that:

Daniel Keltner, the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, says “in recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201010/why-have-we-lost-the-need-physical-touch)

I think Jesus knew all this when He created us, as physical beings, to love and to touch. No wonder John goes out of His way to remind us to touch Jesus.

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Very touching

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… our hands did handle … (Young’s Literal Translation)

… our hands handled … (Darby Translation)

The story is told of a nun – most often it is told of Mother Teresa, but I heard that it had been told for many years before it was first told of her – of a man (sometimes a billionaire donor, sometimes an American journalist, sometimes a passerby, always, apparently, a jerk) who saw her cleanse the wounds of a leper and blurted out (either to her or to a friend standing nearby, and she overheard):

“I wouldn’t do that for a million (sometimes 10 million) dollars!”

The nun replied, “I wouldn’t either.”

No amount of money could entice her to touch the nasty wounds of the ravaged flesh of her fellow human being … but seeing the image of Jesus in that needy person made it her joy to serve him – In touching the needy, she touched Jesus Himself.

I know that’s not what John is talking about in this passage, but I think it’s worth noting – just as we noted with the words “saw” and “beheld” – that when we encounter Jesus in the form of our fellow human beings, we have the opportunity to love, serve, and yes, touch Jesus Himself. Jesus said so in Matthew 25:40.

So while John definitely has one up on us in that he touched Jesus when Christ walked this earth as a living Man, we also have the opportunity to touch Him, and with our gentleness and compassion, show Him how much we love Him.

And that doesn’t have to be by cleansing the sores of lepers or giving sponge baths to AIDS patients (although both of those things would be beautiful acts for Jesus). It can also be in extending forgiveness to your ignorant spouse who doesn’t even know he stepped on your toes again, or giving grace to your child who spilled Kool Aid on the carpet after the dozenth time you asked him not to sit his drink on the edge of the coffee table …

Any time we touch another human being, in fact, I think we’re handling Jesus just as the apostle John did. I pray we do it with tenderness and mercy.

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