The incarnation of Jesus and the thoughts of St. John

The apostle John was fixated on the physical reality of Jesus–on the fact that in Jesus, God became a man. In becoming a man, He loved John and became John’s closest friend, and John never forgot the friendship.

In 1 John 1:1-4, the apostle is giddy to be remembering Jesus. He repeatedly emphasizes the sight, sound, and feel of being with the Messiah (“heard… seen… looked upon… touched”), and how the physical reality of Jesus is related to John’s fellowship with God and with the people reading the letter (which includes you and me):

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched…the life was made manifest, and we… proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father… so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son… And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” -1 John 1:1-4 (ESV)

The reality of God in a physical body fascinated John for his entire life. In the verses above there are echos of the opening words of John’s gospel–Jesus was with God in the beginning; Jesus is life; and Jesus is the manifestation of God’s Word in physical form. 

When Peter and John were defending themselves in the temple in Jerusalem, the reason they gave for talking about Jesus was, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20). Having seen Jesus was irrefutable evidence of Jesus’ reality as God, and John implies this in the verses above and in John 19:35. Referring to himself, John says, “He who saw it has born witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth, that you also may believe.” Peter was also captivated by his physical experience of Jesus, as he mentions in 2 Peter 1:16 (“but we were eyewitnesses.”)

Perhaps Peter and John learned their fascination with Jesus’ physicality from Jesus Himself, who emphasized this to the disciples in the upper room in Luke 24:39-43 (“see my hands and my feet”) and famously to doubting Thomas in John 20:27 (“put out your hand, and place it in my side”).

But in 1 John 1:1-4, the apostle also refers to Jesus briefly as “the word of life–the life was made manifest.” Jesus himself also said that He was “the life,” and the reality of Jesus’ physical existence makes His life exuberant and powerful, powerful enough to light a fire under John, and powerful enough to unite distant Christians in fellowship with each other and with the Father.

And the power of Jesus to catalyze fellowship is why John is writing. As he says in verse 3, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” In the friendship of Jesus and His disciples, the love of God began to spill over into humans, so that if we come to know Jesus, we also can have fellowship with the Father. And through fellowship with the Father, we have better fellowship with other believers.

This is why John was “writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” John already had fellowship with Jesus–it had changed and motivated the entire course of his existence. But his joy was completed when he shared this fellowship with other people, when he could participate in the work of Christ on this earth.

Jesus had spent time with John, and John shared these experiences with other people. These people told other people, who told other people. The cycle continued over millennia, while the Spirit worked in the lives and minds of generation after generation of believers, until eventually somebody told me, and now I am telling you.

I’m writing this post for the same reason John wrote His letter. Jesus is real, and He has lit my life on fire. When I meet other believers, or when I pray, or when I read Scripture, the energy is electric. The Spirit is at work in me, and He is at work in all believers.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.”

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4 responses to “The incarnation of Jesus and the thoughts of St. John

  1. It does complete the joy to know that Christ has succeeding in dying and resurrecting. He made available for all believers in Jesus, access to his heaven when he returns or when we pass from this life unto the next.

    http://www.relationshipblog.com

    • Hi Roger! Yes, we will have perfect joy when we go to be with the Lord. Amen.

      But I think John here is referring particularly to the joy of sharing the gospel with the readers of his letter–the joy of evangelism and being involved in God’s plan to save the people of the world from their sins. John is speaking here of the joy of fellowship with new believers and the joy of seeing unbelievers come to know Christ. This is why John is “writing these things.”

      Paul also speaks of joy in the same way in Philippians 2:1-2–the joy of fellowship and of believing the truth about the world, about ourselves, and about God. Paul said that the fellowship of the Philippian believers in this way would make his joy complete. The kind of joy that John and Paul are talking about is a joy that calls us to evangelism, which is often hard for me, but the reward is great.

      • I would agree, but the motivation behind the joy being complete and even present is the understanding that souls will no longer be hell bound and instead heaven bound. If believers would keep this thought present, the motivation to share Jesus would ever be present.

        My greatest motivation is love for my neighbor. I will admit the power comes from God and when I am out of step with him, my love for others begins to diminish, but when refreshed, thank God for grace, I share my most precious gift, which is Christ the Lord.

        Website correction: http://www.healthyrelationshipblog.com

      • Roger. This is true, and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your words here brother.

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