Today’s Reading: John 1.
I wish to briefly reference both Edgar A. Poe and Plato today, that they may help us grasp the meaning of the Apostle John in John 1.
The verses of particular importance here are in John 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it […] The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he (the Word, Jesus Christ) has made him known.(John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14, 18)
Jesus Christ came to the world with a lot on his “to-do list”, if you will. It would be inaccurate to simplify Jesus to only one who died for our sins (although it was the most important thing He did). Jesus came into the world as the messenger from God, even as God Himself, to tell us: 1. Why this world exists, 2. Who we are, and 3. Why we need Him. John explains all of these crucial and monumental points with a single word. Light.
1. Why this world exists: Jesus Christ is the creator of the world, the Creator of light, and the radiator and fount of all goodness (light in an abstract and spiritual sense). Without Him, all is purposeless and darkness.
2. Who we are: We are lost without Him, a ship with no rudder, a shore with no water, a house with no light. Here is an excerpt from Edgar A. Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”, where the main character is prisoner in a room in utter darkness. Many things there seem to be something but are really something else, and very dangerous:
I at once started to my feet, trembling convulsively in every fiber, I thrust my arms wildly above and around me in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a tomb (as in, being buried alive). Perspiration burst from every pore, and stood in cold big beads upon my forehead. The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously moved forward, with my arms extended , and my eyes straining from their sockets, in the hope of catching some faint ray of light. I proceeded for many paces, but still all was blackness and vacancy (“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar A. Poe)
The imagery Poe uses is of a physically lost, terrified, and hopeless man. Physical darkness brings us great fear and imposes great danger upon us if we are lost. Yet how much greater is our spiritual and eternal darkness?
Jesus came to show us our darkness, to shine His light, to give us spiritual direction, healing, and purpose. He shows us our sin, our self-imposed prison, and the chains we cannot take off. He reveals that we are in a prison, that we are helpless, that we are needed. Therefore we call him Savior, Emmanuel, and Redeemer.
3. Why we need Him: Plato, as well as other Greek philosophers, taught several times and in various ways about a logos (literally the “word”), the same Greek word that John uses over and over in John 1. The connection is a true one and one that necessitates being followed. Augustine’s study of Plato’s use of the word logos, among other things, led him to believe that Plato was a pre-Christian (one saved before the coming of Christ). I won’t attempt to go as far, mainly because I am not nearly the Greek reader that Augustine was, being immersed in Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, with his first love in philosophy being Cicero.
The argument of Plato using the world logos is the following, in basic terminology:
1. There must exist only one God, he argued, rejecting common thought of the plethora of gods. Having multiple gods was unnecessary and illogical.
2. This God must desire to communicate with His Creation. To communicate can be interpreted as to logos. Here is a secular explanation of the word logos:
Logos is the Greek term meaning “the Word.” Greek philosophers like Plato used Logos not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind — the reason. When applied to the universe, Greeks were speaking to the rational principle that governs all things (The Intelligent Designer). (“Greek Philosopher Plato“)
This explanation is OK, helping us understand the distinction between the spoken word and the understanding of “to communicate” with the mind or external force or God.
3. This God must have chosen to already communicate with His Creation, or else He will soon do it. Why would he create and not communicate with us? Plato wrote before Jesus, obviously, but he was in a sense referring to the coming of the communicator from God.
4. This communication from God, be it in written, spoken, or mystical form, will tell us who God is and what He desires from us.
Does this remind you of someone?
It’d say that Plato did a pretty good job in telling us why Jesus came, even though he had never met Him. His logical deductions make plain sense as to why Jesus needed to come to the world. God chose not to send us just His Word (the Bible), or His servants (the prophets and priests), but His only Son. He sent a baby, innocent and human, humble and obedient. He sent Himself. For Jesus is the perfect representation of God, and no one could better show us God than His own Son. Jesus is therefore both with God and is God. Wrap your head around that one!