Commentary on John 1:1-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Preaching texts: John 1:1-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Like Genesis, the Gospel of John begins ready to trip us up with the language. John’s Gospel matches its beginning to that of Genesis, down to the most minute linguistic detail. Like Genesis, there is no “the” in the Greek of John 1:1’s opening phrase; it reads, literally, “in beginning.”
What this points to is not grammatical nerdery, but to the theological claim that John is making, namely that Jesus was with God, was God, all along. So, when we confess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Lord,” we are confessing Jesus as God.
John 1:1-18 is full of creedal elements, from the Logos language that speaks more light, new light into the creation, to the promise that in the fullness of Christ, God and God’s will for us is made known, which is that through faith we are given power to become children of God, to John the Baptists confession that Jesus is indeed the Christ.
Creation, incarnation, and revelation are all confessed by John chapter 1. The reading from 1 Corinthians then turns to the cross, what Paul calls “foolishness,” and at the same time, “the power of God” to save. This second reading is crucial to the Christian confession of Christ. If the cross is passed over, then there is literally nothing new in Jesus. For Christ did not come simply to bring light, or to make of us children of God, but to do so in a particular way, through his redemptive suffering and death. Jürgen Moltmann says of the crucified Christ, “A God who cannot suffer is poorer by far than any human being.” And Luther’s words are similar:
We never suffer injustice without God suffering it first and more than we. God the Father’s solicitude for us is so great that God feels our suffering before we do and bears it with greater resentment than we ourselves.1
The Word crucified is what is unique to the Christian’s creedal confession, and it is through the foolishness of our proclamation of this foolishness of the cross.
1 Quoted in Delmar Jacobson, Luther’s Lively Theology, (Lutheran University Press, forthcoming), 112.