December 10, 2012
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
The Word was made (became Newberry) flesh
and dwelt (tabernacled, Newberry) amongst us.
In the days of the pilgrimage of the children of Israel, the Israelites dwelt in tents. Their nomad existence did not allow for houses. That comfort would only come when they were in the Promised Land. In condescending grace and goodness, God chose to dwell in a tent as well, for the period of time that His people had to dwell in tents. So He gave instructions for a tent, or tabernacle, to be built. The latter part of the book of Exodus is taken up with those instructions. When all was as God had designed, He took up His dwelling place with His people – in a tent (Ex 40).
John 1:14 tells us of a similar and perhaps greater manifestation of grace and goodness. The eternal Word, the One possessing life in its essence, chose to become flesh. He became incarnate. Then we are told that He dwelt among us. But a better and more accurate reading is that He pitched His tent or tabernacled among us. He chose to live under our conditions that He might bring us to live under His.
There are many helpful articles and writings which expound the links between the Tabernacle structure and the Gospel of John. Suffice for now to simply consider the badger or seals’ skin which covered the tent: unattractive, unappealing, yet impervious to all around. How fitting for John’s introduction. He has already told us that He was not received or known. There was “no beauty in Him” that men would desire Him on a natural level.
He, the only One Who ever came into this world of His own volition, could have chosen any outward appearance He willed; stature, build, good looks, charisma, these and a host of other physical qualities were His for the picking. Yet He chose to dwell among us, and not be idolized by us for His natural, human appearance. Nondescript, lowly, “ordinary” in the purest sense, and a man amongst men. He would win men by spiritual truth, not by anything less. He could have mitigated the rejection in some measure by using physical appeal or charm, but He chose not to.
1. Notice the four uses of “became” – suggesting voluntary submission to something: John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 9; Philippians 2:8; and Revelation 1:18 (“became dead”).
2. What do you think John means by “We beheld His glory?” Is this a reason why John alone of the Gospel writers does not record the events of the Mount of Transfiguration?
3. Trace the mentions of the “only begotten” throughout John’s writings.