“The First Word” by Jesse H. Pickett
The Greeks loved their plays. They even had a god of poetry and prose whom they called Apollo. Those of you who were raised in my generation will remember the popular late night ‘showtime at the Apollo’ starring Arsenio Hall. The Apollo theatre in Harlem where that show was filmed is named after the greek god alluded to above. It was into that ancient world of drama and theatre that our Lord came, and His story is the greatest drama to ever unfold! One of the four men chosen by God to catalogue that drama was the apostle John, and he begins his story in the precise manner that a Greek play would begin- with what was called the prologue. The word prologue means “the first word”. In the context of a Greek play, the prologue was designed to alert the audience as to who would play the main character. Before the play began, quite literally, the star of the play would be marched to center stage and recount who he was (in character), where he was from and what the ensuing play would be about. The function of the prologue in the Greek play context was to tell the audience to pay special attention to the character placed before them because if the spectator missed him they would miss the point of the whole play. Theologians, then, have appropriately named the first eighteen verses of the gospel of John ‘the Prologue’, because in those introductory verses, John, as it were, marches the Lord Christ onto the stage of human history and tells us rather plainly that if we miss Him, we miss the John’s whole purpose for writing his gospel. Rich christological themes emerge right from the beginning. I can think of no better passage in scripture which answers the questions regarding Jesus identity. The church fathers found this passage to be of utmost use in combating the many ancient heresies which surrounded the Person of Jesus Christ. Whether Arianism which taught that Christ was a created being (currently espoused by the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses) or Modalism (which taught that God was one person who manifests himself in three modes sometimes Father sometimes Son sometimes Holy Spirit currently espoused by oneness Pentecostals, and Harold Campingites), Neo-Platonism (which conceived of an ethereal world where bodiless ideas consisted in a perfect existence) or Gnosticism (which posited that truth could only be ascertained through a secret, ecstatic experience), whether Manicheeism (which viewed the God of the Old Testament to be evil and the God of the New Testament to be good) or Pelagianism (the old heresy of mans basic goodness now manifested in humanism and faithfully preached by the likes of the great theologian Oprah Winfrey) the first eighteen verses of John’s gospel firmly establish Nicaean-Chalcedonian Christianity and refute all who would deviate from it such as those listed above. The lesson– know Who Jesus really is because He is the most important character in history. Maybe next time we will actually get into the text of John, but hopefully this has whet your appetite! Gods Best to you!