The celebration of Easter does not end with Easter, of course. The implications of the resurrection of the Son of God are far-reaching, touching on every aspect of human living and careening the universe in a stunning new direction — that of the new creation in which the Father reigns through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the next three weeks, Saint John will explore some of the implications of the resurrection, especially for Christians as they consider how to live in the present and what is in store for us in the future. It turns out that resurrection life defines both dimensions of time for the Christian.
N.T. Wright provides an excellent commentary on this passage. It is worth following the logic of his thinking through 1 John 1 because it is so celebratory, so enthusiastic about the implications of the resurrection for and upon the Church collectively and persons individually. He begins by noting how the ancient Jews believed world history was divided into two periods, or “ages.” There was “the present age,” which was full of misery and suffering, injustice and oppression, and there was “the age to come,” the time when God would sort out the destructive forces enslaving the world and put everything to right. In particular, He would rescue His people from the evil they had suffered.
There have been problems translating the word rendered in English “eternal” or “eternity.” This translation, as opposed to the word “age,” gives the impression John is denoting something “purely spiritual,” and therefore a designation for time completely divorced from the world of space, time, and matter. However, that would be incorrect. “Age” is the preferred translation because it references the “new age,” that is the “age to come” — the age of the Kingdom, about which Christ and, later, Paul and John proclaimed. It is a future referent, not fully present but nevertheless present in part and by degrees.
The important point is with the resurrection of Jesus the Son, “God has provided an advance display of this future! God has kept the age to come under wraps, as it were, waiting to reveal it at the right time.” The announcement circulating among the earliest Christians was that this new age had dawned at the point of the resurrection of Christ. Here is the astonishing part: It happened here on Earth, during the time dimension in which we live. Heaven and Earth overlap in resurrection life and that life was now spilling out of the baptismal font into the lives of the baptized. The future of humanity was being melded to the present in and through Baptism, where resurrection life was being dispensed. It was not merely a quantity of time (i.e., the forever and ever and ever kind-of-life) but a quality of existence — the divine life. Resurrection life is sharing in the life of Christ—the resurrected One—in the here and now. As Wright says, “This is life as it was meant to be, life in its full, vibrant meaning, a life which death tried to corrupt, thwart and kill but a life which had overcome sin and death itself and was now on offer to anyone who wanted it. Life itself had come to life, had taken the form of a human being, coming into the present from God’s future, coming to display God’s coming age. And the name of that life-in-person is of course Jesus.”
Heaven and Earth overlap in resurrection life and that life was now spilling out of the baptismal font into the lives of the baptized.
The very idea of God’s new life becoming a person and stepping forward out of the future into the present is so enormous, so breathtaking, that a tone of wonder, of hushed awe and reverence, becomes appropriate, maybe necessary. That is what we find in these opening verses as they connect Genesis 1 with John 1 and link further still the crucifixion and resurrection in the divine life of God. We knew Him because He was manifest. This word manifest is crucial in 1 Jn 1:1-4. The Son of God does not travel across the cosmos to arrive here after a long journey. No, Heaven and Earth interlock and overlap. It turns out that precisely in the flesh of Christ we find they intersect — God is manifest. And, if that were not stunning enough, there is good news in God showing up (which, if otherwise, could be the most horrifying of all news as we persist in destructive sin). It turns out, we were His friends. In the manifestation of God that is Christ Jesus, we see God’s friendly face.
The combination of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection mean the present is transformed forever.
There is a strong apologetic edge to this celebratory passage, too. “The life has been manifest, has been put on show, has been displayed for all to see and hear (although many prefer not to look or listen). And we who saw it, who knew it, who knew Him, are now eyewitnesses in a law court, speaking to a surprised jury about the utterly remarkable things which we have encountered.” Apologetic, yes. Celebratory, indeed, in every way. The future has been manifested in the resurrected One, and it is full of love and life and joy and real hope. It is something we truly share in because, through baptism, we are united to the resurrected One. And what is true of the resurrected Messiah holds true for those united to Him. There is a shared life for those in Christ Jesus — the fruit and potential of being resurrected people (at least in spirit) in the here and now.
The next theological horizon within this pericope concerns the inner fellowship between the Father and Son. It is worth exploring because it extends to all those who, again, are united to Christ by faith and in grace — even Gentiles. Yes, Gentiles, as they are the others who share in this fellowship of the Father and the Son. But it extends even further. Namely, to those who have not seen with their own eyes or heard with their own ears the manifest One but have come to know Him through the testimony of the Apostolic Word, the illumination of the Sprit, and in the concreteness of the Sacraments.
This “sharing” can be, and is being, extended to anyone and everyone who hears the announcement about Jesus, who have His resurrection life poured into them through Baptism, and who fortify this reality through Holy Communion. You are led into “fellowship” with those who did see, hear, and handle Him. And they, in turn, are in “fellowship” with the Father and the Son, with the two who are themselves the bedrock and model for what fellowship, in this fullest sense, really means. And our fellowship is with them as we commune with Him who is now manifest in, with, and under the Eucharist.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in 1 John 1:1-2:2.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach 1 John 1:1-2:2.