And then John adds a tremendous bit. He had just been talking about Jesus being full of that great combination of grace and truth. Now his thought runs back to that. Listen: "Of His fullness have we all received."
There's another translation of this sentence that I have run across several times. It reads in this way: "Of His skimpiness have we all received." I never found that in common print; only in the larger print of men's lives. But in that printing it seems to have run into a large edition, with very wide circulation. Men don't read this old Book of God much; less than ever. They get their impression of God wholly from those who call themselves His followers.
They watch the procession go by. Here they come crippled diseased maimed weakened in body, piteously pathetically crutching along, singed and burned with the flames of the same low passion that the onlooking crowds know so well, struggling, limping, crutching along bodily and in every other way.
And that's a crowd with very keen logic, those onlookers. It judges God by those bearing His name, very properly. And it says more or less unconsciously, -- "What a poor sort of God He must be those people have. No doubt He has a great job of management on His hands. There are so many of them to provide for. And apparently there can't be any abundance, certainly no overflow, no surplus. He has to piece it out the best He can to make it go as far as possible."
"I think maybe I needn't be in any hurry to join that crowd, at least till I have to, along towards the end of things here. There would only be one more to carry. He has such a crowd now. And the resources are pretty badly strained, judging by appearances." So the crowd talks. Poor God! How He is misrepresented by some walking translations. "Of His skimpiness -- -!" Be careful. Don't take too much. Be grateful for the crumbs.
Please clean your spectacles, and readjust them carefully, and if you are afflicted with the small-print Bible that seems in such common use, get a reading-glass and look here at the proper translation. That crutching, leather-bound translation is grossly inaccurate, if it is in such big print, and in such wide circulation. Look here. Can you see the words? This is the only correct reading: "Of His fullness have all we received." Put that into the print of your life, for your own sake and for the crowd's sake, yes, and for God's sake, too, that the crowd may know the kind of a God God is.
And as if John had a suspicion about possible bad translations, he did a bit of underscoring. That word fullness is underscored in John's original copy. It's a heavy underscoring, in red. The underscoring is in three words he adds: "Grace for grace." That is, grace in place of grace. It's a sort of picture. Some grace has been received. And it is so wondrous that nothing seems so good. And the man is singing as he goes about his work.
Then comes a sudden soft inrushing of a flood of grace so great that it seems to displace all that was there. Oh! the man didn't know there was such grace as this. It seems as if he had never known grace before. And the work-song is hushed into a great stillness, though the wondrous rhythm of peace is greater than before.
And then before he quite knows how it happens in comes another soft subtle inrushing flood-tide of grace that seems to displace all again. Some temptation comes, some sore need, some tight corner. You look to Him; lean on Him; risk all on His response. He responds; and in comes the fresh inrush.
And then this sort of thing becomes a habit, God's habit of responding to your need, need of every sort. It becomes the commonplace, the blessed commonplace that can never be common. That's John's underscoring of the word "fullness." May the crowds whose elbows we jostle get this underscored translation, bound in shoe-leather, your shoe-leather.
Then in his eagerness to make us understand the thing really, John makes a contrast. "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." The law was a thing, given, through a man. Grace and truth was a man coming, the very embodiment in Himself of what the two words stand for.
The law, the old Mosaic law, was not a statement of the full message of God. That was given much earlier. It was given to all. It came directly. It was given first in Eden, in its flood; and then continuously to every man wherever he was. It was given within each man's own heart, and through the unfailing flooding light in nature above and below and all around. The tide of its coming has never ceased in volume nor in steadiness of flow; and does not cease. That tide came to flood in Jesus. And that flood has never known an ebb.
But men's eyes got badly affected. They didn't let the light in, either clearly or fully. The light was there, but it was not getting in. Something had to be done to help out those eyes. So the law was given. It was merely a mirror to let a man see his face, what it was like.
Here's a mother calling to her little son, "Come here and let me wash your face." And he calls out, "It isn't dirty." "Yes, dear, it is very dirty, come at once." "Why, no, mother, it isn't dirty; you washed it this morning." And the child's tone blends a hurt surprise and a settled conviction that his mother is certainly wrong this time about the condition of his face.
And if the mother be of the thoughtful brooding kind, she says nothing, but gets a hand mirror, and holds it before the child's face. That will always get a child's attention. And the boy looks; he sees his dirty face reflected. The blank astonishment on his face can't be put into words. It tells the radical upsetting revolution in his thought on that subject. How could it have happened that his face got into that condition! And the washing process is yielded to at least; possibly even asked for.
That's what the law did and does. It showed man his face, his heart, his need. It brings upsetting revolutionary ideas regarding one's self. There it stops. That's its limit. Then the Man who in Himself is grace and truth does the rest.