This is the opening phrase of The Gospel of John – the Beloved Apostle’s claim that Jesus has always been and will always be. He refers to Jesus as “the Word.” In Jewish thought the Word was seen as the power of God creatively at work in the world, first exemplified in the opening line of the Torah:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen 1:1-3)
John says that the Word was not only with God from the very beginning, but that the Word was God. English translations here clearly reflect John’s claim that Jesus and God were (past tense) one in the same, but the original Koine Greek carries an even deeper meaning. The original form of the word translated in English as “was” is the Greek verb eimi, which claims not only the past, but the present and ongoing future. Jesus and God have always been – and will always be – one in the same.
So, John says, when you read in this gospel about the work of Jesus, you are reading about the work of God. He emphasizes this further in verse 14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory… (John 1:14)
Once again, it’s important to return to the original Koine Greek to capture the full meaning of the verb skenoo, translated as “dwelt.” This same verb is used in the Greek Old Testament versions of Exodus and Zechariah when talking about God dwelling in the desert tabernacle. The Israelites believed the tabernacle was the locus of God’s presence – a presence so full of glory that only the High Priests were allowed to enter into it.
Now, John says, the Word (God’s creative power) became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us. The once restricted glory of God’s presence in the tabernacle has been made visible to everyone through Jesus.
Jesus is God incarnate. Watch Jesus work, and you will see God at work… just as you did in the beginning.