St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Recognize The Gift God Gave To Sinful Mankind

Sermon on John 1:14-18

Text: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

By now, all of the Christmas gifts have been given. They are wonderful reminders of how others care about us. When you look at the gifts, it is easy to see that there was some thought that went into the gifts. The giver took time to choose that gift for you, based on your likes or needs. However, in all likelihood, these gifts have been put away. If they were perishable, they have been used. If they were toys, they might already be broken and thrown out. This morning, our last Sunday in the season of Christmas, we want to look at gifts one more time, or rather, one particular gift. We are encouraged to RECOGNIZE THE GIFT GOD GAVE TO SINFUL MANKIND. We see that 1. Jesus Is The Inexhaustible Fountain Of Saving Grace and that 2. Jesus Is The True Interpreter Of God.

In the beginning verses of John’s Gospel, Jesus is introduced as the Word. We use words to communicate with each other. The Father used his Son to communicate to us about himself and his plan for us. As you read the opening verses, it becomes very clear that this is speaking about Jesus, as it says in verse 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

As we continue to our text, we read in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Obviously, this is referring to the fact that the Son of God took on our human flesh and blood and became a human being. It is this birth that we celebrate at Christmas. Note that there was no transformation that took place. The Word, the Son of God, never ceased to be God. Rather, in addition to what he had always been, he became something that he had not previously been. We are reminded of the fact that Jesus had to be both true God and true man to be our Savior.

It says that the Word “made his dwelling among us.” The word for made his dwelling among us in the original language has the idea of pitching his tent among us. In the Old Testament, the place of worship for the people of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land was the tabernacle, which was a tent. The tabernacle became a symbol of God’s presence among the Israelites. Whenever they looked at that tent, they were reminded that God was with them. It was with them every step of the way until they reached the Promised Land. The fact that Jesus tented among us assures us that he is with us every step of the way until we reach our Promised Land, namely, heaven. Through the eyes of faith, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is God’s glory personified. He is the revelation of God’s grace, his undeserved love, and God’s truth, the reality of God’s purpose and plan of salvation.

God’s plan of salvation is summed up in verse 17, “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The first part of this plan involves the law. These are the things that God demands of all mankind. They are the things that we are to do and are not to do. For example, God tells us that we are to trust in him for all things. We are to trust that he will provide for all that we need. In conjunction with this, we are told that we are to trust that God gives us exactly what we need. We are to be content with what he gives to us. When we do all of these things, we will have eternal life. God says to us, “Do this and you will live.”

However, we also know that, in spite of this gracious promise from our God, we do not perfectly follow his will for our lives. At times, we worry whether everything will be taken care of. We plot and we plan and then, almost as an afterthought, we come to God for help. When things are going well, we tend to forget about God and think about everything that we have done to get ourselves in this position. When things are not going well, we tend to question, if not outright blame God. We wonder if he really knows what he is doing. God is also very clear in his law that those who do not live perfectly will be punished both in this lifetime and the next.

The problem does not lie with the law that God has given. It, like he, is perfect. The problem lies with us. We are born as sinful human beings. We are born with no intention of keeping God’s law. We, by nature, want to do the exact opposite. In other words, the law, even though it comes from our God, cannot save us. This truth makes us rejoice to read the rest of the verse, “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Grace, God’s undeserved love, came to us through Jesus. Grace is the reason that Jesus came to the earth and made his dwelling among us. He dwelt among us to live for us. While he tented on this earth, he did everything necessary for our salvation. For example, he trusted that his Father would provide for all of his needs, as we see in the temptations in the wilderness. When he was tempted to turn stones into bread, he responded that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Even when faced with his sure and painful death on the cross, he still said, “Your will be done.” It was God’s will that his Son come to the earth to live for us and to die for us. It was also his Father’s will that Jesus be raised from the dead, so that we might be assured that our sins were forgiven. This is the grace and this is the truth that came from Jesus Christ.

We thank God for this wonderful knowledge. We are forgiven. We are God’s children. Yet, we also know that we continue to sin. Perhaps, we even catch ourselves thinking, have I exhausted the times that God will forgive me? What sweet words of comfort we find in verse 16, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John pictures the supply of grace as one that overflows from its fulness. It is inexhaustible. Dr. Martin Luther compared the fulness of this grace to the light of the sun. Just as the light of the sun is not used up even though the entire world enjoys and benefits from its light, so the whole world could draw from the well of God’s grace and, yet that well would still always run over because of the abundance. Each day comes with a new supply of grace that takes the place of that which has already been given, like one wave that follows another on the seashore. This is so beautifully expressed in Lamentations 3:22,23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Because of Jesus, we have an inexhaustible fountain of God’s grace.

Of course, this does not mean that we can sin as much as we want, because we will be forgiven. As the children of God, who want to thank him for all that he has done for us, we will want to further avoid sin in our lives. We will want to live in a way that thanks God for all that he has done for us. Yet, we also do not need to be afraid that we have committed an unforgivable sin, either. God’s mercies are new every morning.

We would never have known about this fountain of God’s grace, if it were not for Jesus Christ. Remember that Jesus is referred to as “the Word.” As we noted earlier, we use words to communicate. Jesus, the Word, communicates to us everything about our heavenly Father. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” God is a spirit and, therefore, beyond the grasp our of limited senses. It is only through Christ that we can begin to learn of God. Our natural knowledge of God can only tell us that there is something or someone to whom we are accountable. Our consciences tell us that we have not done what we are supposed to do. We are filled with dread because we know that we have not done what we are supposed to do. However, all of this natural knowledge of God could never tell us what to do to get rid of this feeling.

Jesus, the Word, communicates to us who his Father is and how he feels toward us. Jesus communicated this to us on the hill called Calvary. We see the embodiment of the fact that, as John would later write in his First Epistle, “God is love.” Where so many fear God because of his anger, we have peace. So many spend their lives trying to do enough good to get into God’s good graces and live with the constant fear that they are not doing enough. Jesus communicates to us that his Father accepted his payment for our sins. So many wonder if God really loves them. Jesus shows us how much the Father loved us as he suffered, died, and rose again for us. What is God really like? What does the Father really feel about us? Jesus is the true interpreter of his Father’s feelings toward us. One of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, said “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” In reply, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Because we have come to know Jesus by faith, we know the truth of the amazing grace that the Father has shown to us. Jesus is full of grace and truth.

There is great anticipation in the weeks that precede Christmas. As the presents begin to appear under the tree, we wonder what is in those brightly wrapped packages. We shake them, trying to figure out what they might be. Then comes the big day and you tear off the wrapping paper, and you finally get to see what is underneath. Unfortunately, sometimes, the gift does not live up to our expectations. We are disappointed. We were hoping for something else. Of course, the opposite is also true. There are gifts that we open and are surprised at what we have. We never expected to get that gift. Of course, all of the gifts that are given are reminders of the great gift that God gave to sinful mankind in the person of his Son. He is truly a gift that does not disappoint. He is far more than we could ever have imagined. He is a gift that came from the heart of his Father. We thank God for this gift. We also know that this gift is not to be hoarded. It is a gift that God wants us to share with others. Though the gifts under the tree may be gone or put away, may we thank God every day for the gift that he has given us in his Son. Amen.