This morning’s full reading can be found here
‘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.’
To begin with, let’s ask a couple of questions about this verse: What is glory and whose glory have we seen?
Glory; it’s a hard word to properly define and explain. It’s a word that’s similar to majesty except less inseparable from royalty, and it’s shinier in appearance. The dictionary uses words like resplendent, honour, praiseworthy to describe it. It could also be simplified to mean ‘value’ or ‘worth’ and in this sense John (the writer of this gospel) is saying, ‘we have seen his value.‘ or ‘we have seen how worthy he is’.
But whose value or worth is John talking about? We can’t just assume we know the answer to this.
The answer John provides is ‘glory as of the only son from the Father’, and what I find so fascinating here is the way that it reads – only son from the Father – it sounds like a title or name. Jesus is (take a deep breath) the ‘only-son-from-the-Father’, rather like how many of my friends from Africa have names that actually mean something, like my friend Msizi, who’s name (Msisiwhethu) means ‘God is my helper’.
Jesus is the one who isn’t just called ‘The-Only-Son-From-The-Father’, he actually lives up to it. He is the only one whose entire life and being can claim to be like that of the Father’s enough that it can be said of him that ‘he’s the true son’. Based purely on Jesus’ character, behaviour and life God the Father could say (and does) ‘you’re a true son’.
Understanding this is important, and understanding it means that whatever we can say about Jesus’ character we can say about his Father. Jesus has always been ‘Son’, therefore it is true that God has also always been ‘Father’. God is a creator and a ruler, but before he was those things (before he made anything or ruled over anything) he was still Father.
Finally it can also be said that since Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth’ the Father is also, or more accurately – the reason the Son is FULL (bursting to overflowing) of grace and truth, is precisely because the Father is.
This is our God and as one author puts it: ‘there is no God behind Jesus’ back.’
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that the Son is different in character to the Father; that the Son is approachable and the Father austere, that the Son is full of grace and the Father lacking in it.
This is not the case and we must adjust our thinking about the Father if we’re to know him as he really is, rather than as we’ve come to think he is by taking our lead from the poor imitations of him we are surrounded by.
If this is a problem for you why not use today’s prayer to begin a ‘decluttering’ of wrong ideas about the Father:
Thank you Father that you are FULL of grace and truth. Help me to ‘get my head around that’. Help me to know you as you actually are, not as I’ve been conditioned to think you are. Help me to see how you manage to hold both grace and truth in tension and aren’t soft or lacking in either of them. Help me as well to behave like you toward others and show them the kind of grace and kindness as well as truth that you have shown me.