Word up


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?


… 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


… 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


… 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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Who touched whom?


… and our hands touched this Word. (CEV)

… and touched him with our own hands … (NLT)

Imagine it … John was writing to us about Jesus, a person he had touched with his own hands. I was talking to Jesus about this … about how and why He would have been touching or touched by John (and the other apostles).

Granted, in Middle Eastern culture it seems much more likely for guys to touch and hug and kiss each other casually than it does in western culture. Where we think it’s gay. Because we’re idiots.

But it seemed like Jesus was asking me, “Who did I touch?” We don’t read a lot in the Bible about Jesus touching the apostles for whatever reason. But we do read about Him touching people.

He took that little dead girl by the hand and brought her back to life. He touched that blind man’s eyes – put mud on them! – and it healed them. When Peter lopped off the ear of a Roman guard named Malchus, Jesus picked the bloody thing up out of the dirt and held it against the gaping wound, where it miraculously re-attached.

He washed the dirty feet of His disciples, and after the resurrection, he told doubting Thomas to touch Him, in His hands and side.

He touched the little children whose parents brought them to Him for a blessing. And what were little children at that time? Big nobodies! The traditions of the day said they were the property of their parents – and according to rabbinical law, they were too young to have done enough good deeds to have any merit.

So … Who could say with the beloved disciple that they had touched the Living Word? The nobodies, the wounded, the doubters, the freaks and losers, the needy and broken. The dead.

It’s the same today! I belong in every one of those categories, and yet I know, I have touched the Savior!

What about you?


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Made you look


… which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at … (NIV)

We saw him with our own eyes. We looked at him … (Worldwide English)

This interesting juxtaposition of “we saw” and “we looked at” caught my attention.

I found that in the Greek, the first verb, harao, has the primary definition “to see with the eyes.” As it is most often translated.

The second, theaomai, has the primary definition, “to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate (often used of public shows)/of important persons that are looked on with admiration.”

It’s clearer now why John used both these terms in his avowal that he had both seen, and contemplated, Jesus.

I’m reminded of the Easter song called “I’ve Just Seen Jesus.” I’ve only ever seen or heard it done overly dramatically, and it’s not a favorite. So sappy.

It’s the meeting of two people after the resurrection, and the one who has seen the living Christ is crazed with joy and proclaims that “I’ve just seen Jesus, I tell you He’s alive … all that I was before, won’t matter anymore, I’ve just seen Jesus, and I’ll never be the same again.”

This very song, performed in the same overdone, dramatic way I once saw Sandi Patti and Larnelle Harris perform it, was what touched the heart of my friend Kristina and caused her to realize she had come to believe that Jesus was alive, loved her, and was waiting for her to turn to Him.

Why? Why would such a sappy song bring such realizations to the fore? Perhaps because it speaks of the most powerful, wonderful thing that can happen to us …

“I’ve just seen Jesus.” Not just to see Him (harao), but to look on Him (theaomai), and know Him, and know that He knows you, too.

And I knew, he really saw me too
As if till now, I’d never lived
All that I’d done before
Won’t matter anymore
I’ve just seen Jesus
And I’ll never be the same again

See Him … and look at Him … today, every day! You will be transformed.

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… that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we did behold … (Young’s Literal Translation)

… which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon … (KJV)

Huh. What about this? That which we saw with our own eyes – and also looked at. Why does John make this distinction? We saw Him – and we looked upon Him, beheld Him.

There is a distinction, isn’t there? You can see something without looking at it, you can glance and something and say you saw it, but you haven’t really “taken it in” as looking upon or beholding implies.

We discussed how John tells us that he saw Jesus, to prove to us he was an eye-witness to the life of Christ on earth, but then he adds this line, about looking upon Jesus, to tell us that this is not the dispassionate report of a journalist, but the impassioned words of an expert who loves His subject and who meditates on Him often.

And this is the key to our seeing Jesus as He is – which is the key to our becoming like Him as we see later in 1 John 3.

We can get a look at Jesus when we go to church or Sunday school. We can get a look at Him when we hear or read Bible stories … I myself knew a whole lot about Jesus from growing up in the Assemblies of God, which is a very Bible-based fellowship.

I had “seen” Jesus. But I don’t think that I really looked upon Him, meditated and studied on Him, beheld Him … until just the past few years when I began spending quiet time with Him daily, just for the sake of being with Him.

And there’s all the difference in the world in those two perspectives. Having now beheld Him – meditated with longing on His beauty – I wouldn’t ever want to go back. Maybe that’s why John gives us both verbs here … see and look, look upon, behold.

What do you think?

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See? I told you


… that which we have seen with our eyes … (Young’s Literal Translation)

But wait. There’s more …

Yes, we can see Jesus in the people who surround us, those we’re given a chance to serve, because He said when we touch their lives, we are touching Him (Matthew 25:40).

And we can see Him by spending more and more time with Him, because then we become familiar with all His ways, and get an image of who He is.

And because we are seeing Jesus as He truly is, and becoming more and more like Him (1 John 3:2), it makes sense that we “see Him” with our own eyes in another place, too: in the mirror. You are becoming Jesus, the closer you walk with Him, the more you follow Him, the longer you pursue Him and devote yourself to Him.

You may not think so right now, but He is within you, and when you look at yourself, you see Him. It comes on you slowly … the letting go of stuff that once seemed so important, the realization that there’s really only one important thing, the acknowledgement that with Jesus you have everything – and without Him you have nothing.

Then one day you’re handing your last dollar to a pan-handler, embracing that weird guy at church like a brother, or offering a ride to a stranger, and when you glance in your rear-view mirror, you see Jesus’ eyes looking back at you.

Rob Bell said the Apostle Paul sees Jesus in the “spiritual rock” of the Old Testament, in part because “the Apostle Paul sees Jesus everywhere.” I have that same tendency, to see Jesus everywhere, because I believe He is everywhere. But I know that He’s inside of me, working His way out now and then when I’ll get out of the way, and I’ve seen Him.

John had seen Jesus with His own eyes. I have, too. In the people around me, and the mirror in front of me. You have, too. And you’ll be seeing more and more of Him, the longer you walk at His side.

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See here


We saw him with our own eyes … (NLT)

We get that John saw Jesus with his own eyes. I hope by now you get that I believe the more time we spend alone with Jesus, pursuing Him, the better we see Him – and when we see Him as He is, we become like Him, per 1 John 3:2.

But there’s one more thing to add here (probably thousands more things if we continue to meditate on this passage!). It reminds me of beloved Henri Nouwen’s contention that the goal of a believer’s life is, or ought to be, to see Jesus in the face of every person with whom we come in contact.

Yes, John saw Jesus in the flesh when He made His appearance here as a perfect Man to bring us rescue and resurrection … but we can see Jesus, too, when we see Him in the people who surround us. Jesus implied that when we serve “the least of these my brethren” (Matthew 25:40), we serve Jesus Himself.

Doesn’t it follow, then, that when we see the “least of these,” we are seeing Christ Himself?

Nouwen devoted a couple of his final years to caring for one of the severely disabled residents of the home where he served as chaplain. He spent a couple hours every day getting Adam up, showered, dressed, fed …

Now there must have been other, perhaps more qualified, care-takers who could have done this so that the brilliant writer and theologian Nouwen could have devoted himself to his more important work. But Nouwen insisted on doing this for a man who could not thank or acknowledge him, who wasn’t verbal or able to respond in any way.

And Nouwen said that all the benefits of the friendship flowed one way – from Adam, to him. He was enriched by the service he did, because he saw Jesus, helpless and needy, in Adam, and had the privilege of caring for him.

John bears witness in this passage to what he had seen with his own eyes: Christ on earth. I would say Henri Houwen saw Him, too. And so can you.

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Do you see what I see?


… our own eyes have seen … (CEV)

We saw him with our own eyes … (NLT)

… we have seen with our eyes … (KJV)

Not only, John says, did we hear Jesus with our own ears, we saw Him with our own eyes!

Well, honestly, we didn’t expect anything else, did we? We’ve read John’s Gospel; it’s apparent he was right there with Jesus. So why, now, is John repeating himself, to assure us that he is indeed, an eye-witness to the Savior’s life on earth?

There’s that. I think, he just wanted to remind people that this was no myth or fairy tale, that he had seen it for himself and could give an honest recounting of what he’d seen. But perhaps the Holy Spirit also guided him to place this here for other reasons …

Anyone can hear Jesus today, I believe, if we’re driven to it, if we are at the end of our rope and turn to Him in hopelessness and heartache, and wait silently for Him to comfort us, if we let go of all the noise in our life so that we can hear. So perhaps John was saying, in addition to hearing Jesus, as you who come after may do, I actually saw His physical form. Fair enough.

There’s also the concept from 1 John 3:1-3 … that seeing Jesus as He is makes us become like Him. John was saying, he had seen Jesus; perhaps he was setting up what he would write later, that seeing Jesus as He is launches the process of our becoming Jesus.

I don’t know where you are in the progression. Do you hear His voice? Have you begun to get a sense of His face, His mannerisms, His humor, His essence? The more you do, the more closely you walk with Him, the more clearly you will see Him.

And in seeing Him, become like Him.

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