“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
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 came into being through him, and without him not
one thing came into being…And the Word became flesh
and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory
as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-3a, 14
What did those shepherds see when they looked at the world’s Savior, still wet, red, and gurgling on a bed of straw? What did the multitudes see when they looked at the village carpenter from tiny Nazareth? Archeologists put together a picture of Jesus standing about five feet, five inches, with olive-brown skin and jet-black hair. He likely looked sinewy and hard from strenuous physical labor and a lot of walking. And, like many Galilean peasants, he would have appeared thin from times of not having had much to eat. (Joan Taylor, What Did Jesus Look Like?)
The prophet Isaiah foretold that when people saw Messiah Jesus “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b). In other words, Jesus wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, like King David, nor did He have the leading man looks. And Jesus did not have an icon’s halo shining over His head. Yet, John’s Gospel says, “we have seen his glory.” And what was the glory people saw in Jesus? They saw Him “full of grace and truth.” God’s glory shined through in all Jesus said and did!
John might have used many different Greek words to say that Jesus the Word “lived among us.” It is an interesting verb John chooses to use. He clearly wants to get the reader’s attention by using the Greek word skenoo, a word with profound implications. The word skenoo can be literally translated as “He ‘tabernacled’ among us.” It is a word used for the Old Testament tabernacle where God lived with His people in the wilderness (Greek translation: Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11). Jesus the Word, Emmanuel, perfectly embodies God with us.
Today’s Scripture makes the connection between Jesus and that Old Testament tent where God manifested His presence to His people. We read in the Book of Exodus that when the tabernacle was set up “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). The glory of God in all of His “grace and truth” is revealed to us in the Word become flesh!
God does not think of glory as the world thinks of glory. God thinks of glory as the manifestation of His sacrificial love for us. “The true glory of God will be seen in the figure of a slave humbly washing the feet of his disciples, and finally offering up itself in obedience to the Father’s will… this alone is the true glory.” (Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel) Only hours before His crucifixion Jesus sees the glory of God as supremely revealed in His cross: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).
It is a wondrous glory, a glory in self-giving love, a glory without royal robes or a place to lay His head. As the glory of God once radiated in the Old Testament tabernacle, so God’s glory radiates in the humble love of Jesus Christ. He is the shining radiance of the Father’s love, “full of grace and truth.” For, as the apostle Paul declares, “in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
That the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us reveals that there are no limits to how far God will go in drawing us close to Him. He is the supreme revelation that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Our hearts can sing with Augustine of old: “He sent to us his Word, his only Son, by whose taking flesh to be born and suffer on our behalf, we might come to know for how much man counts with God.” (Augustine, Sermons 57:13) We have seen His glory!
- How do I imagine Jesus looked as a first century village carpenter? WouldI have picked Jesus out in a crowd?
- How do I see the glory of God shining in Jesus?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.