“He dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That is how we read it. Or, “He abided with us.” And indeed, the thought is fantastic: amazing. That God Himself should come to dwell among his people. But were we to read closer, we would find that John had even more in mind in that unbelievable verse.
The Greek word calls to mind a picture image: it is not only that God should visit with his people. He did not appear as some Olympian demigod, clothed in splendor and departing at whim in a cloud of golden dust. Instead, he came “and pitched his tent among us.” He was willing to live with us. To pitch his tent with the sweat of his hands and the strain of his back; to set aside the riches of heaven and become a nomad with his nomadic people, who had wandered so far from his love.
It is the fantastic fulfillment of those four blessed words: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). He became flesh. And as he did so, he came and pitched his tent among us. Nothing would keep him from his lost sheep. Not flesh. Not poverty. Not even death.
Yet there is something else there . . . the ghost of a remembrance, the whisper of everything the people of Israel had once heralded with trumpets. It comes in that small phrase which follows the crescendo of the Word becoming flesh, of Jesus Christ coming to dwell among the tents of his people. And that is that “we beheld his glory . . .”
The two images, coming as they do back to back, separated only by a breath, complete the picture that John sets forth: lest we in any fashion forget who it is that has come among us to dwell. “He pitched his tent . . . and we beheld his glory . . .” It is nothing less than the shekinah glory of God. For this was not the first time that God had pitched his tent among us. He had already done so, in the form of a tabernacle in the wilderness, a tented temple holy to the Lord, a tent he had inhabited with his glory as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.