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Good News - John 1:1-5

Last week the main take away from my devotional was that we need to focus on the good around us.  In an attempt to practice this, I want to start a series on the gospel.  Gospel simply means good news.  The four gospels in our scriptures (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) are the good news, the message of Jesus.  With that being said, focusing on the gospel seems appropriate if we are attempting to focus on the good around us.  Let's use the Gospel of John for this study. 

This week we will read John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When Jesus and John were growing up, the average Jewish person no longer knew Hebrew well, if at all.  The common language was Aramaic.  The Hebrew scriptures were translated into the common language so that everyone knew what they were talking about when they would read from the scriptures during a service.  These translations were called Targums.  They were paraphrases and each was a little different because they were translated by the local Rabbi.  Despite their many differences there is a common theme found among them in relation to the passage above.  The word "Memra" is translated into English as "Word".  In the Targums "Memra" is used in place of the word for God every time God is physically present in some way.

Memra did all of the creating in Genesis.

We were created in the image of Memra.

Memra walked the garden of Eden.

Abraham spoke with and made a covenant with Memra.

Memra spoke through a burning bush to Moses.

The examples are nearly endless, but just about anytime God's presence is physical, or God is anthropomorphized then you have the word Memra replacing the words for God or Lord.  This means that the verses that we read from John are not as off in left field as they seem at first.  John had grown up on the Targums, and he knew that the Jewish tradition recognized something special and unique about the times that God was physically present.  Once he realized that Jesus was divine, he realized he was sitting in the presence of the Memra!

Early in my faith journey I struggled to see why the scriptures would not come out and clearly say that Jesus was God.  The hints seemed to be there, but why wasn't it in your face obvious.  Learning about Jewish oral traditions and the Aramaic Targums helped me close this gap.  When John will later identify Jesus as the Word, John is without a doubt claiming that Jesus is God.

In closing I want to focus on these last two verses of our reading.  John is the last of the four gospels written.  John was in exile on the Island of Patmos as he wrote these words.  He watched as all of the other disciples were brutally murdered.  He watched as the Roman soldiers marched on the Temple of God and tore it to pieces and set up a statue of the emperor in place of the Ark of God.  He watched as the followers of Jesus were rounded up and killed like dogs.  He saw the followers of Jesus grow in numbers, but he also watched as they had to meet in secret and hide their faith to save their lives.  In those dark days he started with this:  In Jesus is light and life and that light shines into the darkness.  The darkness has not won!  

Today, I say the same thing to you.  In Jesus you will find light, warmth, and life.  The light of Christ shines on this dark world and though it may seem engulfed in darkness, the light still shines.  Carry on warrior, let your light shine, change the world, love with ferocity, and don't give up!

The Memra be with you,
and with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Memra.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right and just.


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