Saturday, February 5, 2011

Withness: the God of Bosom

John calls Jesus "the Word." Using that name, John reveals who Jesus is. He is the divine person who was with the Father before creation. He is the divine person who became a man.
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 any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Considering John’s original Jewish audience, this style of writing was intended to remind readers of Genesis 1, "In the beginning, God created." John is indicating that the Word is God by showing that the Word preceded creation and "all things were made through him." Then John says it directly, "the Word was God."

By identifying the Word as Jesus and saying the Word became flesh, we know that the Word is a man, a person with human nature.
 
With

John also says, "the Word was with God." Does it make sense to say that one person is with himself? What does John want us to understand by saying not only that the Word was God, but that the Word was with God?  What does withness add to our understanding of who Jesus is?

Withness means a difference of persons by showing their fellowship. When John says "the Word was with God," he reveals the Father and the Son as different persons who are fellowshipping together. The combination of "was God" and "with God" shows the Trinity. The Father is God. The Word is God. The Word is with God. The Father and Son are different persons but still one God.

Face to Face

There are thirteen words in the Greek New Testament that are all translated into English as "with." John uses a particular one of those when he says "the Word was with God." The English word washes color out of picture. The phrase could be translated, "the Word was facing towards God," or the Word was "face to face with God," meaning that the Word had a "living relationship, intimate converse," with God.

Richard C. H. Lenski, a linguist, explains John’s meaning this way:
The idea is that of presence and communion with a strong note of reciprocity. The Logos [Word], then, is not an attribute inhering in God, or a power emanating from him, but a person in the presence of God and turned in loving, inseparable communion toward God, and God turned equally toward Him. He was another and yet not other than God. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943, p. 32).
Bosom

As revealing as Greek word study can be, the truth of Jesus is clear enough in our English translations. John says:
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:18)
Withness means that Jesus is in the bosom of the Father. Here is a word we can see, we can handle, we can touch. Here is a word we know: bosom.  Jesus is in the bosom of the Father. Skip the dead illustrations of the Trinity and get sight of this picture: bosom.

By this we understand the Trinity for sure. John could not be saying that the words Father and Son are just two titles for one person so that the Father is in His own bosom. No, one person is in another’s bosom. God is the God of bosom, the Triune God.

Bosom and Betrayal

John uses the word "bosom" another time where a contrast highlights what "bosom" is.
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said,"Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. (John 13:21-26)
Betrayal and bosom. Such a contrast! Judas in betrayal of Jesus while John is in the bosom of Jesus. See the intimacy of John leaning on Jesus’ bosom, turned toward Him, face to face, speaking and being spoken to, asking a secret and being told a secret, a momentous secret. Even Peter is not leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Only John is. Only John is told. Peter must ask John. This gives some picture to our physical eyes of how, in the spiritual realm, the only begotten Son is in the bosom of the Father.

A Lamb like a Daughter

The prophet Nathan, when confronting David over his sin with Bathsheba, used the word "bosom" in a tender image.
Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. (II Samuel 12:1-3)
That lamb lay in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Jesus, Lamb of God, is in the bosom of the Father, and He is son to Him.

Through the Trinity, we know who Jesus is. Lord, let the sight of Jesus in the bosom of the Father touch our hearts.

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