1 John 1:1-4
If I were to ask you to describe an influential person you knew several years ago, or to describe a close friend you have not seen in years, where would you begin? Most of us might begin with a description of the time and setting of our friendship or encounter and some of the more salient descriptive details. We might describe where we were, what they did for a living, people’s perception of that person, their career, their family, etc.
If we were really close to them, or they made a profound impact on us personally, we might begin with our experience of the person.
In his first epistle, John does a little of both. Maybe 40-50 years after Jesus’ death there has been plenty of time for the apostles and the Church to build theology around Him and who He was. There have been decades of teaching about Christ and encountering heresies that threatened to split congregants away from the true faith. And in 1 John, the author draws on much of that in order to correct some of the problems he sees in the congregation to which he writes.
One of the burdens of 1 John is to answer questions like, “Who is Jesus?” and “How do we identify Christianity among all the competitors?” So John fills his readers ears and heads with plenty of foundational theology. Just in these first few verses we encounter the crucial realities of Jesus as eternally existent God (“from the beginning”) and fully incarnate man (“made manifest”). John points out that we, as Christians, cannot give one inch of our Christology-Jesus was fully God and fully man; He was God in the flesh reconciling the world to Himself.
But the thrust of John’s description in this opening section is his personal experience of the person Jesus Christ. Note the almost redundant usage of sensory language-heard, seen, looked, touched, seen, seen, heard. Jesus was a real person in real time touching the lives of real people.
John’s first recollection of Jesus-the first method of communication John uses-is to say, “I touched him!”
Our discipleship should be filled with experience. We should be able to draw close to Christ, knowing who He is and paying close attention to the details of our doctrine, but at the same time touching, seeing, and feeling Him.
If you were to describe to someone who Jesus is, would you be able to begin where John began?