John’s Gospel stating, “In the beginning was the Word…”
(From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem)
Jesus’ understanding of the word of God was much different than that of many people today. Jesus was a strong believer in the word. He took the word very seriously and literally. His disciples apparently looked upon the word in much the same way as their Master.
JESUS AS THE LIVING WORD
In John’s gospel, Jesus is presented as the Living Word. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us …” (Jn. 1:1 & 14).
Jesus was and is the authentic Living Bible. He was and is the Living Psalms, the Living Proverbs, the Living Torah (Law). Had Jesus depreciated the word in the least, he would have depreciated himself. We must understand that there is a great similarity between Jesus as the Living Word and the written word which we hold in our hands. To follow that word is to follow him; to desire it is to desire him.
One professor friend in Israel describes it this way: Jesus is the Word; the Bible is the word about the Word; preaching is the word about the word about the Word; and theology is the word about the word, about the word, about the Word.
As Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum he made a statement so astounding that his religious listeners spurned him and many of his own disciples turned against him. Jesus said: “…I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). The Master was simply offering himself as food for his people. Those who were hungering and thirsting after him were in a very real sense feasting on the Word of God.
JESUS’ VIEW OF THE WHOLE BIBLE
Jesus viewed EVERY word from God’s mouth as necessary food for mankind. He quoted scripture in saying: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). Thus every word of God is presented as valuable and necessary for the life of humankind.
Jesus also looked upon every word in the Bible as important. In Mark 12:18-27, the Sadducees questioned him about the resurrection. Notice the answer Jesus gave them in verses 26-27. He said: “Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” Jesus hung the doctrine of the resurrection on the single word “am” in scripture. It is very interesting that the biblically literate people listening to him also accepted this kind of interpretation as valid. The Sadducees were stunned and defeated by the weight of Jesus’ argument.
In another place Jesus simply stated “…the Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). In this case it happened to be a very obscure scripture. Jesus nevertheless used this obscure scripture to establish the doctrine of his own divinity.
In my theological studies I well remember the attitude many professors and writers displayed concerning scripture. For instance, I remember being taught that the Book of Jonah was a “myth.” While “myth” didn’t necessarily imply untruth according to them, neither did it suggest that Jonah could be readily believed. Later I realized that Jesus based the doctrine of the resurrection on the fact that Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40). Thus if the book of Jonah is a myth, the same would naturally apply to the resurrection.
Also, for generations scholars have debated the authenticity of the book of Daniel. Someone once quipped about this contest, labeling it as “Daniel in the critic’s den” rather than “Daniel in the lion’s den.” How interesting it is that Jesus quoted from the prophet Daniel regarding the coming Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:15-22).
This tribulation has a two-part fulfillment. It was partially fulfilled during the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Based on Daniel, Jesus warned his followers to flee the city of Jerusalem as they saw hostile armies approaching. Those early Christians apparently obeyed and fled to the city of Pella across the Jordan. Thus the early church in Jerusalem was spared the ensuing disaster. The final fulfillment of this passage speaks of the Great Tribulation of the end days and the coming of the Abomination of Desolation (v. 15). For these critical end-time teachings Jesus cites Daniel.
THE EARLY CHURCH AND THE WORD
The early disciples and apostles continued with Jesus’ concept of the word. Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16). We need to pay attention to the word “all” as used here. It is very inclusive. In this case Paul was speaking of the Old Testament (Tanakh). However, in another instance, Peter speaks of Paul’s epistles themselves as carrying the weight of scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). In yet another place, Peter quotes Isaiah, saying: “…the word of the Lord stands forever…” (1 Pet. 1:25). In this last passage, Peter seems to present the ideas and philosophies of men as but grass and flowers when compared to the word of God.
John, who closes out the New Testament canon, has a severe warning for those who lightly esteem the word of God. In Revelation 22:18-19 he says: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
THE WORD TODAY
The word of God is quite literally the only foundation for reconstruction in our present era. God wants to write his word on our hearts and impress it upon our minds. He wants us to bind it on the doorposts of our houses and teach it to our children (Deut. 6:6-9). God wants his word to dwell in our lives richly (Col. 3:16). It is the sure way that we can become disciples in our century (Jn. 8:31).
Today lives are falling apart; families are falling apart; and nations are falling apart. This is happening precisely because the word of God has been spurned, depreciated, and cast away by our “enlightened” society.
God will restore all things. He will restore Israel, and actually is doing so at this moment. That restoration is taking place because some people have dared believe and heed God’s prophetic word. He will restore individual lives according to his powerful word. He will restore all things as men and women return to view the whole word as sacred and God-breathed.
In Isaiah 66:2 the Lord says: “…This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” May we be found among the tremblers. May we feast always on the word of God and regard it more than our necessary food.
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem.