The Word Lived Among Us

We can’t “speak God”, so God came to us and “spoke human”.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Continuing my random musings on the prologue to John’s Gospel, we come to this passage (yes, I have skipped a few verses).

Very often when people preach on this passage they mention that the word “made his home” in the original is to tabernacle. Jesus tabernacled with us.

I’ve always wondered why they do that.

It strikes me that the NLT “made his home with” or even the AV “dwelt among us” communicates far better than the archaic word tabernacle. 

The point of this is not to have a dig at preachers – that would be shooting myself in the foot – but actually to draw something out of the passage. Jesus came to earth and lived among humanity, living a life of love and faithfulness and in him we see God’s glory. Jesus communicated something essential about God.

The problem with God is that he is big, massive, he is beyond our comprehension. The human mind and imagination simply cannot get to grips with an eternal, all loving, all powerful being. We can’t learn “to speak God”. So God, in Jesus, took on human form, lived on our planet and showed us what God is like. We can’t “speak God”, so God came to us and “spoke human”.

At the heart of the Gospel is this amazing process of self-revelation, God becoming man and showing himself to us in a way that we can understand. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to follow in his footsteps; we have to explain the truth of his message in ways that people can understand. This is why we do Bible translation, rather than expecting every Christian to learn Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek (collective sigh of relief).

However, the message is relevant to those who are not Bible translators, too. Christ spoke to us in human and we have to learn speak to people in human, too. We need to use language that is clear and expressive and which communicates the Christian message. This isn’t dumbing down; it is far harder to accurately communicate something in accessible language than it is to wrap it up in technical terms which only the initiated understand.

Christian mission is lived out in the footsteps of the one who made his home among us and showed us God’s glory.

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6 replies on “The Word Lived Among Us”

it’s a fair point Eddie – but as one who has done this myself (and I think will continue to!), it is never a stand alone line. But always explained in light of Exodus (esp Ex 33-34 – because of John’s climactic WE HAVE SEEN his glory unlike Moses). And isn’t it the case that John creates a neologism here? So to use ‘tabernacled’ is precisely to convey a sense of the oddness of the word…

Equally fair point, Mark. I love to see preachers link the OT and the NT in this way. However, in my experience, preachers use the term “tabernacle” without the link to Exodus. I obviously need to hear you preach more often! That being said, though not being a Greek expert, I’m not convinced that σκηνοω is a neologism.

Carson’s commentary on John would be the best place to get the stuff Mark is talking about. BTW you’ve used the word ‘world’ instead of ‘word’ in the original post. Too much Star Wars me thinks!

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