January 05, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



First Lesson; Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Second Lesson; Ephesians 1:3-6

                          Ephesians 1:15-18                              

Sermon Text; John 1:14-18


Our text today is taken from John chapter one, verses fourteen through eighteen.  This is in our Savior's name.


The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory He has as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testified about Him.  He cried out, “This was the One I spoke about when I said, 'The One coming after me outranks me, because He existed before me.'”  For out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God.  The only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father's side, has made Him known.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Let's imagine we are all down on the capitol square, downtown Madison.  We are going to take a tour of the capitol.  (Most of you have probably been in there.)  We are going to walk in through any one of the doors.  As we walk in, we are on the first floor of the capitol building.  We see all of the amazing craftsmanship; the marble, the carvings, the gold leaf, the mosaics.  We look way up high, and are just kind of in awe of this building.

We are going to walk up the first flight of steps.  As we walk up the first flight of steps, we get to the area called The Rotunda.  As you stand in The Rotunda, you can either look down on to the first floor, or you can look up.

We are going to look up, and we are going to see what are called, “Four Mosaics”.  If you turn around, all the way around, you will see these four mosaics that are made out of beautiful, colored tile, thousands of little pieces of colored tile, all put together to make these beautiful pictures.  The four pictures represent the following things. 

-One represents government.  

-Another represents legislation. 

-Another represents liberty. 

-And, the fourth, (and this is the one I want to focus on) represents justice.

So, as you look at the mosaic that represents justice, down at our state capitol, you see it is a picture of a young woman.  On her shoulders she has what we call, “Balancing Scales, The Scales of Justice”. 

Justice is something we expect, and want to happen in this world.  And, we want government to operate according to justice.

What is justice?  Justice is you are treated fairly.  You are treated the way you should be treated.  There is not favoritism.  You are not treated a certain way, because you are more wealthy, or more powerful, or you are less wealthy, or less powerful.  You are all treated fairly.  That is justice.

For thousands of years, justice has been pictured as these Balancing Scales.  Back, thousands of years ago, they were used to weigh things, and figure out how much something weighed.  Let's say we put a bunch of flour in one of the balancing scales.  Then, we would take weights that we knew how much they weighed, and once the scales balanced, then we would know, “OK, that is a pound of flour.”  It was a balance.

We expect justice to happen.  If somebody does something bad, then we expect it would be fair they would, depending upon how bad it was, they would be punished.  That is justice.  If they did a little bad, they would get a little punishment.  If they did a lot bad, they could end up in jail for the rest of their lives.  Justice.

Justice is one of the characteristics, or traits of God.  God is just.  That is who He is.  It is God's character to treat people fairly.  He wants to treat us, as we deserve to be treated.  That is justice.

In fact, if you would go, for example, to the book of Daniel, in the book of Daniel there is an evil king by the name Belshazzar.  He did not believe in the true God.  One day he was having a big party.  It was a drunken party going on.  All of a sudden, this hand appeared.  This huge hand appeared, and wrote across the wall.  The hand wrote:

“You have been weighed in the scales. 

And, you have been found wanting.” 

That night, the Lord brought about justice.  He balanced the scales.  That king had done evil, and God brought about justice.  That king was destroyed that evening.  God operates according to justice.

So now, let's personalize that.  If the LORD were to, right now, pick you up, and put you in the Balancing Scales of Justice, (and me, too), we would sit in one pan.  He would put you there.  He would weigh you.  But, He would not weigh you according to how much you physically weigh, but He would weigh you according to morally, and ethically, how you have behaved according to His Law, and His Will.  Have you loved Him the way you should?  Have you loved Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, all of the time?  Have you loved your neighbor, as yourself?  That scale you are sitting on would flop down to the ground, because it would be filled with wrong things you have done.  God is just. 

God is just.

If you have done wrong things, and that scale is way down on the floor (as it would be with me, and I know it would be with you, too), then God is fair.  Fairness is: 

-That has to be made up for. 

-Punishment has to happen. 

God tells us just how serious that punishment is.  It is a very sobering fact in scripture.  The Bible tells us,

“The soul that sins,

it shall die.” 

The Bible says,

“Cursed is everyone

who does not continue in everything in the book of the law

to do it.” 

We discover the Balancing Scales of Justice say, according God's Law, if you have sinned against God, ultimately you deserve Hell.

That is sobering.  That is the nature of God.  God is just.

But, there is another characteristic of God. 

God is loving. 

As a loving God, it is His nature to love you unconditionally, no matter what you have done, no matter how bad you are, no matter what you look like.  He just loves you, unconditionally.  That is His nature.

And so, God looks at you, and He sees what you deserve, according to His justice.  And in His heart, He loves you unconditionally.  His heart says, “I don't want to send Mark to Hell for all eternity, even though that would be justice

So, what does God do about that?  The Bible tells us,

“God so loved the world

that He gave His One and only Son.”

In order to solve the problem, God sent His Son.  In today's scripture reading, our scripture reading shows us two absolutely foundational things you need to know about Jesus, before we get back to The Balancing Scales.  The two absolutely foundational things are this. 

-Number one: Who is He? 

-And number two: What is His nature?
        -First of all, who is Jesus, this One God sent?  Probably the  most profound statement in all of scripture is found in verse fourteen.  It is four words. 

“The Word became flesh.”

Now, even a little child can understand those words, “The Word became flesh”, and yet the most brilliant person in the world cannot plumb the depth of what those words actually imply, and mean.  They are so deep.

Let's look at them.

“The Word became flesh.”

To understand what John is talking about here, when he says, “The Word became flesh”, we have to know what is The Word.  That takes us to the first thirteen verses of John, chapter one.  You discover in the first thirteen verses of John, chapter one,

The Word is Jesus. 

I want you to listen to how he describes Jesus in those first thirteen verses.  It says,

“In the beginning was The Word...” 

In the beginning.  That takes us way back to before the creation of the world to this pre-existent God. 

“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

Way back before the world ever existed, Jesus existed, and He was God.  He was with God.  He was one of the persons of the Triune God. 

Then, it goes on, and says,

“Through Him everything was made...”

All things were made through Him.

So, Jesus, who existed before the world was ever created, made everything.  He is the all-creative, all-powerful God. 

Then, it goes on, and talks about the fact that eternal life comes through Him.  Christ, God from eternity, who has all power, and all control in His hands, is the only One who can give eternal life.

Then, we get to verse fourteen. 

The Word, (this eternal, all-mighty, all-knowing, unchanging, ever lasting God, The Word), He came.  That is profound.  The Word took on human skin and bones.  The Word became 'sarx' (in Greek)… or 'meat'.  The eternal, almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God became a human being.  This human being who could walk around, touch you, look in your eyes, who could sit on a chair, was the Almighty God who made everything. 

The Word became flesh

(and then John says)

and dwelled among us.” 

Technically, in Greek it says,

“He tabernacled for a while among us.”

Immediately, immediately, when it says, “He tabernacled...” it should take you back in Bible History, back to 1500 BC, when for forty years The Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness.  While they wandered in the wilderness, God told them they were to set up this tabernacle.  It was a tent.  It was a portable tent.  Wherever they went, this tent was to be set up.  It was to be set up in the midst of all of the people, right in the middle of all of the people.  This tabernacle represented the very presence of God, and that God was with them.  Wherever they went, they took this tabernacle, set it up, and God was with them.  It represented the very presence of God.

Now John says,

“The Word became flesh,

and tabernacled among us.”

In other words, that Old Testament tent where God was present was just a picture of Jesus.  People could literally point to Jesus, and say, “There is God among us, walking among us, and in our presence.”

John goes on, and says John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, and said “The One who came after me, is before me.”  That is a riddle, isn't it?  How can Jesus, who came after John, be before him?  Well, John is pointing to the fact that Jesus is the eternal, always existent God.  It goes on, and says,

“No one has ever seen God. 

The only-begotten Son, who is close the Father's side,

has made Him known.”

No one has seen the Father, but the Son has made Him known.  Jesus knows all things about God.  He is God.  He has made everything necessary for us to know be known.

So, foundationally, first of all, scripture lays it out very clear that the human being, Jesus of Nazareth, was not just a human being.  He was God in the flesh. 

Now in and of itself, that is not very comforting.  What is comforting about God having come in the flesh?  What if He came to hurt us?  What if He came to do justice?  What if He came to get even?  What if He came to settle scores?

And so, I want you to see the nature of God, as He has come in the flesh.  Repeatedly, in this scripture reading, John uses the word “grace”.  It says,

“We have seen His glory,

the glory He has as the only-begotten from the Father,

full of grace and truth.”

It says,

“For out of His fullness,

we have all received grace upon grace.”

It says,

“For the Law was given through Moses;

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

So there, over and over, and over again, first of all we are confronted with the fact that from this Man, who is God in the flesh, we receive the fullness of His grace. 

I love how one of the old, church fathers pictured that.  He says, “Imagine you walk outside, and stand in the light of the sun.  You are soaking up the light of the sun.  Do you diminish the brightness of the sun, because you are soaking it up?  No, but what if ten of you stand there, and soak up the sun?  Are you going to diminish the light of the sun by ten of you standing there?  No.  What if a billion of you stand there?  Are you going to diminish the light of the sun by a billion of you standing there?  No.  What if there are a hundred worlds, and they are all soaking up the light of the sun?  Can they diminish the light of the sun?  No, nor can we diminish the grace of Jesus we receive, the fullness of His grace.  Grace is undeserved mercy, and love, as a gift God gives us.  That is the nature of Christ.” 

It goes on, and says,

“...we receive grace upon grace.” 

Again, the same church father pictured it this way.  He said, “Imagine you go to river, and it is a beautiful river that is filled with pure water.  It is filled to the banks, and is flowing with pure water.  You walk up to this pure river, reach in, and take a drink.  Is that going to lessen all of the water that continues to keep coming and coming?  No it just keeps coming and coming.  That is the nature of Jesus.  He is this unending fountain of grace, mercy, goodness, and peace.

So, here we have these two foundational things we know about Jesus. 

        -He is God in the flesh.  He is one of us, but He is God. 

        -Number two, He is absolute grace.  He does what we don't deserve.  He gives us a gift we don't earn, and don't deserve.

Now, I want to get back to those scales.

So, here is me, and my scale.  I have it weighed down, way down to the bottom.  Justice is that I should be punished for what I have done.  That, in and of itself, is a terrifying thought. 

But, look at what happens.  Look who gets in the scale, on the other side.  Here is me in my scale, weighing it down with sin.  In the other side of the scale is God in the flesh.  He steps in to the other side of the scale, for me. 

He steps in to the other side of the side of the scale for me! 

Think about who that is!  He can step in to that scale, because He is one of us.  He is one of us who takes the justice of God.  My sin has to be punished.  So, He steps in to the scale, and He is punished for me. 

We can literally say, “That's God's blood.  That is God suffering.  That is God dying for me.” 

I want you to see what happens.  Jesus gets in on the other side, of my scale, and what happens?  His weight goes down, and mine goes up.  I am forgiven, and I am free from all of my sins! 

That is the basic teaching of all of scripture. 

Most of us who have grown up all of our lives as Christians take that for granted,  But this is so beyond our comprehension that God would do this for us, that God would be so loving, so good, so gracious, so kind, so merciful that He would do this for us.  This is something we never want to grow tired of. 

There is a Bible passage that says,

“He died for all,

that those who live should no longer live for themselves,

but for Him who loved them and gave Himself up for them.” 

So today, let's all recommit ourselves to that concept.  Think about what God did.  “God died for me.  I want to live, not for myself, but for Him who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.”