Of all the men who knew Jesus intimately John stands first and highest. He misunderstood for a time. He failed to understand, as did the others. He did not approach the keen insight into Jesus' being and purpose that Mary of Bethany did. But, then, she was a woman. He was a man. Other things being equal (though they almost never are), woman has keener insight into the spirit and motives than has man. But John stood closer to Jesus than any other. Jesus drew him closer. And that speaks volumes for John's fineness of spirit. He alone of the inner twelve did not forsake in the hardest hour that Thursday night, but went in |with
Jesus.| How grateful must Jesus have been for the presence of His sympathetic friend that black night, with its long intense shadows!
Now John writes about Jesus. And what this closest friend says will be of intensest interest to all lovers of Jesus. But it is of even intenser interest to note keenly when John writes. He waits until the end. He gets the longest range on Jesus that his lengthening years will permit. Distance is essential to perspective. You must get far away from a big thing to see it. The bigger the thing to be seen, the longer the distance needed for good perspective. John shows his early appreciation of the size of Jesus by waiting so long. When all his mental faculties are most matured, when any heat of mere youthful attachment has cooled off, when the eye of the spirit is clearest and keenest, when the facts through long sifting have fallen into right place and relation in the whole circle of truth, then the old man settles to his loving task.
He had been looking long. His perspective has steadily lengthened with the looking years. The object has been getting bigger and bigger to his eyes. He is getting off as far as possible within his earthly span. At last he feels that he has approximately gotten the range. And with the deep glow of his heart gleaming up out of his eyes, he picks up a freshly-sharpened quill to tell folk about Jesus.
As he starts in he takes a fresh, long, earnest look. And so he writes, like a portrait artist working, with his eyes ever gazing at the vision of that glorified Face. He seems to say to himself, |How shall I -- how can I ever begin to tell them -- about Him!| Then with a master's skill he sets out to find the simplest words he can find, put together in the simplest sentences he can make, so simple folk everywhere may read and get something of a glimpse of this Jesus, whose glory is filling his eyes and flooding his face and spilling out all over the pages as he writes.
He is seeing back so far that he is getting beyond human reach. So he fastens his line into the farthest of the far-reaches of human knowledge, the creation, and then flings the line a bit farther back yet. He must use a human word, if human folk are to understand. So he says |beginning.| |In the beginning,| the beginningless beginning, away back of the Genesis beginning, the earliest known to man.
Then he recalls the tremendous fact that when, in the later beginning man knew about, the worlds came into existence, it was by a word being spoken, a creative, outspoken word. The power that created things revealed itself in a few simple words. Then he searches into the depths of language for the richest word he knew to express thought outspoken. And taking that word he uses it as a name for this One of whom he is trying to tell. The scholars seem unable to sound the depths of the word that John in his own language uses. It means this, and beyond that, it means this, deeper yet, and then this. And then all of these together, and more. That is John's word. |In the beginning was the Word.|
Then with a few swift touches of his pen he says, |This was Jesus before He came among men, the man Jesus whom we know.| In the earliest beginning the whole heart and thought of God toward man was outspoken in a person. This person, this outspeaking God, it was He who later became known to us as Jesus. Jesus, away back before the farthest reach of our human knowledge, was God speaking out of His inner heart to us. This Jesus is God speaking out His innermost heart to man. Did you ever long to hear God speak? Look at Jesus. He's God's speech. This One was with God. He was God. It was He who spoke things into being, that creative span of time. Only through Him could anything come into being. All life was in Him, and this life was man's light. It is He who came into our midst, shining in the darkness that could neither take Him in nor hold Him down from shining out.
Every now and then as he writes John's heart seems near the breaking point, and a sob shakes his pen a bit, as it comes over him all anew, and almost overcomes him, how this wondrous Jesus, this throbbing heart of God, was treated. Listen: |He came to His own possessions, and they who were His -- own -- kinsfolk -- and the quiver of John's heart-sob seems to make the type move on the page -- His own kinsfolk received him not into their homes, but left Him outside in the cold night; but -- a glimpse of that glorious Face steadies him again -- as many as did receive Him, whether His own kinsfolk or not, to them He gave the right to become kinsfolk of God, the oldest family of all.|