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.
Here is John’s confession in its entirety. Not just that the Word became flesh in general, as if to demonstrate solidarity with us in principle. But rather that the Word became flesh and lived among us.
The word John uses that we translate “lived” is interesting. It’s a Greek word that is often translated “dwelt” – which might be the more familiar way you’ve heard this verse read – but it can also be translated as “setting up one’s tent” or “fixing one’s tabernacle.” Given that John suggested right from the first verse of his story that he was writing a new Genesis, we probably shouldn’t be surprised if he also claims to be re-telling the story of Israel. The tabernacle, you see, was the tent the Israelites built to house the Ark of the Covenant (think Raiders of the Lost Ark) and to contain God’s holy presence after the Exodus and through their wanderings and conquest of the holy land right up until they built the Temple of Jerusalem.
So John is suggesting – well, more than suggesting, actually claiming and confessing – that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the means by which we now have access to God’s presence.
But this isn’t simply a ceremonial or formal claim, as if John is asserting that Jesus merely replaces the tabernacle. Rather, John is saying that the glory of the Lord, the glory that was always too much for mortal eyes to see unveiled, has now taken on our form, our life and our lot, and become intimately accessible to us. That which has always been far away and inaccessible is now nearby, readily available to us.
Eugene Peterson, in his translation of the Bible called “The Message,” captures this more intimate, even “home-y” sense of John’s confession by translating it, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
Our neighborhood, right next door, available 24/7, whenever we want to call or stop by. Pretty cool.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us that you understand us better than we do ourselves and are always available to us, eager to listen to and support us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.