Today is Christmas morning, and as we celebrate Jesus’ birth what could be more fitting than just taking a few minutes to meditate on the glory of Jesus.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18)
Praise God for his glory! We serve a glorious and majestic God! And his glory is all around us. The Scripture says his glory fills the earth as the waters cover the sea. We can see his glory in the beauty of a fresh snow on Christmas morning, as the drab brown of winter is transformed into glorious white. That’s God’s artistry! Having lived now on three different continents and about to move to my fourth, I’ve seen the glory of God in majestic waterfalls, awe-inspiring canyons, and towering snow-capped mountains. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1)
We can also see the glory of God in his acts throughout history recorded for us in the Bible. We see the promise that he made to Abraham and can then read the amazing story of how God took this single man and made him the father of many nations. We see God’s glory in redeeming his people, Abraham’s descendants, out of Egypt, as he smites Egypt with plagues and opens up the Red Sea and brings his people through 40 years in the desert and into the Promised Land.
We see the glory of God in his faithfulness to his people, even when they are disobedient again and again and he finally sends them away into captivity, but he faithfully sends them his prophets to proclaim to them the truth and to call them to repentance.
But the most powerful revelation of God’s glory that the world has ever seen is what we are celebrating this morning, and what John refers to in John 1:14. Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us!
In the first two verses of chapter 1, John has already identified “the Word.” He said in verse 1, “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In verse 2, he says “all things were made through him.” The Word is God. The Word is the Creator, but now in verse 14 he says, “the word became flesh” Think of that! The eternal Son, who is God, became man. The Creator entered into the Creation.
The purpose of the incarnation
But don’t miss what John is saying here about the purpose of the incarnation. He is not just saying that God became man, but that God became man to display his glory! This was incarnation with the purpose of revelation. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….
Although it may appear that God was hiding his glory by sending Jesus to a lowly family to be born in the humble surroundings of a stable, he wasn’t hiding anything! Jesus was a declaration of God’s glory!
John, an eyewitness who walked with Jesus throughout his life, was with him when he was crucified, saw his empty tomb and then touched his resurrected body, says, “We have SEEN his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” Verse 18 says, No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
So how was God’s glory demonstrated in Jesus? What did Jesus “make known” about God? What did John see?
What is revealed of God in the glory of Jesus?
So many things could be said in answer to this question… that’s what the New Testament records for us, the manifold ways in which Jesus reveals God to us, but John mentions two very special aspects of Jesus’ glory in this verse:
“…We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.
He is “full of truth”
What does “full of truth” mean? At the risk of oversimplifying, consider that truth is simply “the way things really are.”
Ever since sin entered our world, we have a perception problem. We are blind to the truth. Throughout this gospel, John uses light to illustrate this. We are blind and in the darkness. We can’t see the true reality of things. We can’t see the world around us as it really is. We are deceived and in the dark. This may take radical forms such as atheism and hedonism, but it extends to all of us. Sin clouds our understanding. We don’t see the glory of God everywhere that we should see it, and when we don’t see it, we very often are OK with that. It doesn’t bother us. We’re quite content to live in a world where God and his Son, Jesus Christ, are not at the center of everything.
But when Jesus came to earth, he came “full of truth“. Everything that Jesus did. Everything he said–his very presence in the world–brought light! It displayed the truth.
As the perfect, sinless man, Jesus showed us what Man was created to be.
He showed us how man should live in submission to God by being obedient to his father. Phil 2.8 He humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.
He showed us how man should commune with God and do the work of the Father. John 5:19, “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
Without Jesus’ life, we would never have known the full truth about God’s will for us as his creation. Jesus shows us things as they really are. This is what it means to be “full of truth”
Now think about the implication of this…
It is in the light of Jesus’ life that we can see the truth about ourselves: that we are sinners, that we fall short, that we are worthy of God’s holy and righteous judgment and condemnation. That we don’t live our lives this way.
There’s a common misconception about Jesus that especially tends to circulate around Christmas that he preached a message of peace and love and unity among mankind. Not so: In Matt. 10:34 Jesus says, Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Jesus came to show us things as they really are, which is why the word that is most often used to characterize his preaching is not peace, but repentance.
- Luke 5:32 “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
- Matt. 4:17 Jesus began to preach… “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”
When we read Jesus’ words and we read in the gospels about his life, how can we not be convicted of our lack? How can we not see how far short we fall of this kind of life? All we can do when confronted with the truth about Jesus, and subsequently, the truth about ourselves, is to repent!
But praise God that repentance is not only turning from our sin, it is also turning TO Jesus and Jesus, in addition to being full of truth, is also full of grace!
Jesus is “full of grace”
So for all of the sin and rebellion and selfishness and pride that Jesus exposes in me, there is a remedy, and that remedy is Jesus himself…
Grace is in Jesus! Jesus is “full of grace”! Hallelujah!
Grace is unmerited favor. What is that? It is God being good to me even though I deserve for him to punish me.
Jesus should have come to this earth to pour out his wrath on a rebellious creation, but instead he comes to bring about a new creation, holy and sinless.
Jesus should have come to call us out for our disobedience, but instead he came to obey in our place. According to Romans 5, He came as the second Adam, this time to obey the command. Against God’s command, Adam ate what he shouldn’t have. In obedience to God’s command, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath that we should have.
Jesus should have come to cast me into eternal separation from God, but instead he came to restore me to fellowship with God so that I can experience the abundant life that is found only in Him.
Jesus did not come only to give me a second chance to prove myself, but so that I can come to him everyday for grace and more grace. Grace to keep me from sinning against God, and grace to forgive me when I do sin. This is what verse 16 means, For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
This is the GLORY of Jesus! He reveals things as they really are. In the way he lived and moved through this world and even in the way he died, He shows us life the way God intended it to be. He is full of truth.
But he is also full of grace, and so he takes this perfect life that he lived and he offers it to us as a free gift.
Actually I’ve decided to no longer call what Jesus gives us a free gift. “Free gift” brings up images of cheap watches and disposable items that some marketing department wants to use to sucker us. What Jesus gives us isn’t just a “free gift” it is a costly gift, but it IS a gift–a gift of grace. We don’t have to earn it or prove ourselves worthy of it. Everything that had to be done for us to get this gift from God, Jesus did. He paid for it with his life. Christianity isn’t about what you do for God, but about what God in Jesus, did for you.
And this is where we truly see the glory of Jesus. Yes, he was God in human flesh. Yes, his life and his teaching show us things as they really are, but the most glorious of all is that display of love and grace that Jesus made when he hung condemned on the cross. The holy wrath of God that we deserve was placed on him so that for those who are joined to him by faith, their sins are judged. And then, as he rose from the dead, those who are joined to him by faith also rise to a new life. And so we are accepted by God not on the basis of what we have done or will do, but on the basis of what Jesus did for us. That’s the gospel! And it is the glory of Jesus!
“Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.” Glorious grace and glorious truth. If you haven’t already, may you reach out to Jesus in faith and receive his grace today!