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)
The glory seen in the incarnate Son is the glory of the unique Son. There is some dispute over the proper translation of the Greek word used here, with many perhaps familiar with the translation “only begotten.” The consensus amongst most recent commentators is that uniqueness or ‘one-of-a-kindness’ is in view here (see the excellent discussion in Köstenberger’s commentary—where we find the helpful phrase, “one-of-a-kind” to help us get the sense).
The term is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament and Apocrypha to refer to an “only child” (Judges 11.34; Tob 3.15). Being an only child, and therefore irreplaceable, makes this child precious—and this is the connotation of usage elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 7.12; 8.42; 9.38). Often the translation “beloved” is used as a result and John’s statement here is often seen as his version of the acclamation “this is my beloved Son,” in the Synoptics.
In the ancient world, having only one child meant that everything would hang on this single heir. The loss of an only child would be a massive tragedy for the family involved—as the passages from Luke mentioned above demonstrate. The supreme example of this is Isaac, who is called Abraham’s one-of-a-kind son.
John 3:16 reminds us that is a glorious “one-of-a-kind Son” whom the Father gives so that everyone who believes in him might have life.
The Son Who Sees And Testifies
The sending of the one-of-a-kind Son is major theme in the Fourth Gospel and speaks of the Father’s plan, the Son’s obedience, and the joint mission of the Father and the Son ultimately benefiting their people. The Son is sent from above and, because he comes from above, he is able to reveal heavenly things to us (John 3:31-36). He testifies to what he has seen and heard, and so, once again, we are back at the concept of revelation. We can rely on the truth of the revelation Jesus brings because he is the “one-of-a-kind Son” who has come from above; who has seen and heard, and is able to reveal in truth.
As Jesus insists to Philip (Jn 14:9-10), to see him is to see the Father. When we behold his glory we see the Father. If we feel disappointed in the thought that Jesus is the greatest and truest vision we should expect—if we want to look beyond him—we show that we are still thinking like Philip. We mustn't underestimate the implications of the incarnation of the Son of God.
A Unique Revelation
A one-of-a-kind Son implies a unique revelation; a single moment,; a single possibility; a single opportunity; a single focus; a single source; a single lens; a seminal moment. From this point on there is no need to look anywhere else for the knowledge of the Father; to understand heavenly things; to orient a life; to offer worship praise and thanks.
Thanks be to God that the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the unique one . O come let us adore him!
Photos: (Header) Staci Flick, flickr; (Body) pexels.com