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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Who touched whom?

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… 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

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… 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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