Who was Jesus before he was Jesus? Does that sound like a peculiar question?
When an angel told Joseph he was going to have a son, he was told to name his son Jesus. But we believe Jesus existed before he was born. Who was he then? It is similar to the question, What existed before God created the universe? The Bible answers this question. It tells us that the Word existed with God before creation. It tells us Jesus is the Word.
Psalm 33 poetically says:
The Lord merely spoke,
and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
and all the stars were born.
Here in this Psalm we are reminded of what it says in Genesis. God spoke, and there was light.
The Gospel of John opens with this explanation:
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Who was Jesus before he was Jesus? He was the Word.
Here is where we need to pause. It is too easy to skip on by and not pay much attention. We might have a mental image of God saying a ‘word’. We might be impressed that he can create a universe just by speaking, just by breathing a word. It sounds so gentle, so casual.
What is this word that God speaks?
The word is actually ‘logos’ in Greek. In Hebrew it is ‘dâbâr’. Before he was Jesus, he was Logos. Most of us know that logos is Greek for word. We also know that in Jesus the Word became a person (John 1:14).
“So the Word became human and made his home among us.”
John opens his Gospel by telling us that Jesus is the Logos. We have to remember this as we read the Gospel, because he doesn’t say it again. It is, however, behind all he says.
Once upon a time there was a man named Heraclitus. He lived in Ephesus, where John was writing his Gospel, about 600 years earlier. Heraclitus was the founder of science. He taught that man needs to probe and learn about the world by asking ‘the reason why’. Heraclitus invented scientific enquiry. He looked for laws and logic. The word that Heraclitus used for ‘the reason why’ was Logos. He was famous for the cryptic utterance that ‘all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos.’
When he looked at life, he looked for the Logos. When he studied weather, he looked for the Logos. Heraclitus always sought the reason behind what took place, and he called this Logos.
That is why we call the study of different areas of science biology, or sociology, or geology.
So you see, in Ephesus when John was writing his Gospel the word Logos didn’t simply mean ‘word’. To say Jesus was the Logos was to say Jesus was the ultimate ‘reason why’ everything happened.
But there is more.
There was, a few hundred years after Heraclitus, a famous university in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Because of the large number of Jewish scholars in the city it was particularly skilled at combining Greek and Hebrew thinking. This is where the Old Testament was translated into Greek.
Philo was one of the professors involved in the translation. Professor Philo insisted that the word Logos was not ‘it’, but should always be spoken of as ‘he’. Philo personified Logos in much the same way that Proverbs personified wisdom as a woman.
John takes these two understandings and combines them. Logos is not just ‘the reason why’ at the root of everything, Logos is a person. Logos is not just any person, but he is Jesus.
God had a reason for creating the universe. That reason is Logos. The reason existed before God began to create. Later on, the Logos took on flesh and became a person. The name given to that person is Jesus.
In the beginning the Logos was the reason that God created pairs. God’s creation is deliberately bipolar – heaven and earth, man and woman. But not good and evil.
When heaven and earth are joined together in Jesus, the glorious intention for the whole creation is unveiled, reaffirming the creation of male and female in God’s image. Jesus has come as the Bridegroom, the one for whom the Bride has been waiting. John says we are the Bride of Christ. Jesus came for us, to unite us with himself.
The Logos is God himself come into the world. The ideal of the perfect human has become the reality of the perfect human in Jesus.
The Bible is not the word of God in this sense. Jesus is the word of God.
Understanding this is vital to understanding all that John writes. Jesus is not about moral principles or finding out who you really are. There is no comfort that you are OK.
Jesus shows us that we are wrong. The Logos is the standard against which we must be measured. As soon as we look at the Logos we see how far we are fallen.
The arrival of the Logos into this world brought judgement. Of course he also brought love. He walked among us and showed us that we are not OK. We need to be changed. He offers us the way to be changed.
We too were made in the image of God. What is the reason for our suffering? It is the Logos.
We were not created to live without a relationship of love with our creator. The Bible is clear, and Jesus clearly shows us what the Logos looks like when he is clothed in flesh. He is love and he does what he sees God do. He is one with God.
We see now how we should be. We should be one with God, for the Logos is also the pattern for our lives.
Another way of looking at the Logos is like God’s blueprint for making children. Like DNA perhaps. When he made his children in his image, the image was the Logos. That blueprint was imprinted on our beings at the moment of our creation. We cannot have any true satisfaction in our lives while they are contrary to the blueprint.
While we are out of tune with God’s plan and purpose for our life, we will never know complete peace or joy. Our purpose is to be like Jesus. Our purpose is to be the Logos of God in the flesh in this world.
Jesus purifies us of all the dirt and evil that corrupts us. He washes away all the parts of our life that are not the Logos, and sets us free to be the Logos. He is the Logos.
Before he was Jesus, he was the Logos. One day we shall join him in that place where we are all created to live with God. That perfect city of the new Jerusalem that John tells us about in his book of Revelation.
Logos is not just the word. It is so much more. Understanding this will help us.
The Logos is Jesus. The Logos is God’s perfect plan for you and me. The Logos is the reason why. It is the word which judges the world and saves the world, the word now turned into flesh. Don’t patronize it; don’t reject it; don’t sentimentalize it; learn the language within which it makes sense.