The Incomprehensible Word
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
John the Apostle could not have known the full physical linkage between sound and light — that they are both particles and waves, and therefore inherently linked. However, it could not be mere chance that provoked him to connect these two realities. Perhaps it was the striking idea that when God spoke, light came forth and it overwhelmed the void. John uses a particular word to describe the supremacy of the Word – who is the Light – “katalambano,” which is sometimes translated “overpower” ; however, it carries with it the connotations of “comprehend” or “perceive.” This word makes the connection complete. In the same way that light cannot be overpowered by the darkness, neither can the Word be fully comprehended.
This incomprehensibility of the Word is an affront to our modern mind, and yet it is a gift to us as a statement of His Lordship. In the Western mindset, to comprehend — to know with certainty through experimentation and observation — amounts to a kind of mastery. Knowledge is not simply prized. As the old adage says, “Knowledge is power.” Paul knew this when he wrote to the Corinthians,
“Knowledge makes arrogant [puffs up],
But love edifies [builds up].”
In obtaining knowledge, we create a ladder of understanding and then take the highest position as administrators. We begin a crusade of mastery of that knowledge — the discovery of useful applications. When properly stewarded, knowledge can help us fulfill our first assignment to subdue the earth. However, it can also assist men in exploiting their brother. In either case, the nature of knowledge is to assist in ruling.
When we come to the Word, however, we are confounded. In Him, we are limited in our domination by He who is limitless. The extent of His boundaries are too vast to be observed, categorized, and conquered, each attribute unfathomable in its depth, unsearchable in its height. His wealth of personhood gives rise to an interminable frustration that philosophies have been battling for all of human history: the search for a universal reality that brings a wholeness to the restless mind in pursuit of an explanation. The philosophies of our day have cried out at the unfairness of incomprehension, and are leading a revolt — the rejection of an ultimate authority that they cannot fully grasp, traded in for a system of subjective boundaries based on personal preferences.
Is this not the uprising of Psalm 2, not fundamentally military, but philosophic? The former will result out of the latter,
“The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
‘Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!'”
But the response of Heaven is the same here as it is in John 1,
“But as for Me, I have installed My king [the Word]
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
The Word answers these cries with who He is.
He is the incomprehensible God. Uncontainable and unconquerable, He stands as Lord. In our confusion, we declare we will yield when we understand. But as we have seen above, this kind of understanding does not know submission, only rulership.
Most importantly, the Word is not simply unsearchable because He contains inconceivable ideas — but He is a person.
Philosophies and religions are overthrown by ideas and words, but a person is overthrown by love.
And is this not clearly shown in the cross? The Word, final and full, becomes a man — fully in love with humanity, He freely gives Himself to us. Where knowledge would seek to gain access by force, we are given access through the posture of submission and surrender.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… Who among men can know the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in Him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he should instruct him? But we have been given the mind of Christ.”
1 Cor. 2:11-12, 16
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
1 Cor. 13:12
For though we cannot know the Word fully, we can know Him truly.