John 1:1a

In the beginning….

You gotta love John’s chutzpah. I mean, there’s absolutely no question what line he’s imitating when he starts his Gospel. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth….” That’s right — Genesis 1:1. It’s as if I were going to write a book and, just for fun, started by penning the words, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

You just don’t do that – compare your work to the finest literature written, as if you’re saying, “Yeah, I can do what the author of Genesis did.”

Except John does. John is, in fact, saying, “I’m writing the new Genesis.” If Genesis tells the story of God’s creation, John is sharing the story of God’s re-creation. If Genesis tells the story of humanity’s fall, John tells of its redemption. And if Genesis tries to tell us where we came from, John is telling us where we’re going.

Interestingly, there’s a definite progression in the reflection of the earliest Christian communities on the significance of Jesus’ cross. Paul, writing in the 50s, shares almost nothing about Jesus’ life. All he knows – or at least all he talks about – is Jesus death and resurrection and what they mean for him and the folks with whom he is sharing the gospel. Twenty years later, around 70 AD, Mark writes his gospel and realizes that the story of the cross also helps you understand Jesus’ ministry, and vice versa, and so he begins his gospel with John’s baptism of Jesus and the start of Jesus’ ministry. Luke and Matthew, writing about ten years later around 80 or so, take the story of Jesus all the way back to his birth, inviting us to imagine that Jesus’ whole life is shaped by the cross and resurrection. Do you see the development?

And then there’s John. John is likely the last Gospel to be written, in the early 90s or so, and John decides that you haven’t really grasped the significance of the cross unless you go back to the very beginning of history itself.

And so John starts there, with his second Genesis, full to the brim of gospel-chutzpah by opening his account with words as audacious as they are memorable: “In the beginning….”

You just gotta love it.

Prayer: Dear God, we could spend our entire lives trying to grasp the significance of the life, death, and resurrection of your Son and fall short. So where understanding fails, fill us instead with wonder at your great love for us and all the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.