Begin 1 John and your mind should jump to other Biblical passages, namely John 1 and Genesis 1. “That which was from the beginning…” mirrors the opening phrases of Genesis “In the beginning, God created…” and of John’s Gospel “In the beginning was the Word.” In Genesis the focus is on the God who speaks, calling out creation each day and exercising creative kingship over the universe. In John’s Gospel, the focus is not on the God who speaks as much as the God who IS speech, the Word (logos) who was before God and who is God. Now in this first letter of John, the focus is not on the Word’s Speaker or the Word Spoken directly, but on the the Word experienced by John and the apostles. The Word is not impersonal or merely some kind of cosmic energy or the good side of the Force…but rather is heard, has been seen by “our eyes” (not the eyes of the mind, mind you, or the great “eye of faith”, but real round human eyes), was touched by their hands as they walked the shores of Galilee and through the crowded streets of pilgrim-populated Jerusalem. Here (as opposed to the Gospel where John takes 14 verses to bring the Word out of eternal glory into a real tabernacle of human flesh) John orients us to the reality of the Word. Yes, the Word is life, but this is not to be thought of as a kind of impersonal spiritual power that can be tapped into (perhaps with secret “knowledge”?) as we pursue our own spiritual perfections. The Word isn’t a sacred Green Lantern for a quick spiritual recharge to escape and fight this evil material world on our way to demigod status.
No, the Word is Jesus. One touched by hands, seen by eyes, heard, witnessed.
And the reason John reminds us of all this not to brag about his great experiences or remind us that we can no longer see Jesus like he could. Because this Jesus was real, their proclamation to us now, those once removed (or 2000 years removed) gives us fellowship. The connection between John and these readers is that they have shared in experiencing Jesus, the Word of Life. One experienced directly, but now we share in it as we accept the apostolic proclamation of the Word of life to us. And this fellowship goes deeper than readers-apostle, no, “our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” We may not touch Jesus as John did, but as we receive his word about the Word, we share fellowship with this manifested Life as well.
And by writing to remind us of such, our joy indeed should be filled.