John 1:14–18 (NKJV)
The Incarnation of Christ
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
In the beginning of this chapter we read of a great wonder, that the Word was with God, and yet was God. We cannot understand how this could be. In this passage we read of another wonder, yet we are so much accustomed to hear it, that we almost forget to consider the greatness of the wonder, “The Word was made flesh.” God became man; he “dwelt among us.”
When we look around us at this great world, and at the heavens spangled with stars, and think that He who made all these things became a weak man, who ate, drank, and slept like ourselves—do we not feel amazed? We may well inquire why God became a man, and dwelt among us?
It was to save us from everlasting misery. We are told in verse 14, “He was full of grace and truth.” He came to bring grace to sinners, to pardon their sins by his free grace. He came to suffer all he had said he would suffer. He had said he would suffer our punishment, and he was full of truth, and suffered it all, showing that God hated sin, and that he would punish it with death.
Now, John the Evangelist, when he speaks of Jesus, breaks out into an exclamation at the remembrance of his glory. He says in verse 14, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” John had really seen Jesus. As he says in his First Epistle, speaking of Jesus, “that which our eyes have seen, which we have looked upon.”
“We beheld his glory.” What glory does he here refer to? Does he refer to the glory which shone on the mount, when “his face shone as the sun, and his clothing was white as the light?”—Matt. 17:2. Perhaps it is to this glory he refers, or perhaps it is to the glory of holiness which always shone in Jesus, and which the world could not see; for they saw “no beauty in him, that they should desire him.”—Isaiah 53:2. But those who believed in him saw this glory. Do we see it? Has the Spirit opened our inward eyes, so that we see Christ to be worthy of all our love?
There was a man who saw this glory, and pointed Jesus out to others. His name was John the Baptist.
He spoke of Jesus long before he saw him. At last he saw him, and said to the people, “This is he of whom I spoke. He who comes after me existed before me; for he was before me.” Jesus was six months younger than John the Baptist, therefore John said he came after him. Yet he was before him, because he was with his Father before he came into the world.
Who is speaking in verse 16? Not John the Baptist, but John the writer of this history. He speaks in the highest terms of love and praise of our great Savior. How happy are they who can say with John, “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” In Jesus there is a full store of grace, sufficient for every believer. And do we not need these graces? Do we not often lament our lack of patience, meekness, kindness, and charity? Jesus is willing to bestow them all upon us. Moses was a great lawgiver; but he could not bestow grace. Moses appointed many forms and ceremonies, to represent the way of salvation, but Jesus brought salvation. Therefore it is written, “Truth came by Jesus Christ.”
The Father dwells in light which no man can approach unto; but he spared his Son from his bosom that we might behold him. Though we have not seen him ourselves, we have heard enough about him to make us love him. If our hearts were not like stones by nature, we would have loved him from the first moment we heard of him; and yet perhaps there may be some here who had lived twenty or thirty years in the world before they began to love him; and there may be others who do not love him yet. May the Lord soften their hearts.
By Favell Lee Mortimer (1802 – 1878)