by Rob Tims
As a grade-schooler in northwestern rural Mississippi, there was very few Saturday mornings that I did not find time to watch “professional” wrestling.
One hundred miles from Memphis, and before the days of cable and remote controls, my options were limited to the likes of Jerry “the King” Lawler, Randy Savage (“2 x 4!”), the Junkyard Dog, and the Rock-n-Roll Express. Yet in my 10-year-old mind, they were glorious.
As I aged, more entertaining (and more beautiful) things found my attention. As my Boy Scout Scoutmaster put it, “I lost my nose for campfire smoke and developed one for perfume.” And once in graduate school, I found little time for much more than work and studies until the summers when I worked for a Christian sports camp for students in grades 4-8. It was during these camps in the late ‘90s I found that many (mostly male) students were as fascinated with professional wrestling as I was when I was their age.
One of the wrestlers that many of the boys talked about at all of the different camps was Bret “the Hitman” Hart. Bret had other monikers you may remember him by, “the Pink and Black Attack” and “The Excellence of Execution,” to name two. Yet one of the most recognizable reasons for his fame was his self-proclaimed divinity: “I am the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
This is essentially what John communicates about Jesus in his opening verses of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
From this passage, I see three ways Jesus is set apart or unique.
First, Jesus preexisted. Before there was a beginning, He was there. As G. L. Borchert states, “Jesus has an origin that supersedes the created order of time and space.” That John would make this the very first thing he says about Jesus highlights just how incredible it is. The only proper way for us to talk about Jesus as a man is to go back beyond His earthly life, all the way to the beginning of creation where He preexisted.
Second, Jesus is distinct from God the Father. Given that Jesus is eternal, you might be tempted to conclude that there is no distinction between Him and God the Father. But you’d be wrong. Jesus (the Word) “was with God.” I’m dipping my toe into the pool of the Trinity at this point but suffice it to say, while each person of the Trinity is fully God and there is only one God, it is also true that God is three distinct persons. This is important in part because of the third thing we learn about Jesus from this passage.
The last thing John tells us about Jesus in these verses is that Jesus is divine. “The Word was God.” Everything that can be said about God the Father can be said about Jesus the Son. We need to be very comfortable with this because without it, Jesus’ death and resurrection have no meaning or purpose for us. It is absolutely essential that Jesus be fully God in order to be an acceptable substitute for our sin. Being fully divine, Jesus was sinless. When He died, He died for the sins of others in their place. His death removed forever the burden of sin from those who believe in Him. Therefore, what John is affirming here is essential for our understanding of what Jesus accomplished in His death. Was He not who John affirmed Him to be, there is no salvation from the wrath of God.
These are weighty, theological things to ponder, but they are also crucial to our faith. As best we are able, we should ponder these things and give glory to God for them. Jesus truly is “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
Minus the spandex and steroids.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.