In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to Him, and cried, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for He was before me.’”) And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(Gospel on Great and Holy Pascha)
Christ is Risen!
The first chapter of John’s Gospel serves as both prelude and summary to his entire Gospel. Thus, it is very in line with the theme of a new beginning, as the journey of Holy Week comes to an end while Pascha calls us to a renewed start. The Gospel of John must have been inspired by the Holy Spirit for how could anyone so succinctly and powerfully summarize the entire Gospel in but a few verses.
Verses 1-3 affirm Christ’s identity as co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as well as co-creator with them. The term “The Word of God” is ascribed to the second person of the Trinity, who would later become incarnate as Jesus Christ. (Jesus was His earthly name, and Christ is the title of the Messiah). We read that the Word was in the beginning with God, and nothing was created that didn’t involve the Word as part of the creation process.
Verses 6-8 speak of John the Baptist, the one who came “to bear witness to the Light,” though “He was not the Light.”
Verse 11 speaks of Christ’s rejection by His own people, as we read “He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not.” Verse 12 speaks to the universal message of the Gospel as well as the opportunity for people to come to Christ and to be saved by Him, not just the Jews: “But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.” That is a powerful statement—that if we receive Christ, we become His children. We are not merely His subjects or His servants, but His children. You can be a child of God! I can be a child of God!
The Incarnation is summarized in verse 14 with five simple words: “And the Word became flesh.” This means that the Word of God took human form to live amongst His creation. This is the most succinct description of the Nativity—that the Word of God came to live among His creation. “We beheld His glory” describes all the things that Christ did that no one else ever did—the miracles, the healing of the blind, the raising of the dead, the other “Messianic signs.” Humanity beheld His glory at the Transfiguration, the Resurrection and the Ascension.
Verses 16-17 speak of how Christ supersedes the Law and the Old Covenant. For the Law was about rules and regulations. Eventually the Law became oppressive. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” And through Christ, we continually receive “grace upon grace.” Grace and truth are not oppressive. They are soothing, reassuring and build confidence.
Holy Week has served as a summary of the history of mankind. We’ve heard about the Creation, the Fall, and the redemption of the world through the saving Passion of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. Pascha now extends an invitation to partake in the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ, with renewed purpose and renewed focus. We haven’t just marched through the Passion story just to re-enact it and retell it. We’ve made this journey so that we can recommit to living as children of God. The end of Holy Week should not leave us thinking, “Well we’ve had our fill of grace for now,” but rather should leave us hungering for more of God’s grace and truth.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life. (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2013)
Make a renewed start today! Which means that not only is today a day for spiritual growth, but tomorrow needs to be as well!