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. (John 1:14)
Thanks be to God that the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the unique one from the Father full of grace.
Grace After Grace
We are more likely to associate the concept of grace with Paul. Indeed, it is only in this verse and in 1:17 that John specifically mentions grace. The combination of grace and truth is usually seen as alluding to the combination of ‘steadfast love and faithfulness’—predicated of God in his self revelation at Sinai (Ex 34:6), and repeated elsewhere in the Old Testament (c.f. Ps 25:10). This phrase speaks of God’s faithfulness to his covenant with his people Israel, and so the allusion picks this up and grounds the incarnation of Jesus in God’s faithfulness in these covenant promises.
The coming of Jesus does not come ‘out of the blue’, as it were, but as the result of the long patience of God with his people, in fulfilment of his promises to Abraham. These in turn are made in response to the terrible calamity that befalls God’s good creation as a result of the disobedience described in the garden and its aftermath throughout Genesis 1-11. The incarnation of Jesus has a long history.
This point is reinforced a few verses later where John comments that we have all received grace after grace from his fullness: for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The revelation of God through the law given to Moses is described in terms of grace, with the incarnation as a further, fuller, final movement of grace. The Old Testament revelation is not disparaged—on the contrary, it is described in terms of grace. Nonetheless it is completed by the revelation of grace (and truth) that Jesus brings.
So the combination of allusions points us towards the theme of revelation once again: that in the incarnation we have the full revelation of God. But we do not want dwell on the fact of this revelation at the expense of the quality of the revelation. This is a revelation full of grace and truth; reflecting the loving kindness and covenant faithfulness displayed towards Israel throughout her history.
Grace to Us
It is a short step to contemplate grace as the unmerited favour of God towards us. This was expressed towards Israel and memorably teased out in Deuteronomy 7 where God grounds his election of Israel in his gracious love towards them.
- Similarly, throughout John, the concept of God’s gracious love is present:
- The children of God can only be such because of the will of God;
- They can do nothing in and of themselves to achieve this status (John 1:12-13);
- No-one can come to Jesus unless drawn by the Father (Jn 6:44);
- The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (john 10:11);
- Jesus describes himself as the grain of wheat, who must die in order to produce a large crop (Jn 12:26).
And all of this for people who live in a world—those who are described as having rejected the Word (their creator): the ones who need a lamb to bear away their sin (Jn 1:10-11; 29ff).
The Marks of Grace
An act of grace in the incarnation leads to life filled with gracious actions and culminates an act of grace in the cross. The great Australian cricketer Don Bradman once remarked that you can tell the measure of a person by how they treat people who cannot do anything for them. The Lord Jesus treats us with grace, with loving kindness; out of his riches our poverty is met.
The following advertisement was lodged in the lost and found column of a local newspaper: ‘Lost: A Dog. It has three legs, a broken tail, is blind in one eye and has been recently castrated. It answers to the name of Lucky’. It might not work for you but I find this to be a terrific reminder of the grace of God; the grace of the word towards me. I am a dog called Lucky. There was, and is, nothing going for me that this should be the case but in the words of Paul; ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me ‘(Gal 2:20). As a result, by grace, I am blessed to be called a child of God.
Thanks be to God that the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the unique one from the Father full of grace!
Photos: (Body) Staci Flick, flickr; (Head) pexels.com