…Becoming Flesh in John 1:14
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. (ESV)
Through Jesus’ birth into the world, the Word became flesh (John 1:14). The idea of the Word becoming flesh means that a key part of the theological significance of Jesus’ birth is divine communication with humanity.
To understand the significance of the Word becoming flesh, we can imagine what the world would be like without the possibility of human communication. Imagine a world in which we humans could not speak, move, or show any emotion. Like slabs of concrete, it would be basically impossible for anyone be able to know anyone else. Without a person expressing himself or herself through language, whether that be body, sign, written, or spoken language, there would be little opportunity for mutual understanding or friendship. Without the ability of communication, there would be virtually zero knowledge of other people, and little opportunity for love. The ability of human beings to communicate is, therefore, very important; and the possibility of divine communication with humanity even more so.
When the Bible teaches that Jesus being born into the world is equivalent to the Word or Logos becoming flesh, we need to understand that the Word in question in John 1:14 is God’s Word (see John 1:1). But how are we to understand the concept of the divine Logos or Word? The answer is straightforward. What do we do with words? We use words to communicate. We express ourselves through words. As we express the thoughts of our soul through words spoken to others, we reveal ourselves; we share ourselves with others.
The fact of the Word becoming flesh means that the Creator of this universe has made this world for the purpose of his own communication and sharing. The purpose behind God creating the universe, and especially the Earth and the human race, is because God wants humanity to get to know him and to be his friends. God created us precisely because he wants to reveal himself to us. He wants to share the thoughts of his mind, thoughts that would otherwise remain hidden unless he revealed them.
Just like us human beings, God reveals himself through his word.
Human communication through the transmission of words is an amazing process. When it comes to human language, linguists estimate that there are over 6,900 languages spoken in the world today. English has over a million different words in its vocabulary, but even the most educated will only know just over 20,000 words (according to E. B. Zechmeister, A. M. Chronis, W. L. Cull, C. A. D’Anna, and N. A. Healy, “Growth of a Functionally Important Lexicon,” Journal of Reading Behavior 27, no. 2 : 201–212). The variety of sounds and words that we speak, the variety of characters that we write, is truly amazing. So is the variety of methods that we use to communicate. We can speak face to face, or over the telephone; we can write letters, send cards, send SMSes, do video calls, or simply chat online. But where does this ability and interest of ours in communicating come from? The Bible expresses the view that it has been built into us by God. We human beings are into communication because God is into communication. In fact, God created us to be his communication partners.
But what language does God use to communicate with us?
God actually uses lots of languages to speak to humanity, but his favorite and most important method of communication is … the Word becoming flesh! The truth of the Word becoming flesh tells us that God chose to take on the form of a human being, entering into our world to speak with us face to face. God not only speaks our language, but he has become one of us in order to speak with us! His divine Word has taken on human form in the person of Jesus. God’s revelation of himself in Jesus is his ultimate method of communication.
But if it is true that God has come into our world in the person of Jesus to speak to us, the question that we have to ask in the light of this is: Are we listening to Jesus? Do we spend time regularly getting to know him? Are we keen to understand his teaching? To ignore Jesus is to reject God’s communication to us. If it is important in the process of education for learners to listen to those with greater knowledge and experience than themselves in particular fields of study, then it would be foolish for us to ignore the information that the Creator of this universe wants to convey to us.
Through the birth of Jesus, God has come into our world to speak to us. It is very important, therefore, that we listen to God’s revelation of himself in Jesus. The Word has became flesh for the purpose of divine communication with the human race. As God proclaimed from heaven to Peter, James, and John regarding Jesus: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
Steven Coxhead has served as a visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He also teaches Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney. In addition he has worked as a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002–2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek. He has had experience teaching Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.