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Referring to another person in an impersonal way, is either a deliberate mark of disrespect, or a clever way of introducing a creature of horror. A Queen saying, “You will remove that ‘thing’ from my presence,” is an example of the first, and Stephen King’s child-frightening character ‘It’, is a classic example of the second. (I could give personal examples from my childhood about speech referring to brothers or sisters, but some things are best left forgotten!)
What a strange way then, the Apostle John starts his first letter. He is obviously speaking about Jesus and giving testimony to three years of close contact with the Carpenter from Nazareth – fishing with Him at Galilee, worshipping with Him at Capernaum, drinking with Him at Cana. And yet he begins the letter with this sentence: “That which was from the beginning.” At first reading it seems that John will speak about an impersonal subject, but then it becomes unmistakable that he is speaking about his Master.
The apostle is not being rude, but rather revelatory. He is giving the hint that what he is about to speak of is not just the Carpenter, but Someone more than a carpenter. The Source of Life. The Son of God. The Saviour of the World. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” And so He is.
DM 25th September 2021