Advent 23: The Real Tabernacle
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
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 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.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
If you were going to summarize the book of John in one phrase it would be “Jesus is God”. It seems like everywhere you turn in the book of John either Jesus is saying that he is God, one of the supporting characters is saying it, or, like we have right here, John himself is making it clear.
Even those who aren’t very familiar with the Bible can realize that John is intentionally using the same language as the creation account in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created”. But why would he do this? He is letting us know that the God who created the whole world by the word of his mouth at the beginning is none other than Jesus Christ.
The Grand Arrival
Remember that we call this season that we are celebrating, “advent”. We explained at the beginning that it comes from a word that means arrival. So what we are doing this month is celebrating the arrival of Jesus into the world. Today we need to pause and think about the fact that when someone “arrives” somewhere it means that they were somewhere else first. Does that make sense? What I mean by this is very important. Jesus did not come into existence at his birth. In fact, Jesus never came into existence at all. Jesus has always existed. This month we are celebrating the time when the eternal God arrived in our world as a baby boy.
This Has Always Been the Plan
When Jesus created mankind in the garden we had fellowship with him. This is what God intended. God made mankind in his own image for a relationship with him. Unfortunately, you know what happened, man sinned and our relationship with God was damaged. But this isn’t the end of the story. God already had a plan to restore our relationship with him. And the rest of the Bible tells us the story about how God was making a way for us to have fellowship with him again. We get to see glimpses of it in the Old Testament but we see the fullness of it in Jesus Christ.
One really cool thing we need to point out in this passage has to do with the word “dwell”. As you may remember, the New Testament was written in the Greek language, and this Greek word is really interesting. It normally isn’t translated as “dwell,” Greek has other words for that. This word is usually translated as to live in a tent and it is the same word that the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses for the Tabernacle. If we were going to translate this literally we would say, “the word became flesh and tabernacled with us”. How awesome is that?! Remember that during the sojourn of God’s people between Egypt and the promised land, God did not leave his people alone, but he was with them… in the tabernacle. God’s glory would rest on the tabernacle and he would meet with his people there. I think this is exactly what John is referring to here. Look at the next verse, John continues by saying that “we have seen his glory”. In this little introduction to John’s gospel he is intentionally making it clear that Jesus created the world and that he tabernacled with his people.
Cover to Cover
While we are on the subject of the restoration of our relationship with God, I can’t help but jump to the end of the story. So, remember when I said that this was a unique Greek word? Well, it turns out that it is only used 5 times in the New Testament, and all of them are by John. Let’s look at one more place where we see it, and this time it is just as glorious.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
As we think about Jesus coming to earth as a baby we need to remember that this is exactly what God wanted. This is the central component of his plan to restore us in relationship with him. The creator of the universe actually became a human baby boy in order to save us. He became one of us.
The incarnation of Jesus provides a hinge for all of human history. In one sense we can see this as the end of the story. After all, look at all of the Old Testament prophecies that find their “end” in him. But in another sense, Jesus coming in the flesh is only the beginning of the story and the end will happen when he comes again and tabernacles with us forever. Let us marvel at his grace and goodness as we live our lives in the light of the first advent and the shadow of the second.
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