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God Tabernacles Among Us

All four Gospels provide an account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but they each start the narrative in a different place. Matthew and Luke begin with Christ’s birth, and Mark launches into the adult ministry of John the Baptist and then introduces Jesus. The Gospel of John, however, begins at the very beginning, with the creation of the world.

Echoing the first line of Genesis and the theme of creation, today’s reading opens with, “In the beginning was the Word” (v. 1). The Word that was there at the beginning, we are told, was not only “with God,” but also “was God.” Just as Genesis 1 tells us that God spoke things into existence, so now John tells us that it was by this powerful, creative Word of God that “all things were made” (v. 3). In other words, the Gospel of John introduces the main subject of all of Scripture: the Word of God, who created the world, who is God Himself.

Astonishingly, that same creative, eternal Word “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (v. 14). The Creator God took on a human body and walked among us. The phrase translated as “made his dwelling among us” uses the same Greek word that means “tabernacled among us.” Just as the old tabernacle was the place of God’s dwelling with His people Israel, so now God has a new tabernacle, a new dwelling place, to be with His people on earth. That dwelling place is none other than the person of Jesus.

Because of the Incarnation, the God whom “no one has ever seen” is now “made known” (v. 18). This is, indeed, a “grace in place of grace” (v. 16). Whereas previously God had made Himself known in shadows and symbols, now in Jesus, we see the full glory of God.

Apply the Word

Christian songwriter Stuart Townsend captures the power and beauty of the Incarnation:

“When Love came down to earth,
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
The sinner found a friend.”

God has shown His love by choosing to tabernacle with us in the flesh! How will you respond with praise in your own life?

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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