When We Want to Understand Something, Where Do We Look First? With Jesus?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:1ff)

Leslie Newbigin (a late Brittish theologian, missionary, and author) reminds us that the nature of how Christians understand how to live and act in the world, finds its root in the incarnation of Jesus (God taking on flesh and bone).[1] Newbigin says, “At the heart of the Christian message was a new fact: God had acted.” For Newbigin, God had acted in such a way, that if humans would believe, it now determines how we think about everything. Further he notes (reflecting the words of the early church leader, Athanasius) that the incarnation of Jesus provides a new starting point for all human understanding about the world.[2]

And, as read above, from John 1:1ff says, the logos of the world is unveiled in Jesus. For the Greek culture of the Apostle John’s day (when he wrote his gospel), they believed that the ultimate coherence of the cosmos (the entity or force that gave coherence to the world) was what they called logos. And, John here equates Jesus to the logos.[3]  By saying this, John is trying to indicate that Jesus is the foundation of meaning itself. To speak of the meaning of something, is to speak of God making himself known in Jesus. For the Apostle John, Jesus is identified, not only as the premier source of coherent intelligibility in the world, but also coherent intelligibility itself. John believed Jesus to be meaning, living in human form among the rest of humanity.

To speak of Jesus as the meaning of all things, is not to reduce his life to a tidbit of knowledge. Meaning is not bites of knowledge. Rather, John reveals that meaning looks like Jesus — meaning wrapped in flesh, living after the will of God. Simply put: Jesus is the meaning of meanings. Jesus is God. And, God is also the human of humans. God is Jesus.

James McClendon, a late American theologian) says of the term logos, that it is not used elsewhere in the gospel of John, because the logos is not part of the gospel. Rather, the logos (Jesus) is THE gospel.[4] The logos is a singular way of capturing everything about Jesus: his origin, birth into humanity, signs and wonders, life of 33 years on earth, death, resurrection, and ascension to heavenly reign over the cosmos. The gospel is God’s divine word, mission, and work on a human scale.

To bring this all together, John’s usage of the term logos is a way of capturing that the God of the universe has truly acted in a new way (a new creation act, if you will) through placing his son (God’s life) into the world (human life). This new act of God, when Jesus entered the world, gives humanity a completely new reference point for understanding God (on a human level of understanding); and a new reference point of understanding how God desires humans to live in relation to each other and to the rest of creation. In Jesus, our human understanding is elevated to a new level. Through Jesus, we now can know more fully who God is and how he himself relates to us and others, in the confines of human reality.

Whether it is understanding human relationships, the intricacies of the biological world, or the depths of the cosmos, John’s gospel points us to consider and believe that they all find their coherence and intelligibility in the Son of God: Jesus of Nazareth.


[1] Leslie Newbigin, Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, 4-5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] James McClendon, Doctrine, 289.