Read 1 John 1:1-4 (ESV, NIV, The Message).
Have you ever witnessed something so amazing, so beyond expectations, that retelling the experience makes your heart beat harder and your words tumble out fast like spilled water? Or you find yourself repeating yourself?
Three times in the first four verses of 1 John 1, our brother John repeats that he’s seen and heard something. Something big. As an eyewitness, the experience is so amazing that he must proclaim it to people he cares about, and if they discover what he’s seen and heard, they’ll find joy.
And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:4
If John’s day was anything like our day, joy is a precious and rare commodity. Joy merits finding.
Back to John. The fact that he keeps repeating that he’s seen and heard something makes one sit up and pay attention. What is our brother John’s big deal in this introduction to a letter to friends? What has he seen and heard and touched and must now proclaim?
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life… 1 John 1:1
John has touched the Word of Life.
Tell us more about this life, John.
This life is from the beginning, he tells us. This life was before time. It’s an odd concept if you try to wrap your head around it. Our human experience rests, moves, and revolves in time. Every life has to start sometime, doesn’t it? Not this life.
Then John reports that this life is eternal. This life stretches forward beyond time and doesn’t end. Can we even imagine eternity? Can we imagine life in eternity? By definition, death is not involved nor welcome. To live eternally means to not die. Absence of death means no disease, no fear of dying, no mourning, no physical end. And thankfully, John alludes to joy in this journey to forever, because eternal life without joy sounds a bit like torment. But that’s another topic.
What does John mean by the Word of life. The Word. The message. The story. John proclaims that Jesus represents the living Word of Father God himself, a divine interconnection, a manifestation or expression or appearance of God himself. Jesus represents the living Word of God, or logos in the Greek. According to one lexicon, logos here means:
…the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical…
The living Word of God. How understated! Genesis 1 reminds us that when God once spoke a Word, it exploded into creation. “Let there be light,” He breathed, and the violent eruption of galaxies, universes, boundless light, endless force, limitless energy, divine order, and orderly chaos projected out of nothing into indescribable, ever-expanding vastness—with just a Word. And then there was light. Powerful!
But I digress from 1 John and John’s message. Let’s take a visual look at the text.
Wordle.net is a word-cloud generator that creates a picture out of words. The more frequently a word appears in the text, the larger the word appears in the picture. When Wordle created a word cloud based on copy/pasting three different Bible translations of 1 John 1:1-4, here’s what happened:
The Wordle nicely sums up 1 John 1:1-4. Look at the big words. John has seen Life, heard Life, the Life was in fellowship with the Father, and now John proclaims Life—Jesus—to us. And oh, by the way, he says, I’m telling it to you so your joy will be complete.
I’ll take him at his Word.