When St. John wrote the first words of his gospel he chose to introduce Christ to his readers as the logos – the “Word”.
This term is rich in meaning and fulsome in its implications.
We learn from John that the Person of Jesus Christ contains the complete embodiment of God’s speaking. He is the outpouring of God’s eternal mind and heart. In Christ is the true fulfilment of the scriptures. He reveals to us what man was meant to be.
Yet, our encounter with Christ the Word – although an unspeakable blessing – always reveals a tragic contrast to our minds (though not to our natural eyes).
Sometimes powerful contrasts are used in anti-drug advertising campaigns. A poster might show a drug addict with matted hair, rotting teeth and wasted body next to a picture of healthy young man full of the joys and optimism of youth.
This juxtaposition is potent because it reveals the extent of the ruin of the unhealthy man. It evokes pity; sadness; horror. It highlights the respective value of two different patterns of life. One lifestyle leads to self-destruction. The other to true flourishing.
Likewise, when a man truly examines Christ with the eyes of his mind, he gets to behold the only unsullied, righteous Man to ever walk the earth, and is reminded how far he has fallen. Once, we too were noble and pure. We too were courageous, loving, faith-filled, lionhearted, covenant-keeping, God-glorifying beings. Long, long ago.
That is what we were in a place called Eden. But those days are lost in the mists of time. Now our very nature is in ruins, bound in degradation and death. Bound in fear; misery; thrill-seeking; sin-loving; pleasure-craving; temporal blindness. Bound in worry; hatred; unwillingness; unfaithfulness; ruptured relationships; covetousness; selfishness.
But because God sent to us Christ the Word, there is hope. Amazing grace and amazing hope.
By using this term – the Word – John would have us understand that the essence of wisdom, and therefore the way of escape from our predicament, is found in Jesus. Jesus’ life exudes wisdom in the same way that jasmine exudes scent on a warm summer evening. He embodies wisdom. He lives wisdom. Everything he teaches is profound wisdom. And because he is God, his wisdom is also life.
Yet, his words are simple, not complex. Straightforward. They contain little ornamentation. They are peppered with interesting parables. They are easy to grasp. Indeed, I have known mentally handicapped people who have understood the gospel.
Even a very young child can be taught the primary truths of the gospel. But, at the same time, there is an eternity of depth in each line. Only the Lord could accomplish this: hiding an eternity of life and wisdom in words that are so concise and meaningful.
It teaches us something about how to think and how to speak. Not in a grandiose manner. Not with big words. Not in speeches calculated to make people think we are sophisticates. The deepest wisdom of God does not come in the form of a doctoral dissertation. It invites humility as we gaze into endless crystalline depths of wisdom.
Even atheists can occasionally see the wisdom of this. Orwell once observed in his essay “Politics and the English Language” that it requires skill and humility to use words for their proper purpose, namely, to communicate clearly. It is skillful to say much with little. To think more than we say.
We must not forget that the Holy Spirit provided words in the Old Testament too.
Israel was given a deposit of words through the prophets. Israel was not given the mathematical dimensions by which to construct an idol.
For it is not possible to reveal the Living God through images of wood and stone. Any such image will distort the attributes of God. Only inspired words – some spoken, others embodied in the divine life of God the Son – can make God truly known.
Words then, are not insubstantial things. They are the means by which we come to know God and therefore life in the soul; direct from the source. Moreover, the very fact that God chooses to use words, tells us that God must be revealed to the mind. Divine life begins in the mind. It is a sad break with the logic of scripture itself when evangelicals sneer at “head knowledge”.
Yes, if all a man has is dry, arrogant academic, doctrinaire knowledge, then it is sad and odious. But not one person can enter a living relationship with God without head knowledge – without Christ the Word entering into his mind to begin, like a seed, his transforming growth.