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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 3 – John 1:14 – Jesus is amongst us


John 1: 9 – 14 ‘The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

Let’s start at the end. ‘The Word made his dwelling among us.’ More literally that reads ‘He pitched his tent among us’ or ‘he pitched his tabernacle among us’. This is clearly a reference to what we read in Numbers 2: 1, 2 where it says ‘The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.’

Can you imagine the scene? Out there in the wilderness, on a level plain, the Israelites were to form a huge square, perhaps about a kilometre across, three tribes on each side, tent after tent, stretching away into the land on each side, their banners and flags fluttering in the wind. People sitting in the entrances to the tents; children playing all around. And in the very middle of the otherwise empty square a tabernacle, that is a sort of quite small hut made of curtains draped over a wooden frame.

This was where God very particularly was – right in the middle of his people. Why? So that Moses could go to the tent and speak to God face to face and all the people could watch as Moses went over to the tent. We can imagine them sitting in careful rows just the right distance from the central tabernacle. Except for the children who, whatever their fathers and mothers did to try and restrain them, would keep breaking the line as they ran around and got nearer to God than they were supposed to be.

And this is where God is now – right in the middle of his people. No longer in a physically visible sense as it was then, but with us just as really. We might even stretch the picture and compare ourselves to those children who ran in and out amongst the tents and the banners. If we go back to what John said before we find ourselves described as the children of God. The people of God no longer draw up in square formation in one place but in the mercy of God are now scattered over many places, many nations, many continents.

If your mental picture of the Numbers picture was like mine you will have thought of many children racing around between the different tribal encampments, full of fun and joy as young children always are (provided circumstances allow them to be like that). Now we are to be like that – children rejoicing in living, full of fun and excitement. Getting close to God, because Jesus has been close to human beings as he walked on this earth.

He may be invisible, where the tabernacle was very visible, but our Jesus is with us. He is the true light that was coming into the world. The world did not recognize him when he was there in front of them hanging on a Cross because they were looking for the wrong sort of person to be the light of the world. It is our joy that because we have Scripture, and particularly the New Testament, we do know what to look for and we have seen and recognized him.

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