Having introduced my series yesterday, it seems fitting to tell a bit more about the roots of my Word-Wonder. I begin here, then, with the beginning.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” –John 1:14, NASB
When I read this passage as a beginning to my literature and my writing classes, I write “Word” on the whiteboard and emphasize that this “Word” begins with a capital letter and signifies a person, not some insignificant article or preposition or even ordinary noun. This “Word” is different.
The passage has a grand ring and role to it; it is easy to be swept along with it, catching sound rather than sense, not realizing the immense things being said. So we pause to talk about what it is saying. “What does this passage say about this ‘Word’?” I ask.
I put it all on the board, graphing the ideas and their connections. The Word was in the beginning. With God. The Word was God. “Word = God.” The Word made everything. The Word had life in Him. And light. This life = light of men. The Word became flesh — became a person — and He was seen.
While John wrote his gospel in Greek, he came out of culture of devout Judaism, a culture in which little boys memorized the first five books of the Old Testament as part of their journey to manhood. To read “In the beginning” here at the beginning of John, if you know the Old Testament, is to be taken back to the beginning of Genesis, to that other beginning, when, “In the beginning, God created” (Gen. 1:1). I don’t think it’s accidental. In that beginning, over the formless and void earth, we have the Spirit of God, and God’s voice: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). God’s voice, His words: that’s what made the world come into being, piece by piece, morning by morning. And now, in the book of John, we have the Word with God in the beginning, the Word creating all things.
So we have words, as in God’s speech, and the Word, God Himself, and, from these, all things come into being. When God says, “Let there be light,” there is light; and in the Word is light, shining in the darkness, uncomprehended by the darkness, and yet the life and light of men. This, my friends, is huge.
I tell my students a bit of this. I point out, moreover, that this Word become flesh is the person of Jesus Christ, God made one of us, united to us, to make us one with Him. I tell them that God’s primary means of communicating with us are 1) The Word, as in the person of Jesus Christ, and 2) The Word, as in the Bible. I tell them that, this being the case, it behooves us to learn to use our words well, to learn to read words well. I tell them that this motivates me to teach, that this is why I think my subjects are important.
This also motivates me to write.
Because, somehow, practice with ordinary words can help us with the extraordinary Word. Because the Word was not simply in the beginning, but the Word is now, living and active, piercing, dividing, judging. Because when we grasp this Word, in place of death and darkness, we find light and life.
©2013 by Stacy Nott