“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…” 1 John 1:1 ESV
John’s Unique Perspective
John’s perspective is very different from that of the other writers in the New Testament. His relationship with Jesus was far closer than many of us may even begin to understand. The fact that Jesus entrusted his mother, Mary, into John’s care is an indicator of how Jesus felt about John. John even uses the moniker of being the “disciple whom Jesus loved” throughout his gospel five different times. There was a closeness to this their relationship giving John’s insights and words a weightiness unique to him.
John’s introduction also sets a distinct tone for the letter. John is not merely interested in arguing with his readers. He decides to speak from a more fundamental point of view. For better or for worse, the apostle understood that conviction must be based on more than reason. An experience has the power to affect us far deeper than shear force of will or thought.
Four Steps Toward Faith
In this opening verse we will see John makes four declarations of why he is convinced of Jesus’ work. He will say more in verse 2 (which we will get to next time), but for now he begins to set the stage of his own conviction for faith in the Word of Life. We will look at the four statements John offers to here.
First, that “which we have heard.” John begins with something that, at first appears to be simple, but when we consider what Paul said about faith, a bridge of ideas begins to take shape. Faith comes by…hearing. That Paul told the Romans (10:17). What we hear, many times, is our first introduction to is there to be known, to what we can experience in life. We can hear more initially than we see. That is why we get startled, we hear something we can’t see and therefore, respond in fear and surprise. John is pointing to both of these realities. We hear and are introduced to new things. But, we continue to hear and this causes our minds to wonder about what things caused the sounds. They may not yet exist in front of us, but the sounds provides us with our first evidence that there is something else out there.
Second, that “which we have seen with our eyes.” This second declaration shows how John was not merely talking about something someone else had told him about. John had been a witness of the person and ministry of Jesus. Seeing is the verification we look for when we hear things we struggle to believe. When John saw Jesus and what he was doing, what he had heard was confirmed and affirmed. Our minds are wired to bring together what we hear and what we see. It has to “make sense.” There has to be a correspondence between the sense in order for our minds to remain settled.
Third, that “which we looked upon.” I struggled with this declaration because it is so closely related to the second one. It involves the eyes, but there is something else intended here. The implication appears to be that what John heard and saw had to then be considered. John “looked upon” Jesus. John studied and contemplated all that was taking place in front of him because at the end of the process a decision needed to be made. John knew that if what he saw, heard, and considered was leading down a particular path, he would not be able to escape the decision that was waiting at the end of the road.
Fourth, that which we “have touched with our hands.” The final declaration John offers coincides with, what I believe, was John’s acceptance of what he had heard, seen, and contemplated. John had “touched” Jesus. And while there is a physical reality present in this declaration, John is taking us deeper. When the Bible describes touching, the idea is that of identification. For a Jewish person, touching unclean things made them unclean. So, for John to use this image as his final declaration is a strong indicator of the choice and commitment he made. The apostle was not merely paying lip service to Jesus and his work. John was proclaiming, in as clear and bold a manner as he could that his allegiance was with Jesus.
John’s four declarations can serve as a way of discerning where we are in our own journey of faith. Each of these declarations speaks to a step we must take. Steps that bring us closer to the point of decision and deepening levels of commitment.
Until we are ready to touch Jesus, and then reach out our hands to do so, until then we have not reached the point of complete surrender to Jesus. We must all decide to identify with Jesus for ourselves. It is this commitment that will help us to serve Jesus as he deserves. But, this commitment will also help us to know that we can have confidence in the decision we have made in the Word of Life.