Section Eight: John, Light that Leads to Life
The Gospel of John has the word “light” within its verses 24 times. In this Gospel, the word light is quite significant when it comes to Jesus Christ in John’s mind and in his recollections of Jesus.
The theme of light is one that is necessary to understand because it is a key word picture in the Gospel of John, the other biography of Jesus of Nazareth. John is an oddball when it comes to the biographies of Jesus because he thinks and writes “to the beat of his own drum” and writes at times in a poetic fashion (see John 1). It does not make his biography of Jesus any less true…just different. In John’s Gospel, we see him emphasizing the light that Jesus brings into the world because it directly relates to the LIFE that God has been offering.
The Apostle John (son of Zebedee and brother to James; also the one who wrote 1, 2, 3 John and Revelation) begins his Gospel by talking all about light. John 1:4 tell us plainly, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (NIV 1984). Just so you are aware, this idea was not new with the Apostle John. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah, speaking about the future house of God and the future state of His people with the Messiah in view, says “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:5, NIV 1984).
Before we get to the light and LIFE that Jesus brings, we have to understand that darkness and death existed in the world. We cannot dismiss this spiritual fact. John 1:5 tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” and “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:10). The “not understanding” and the “not recognizing” are directly related to the fallen nature of human beings. Thus, the world is dark. The world is full of death. Thus, light needs to be brought into the world. LIFE needs to be brought into the world.
Just a few chapters over from Chapter 1, the Apostle John continues thinking about Jesus and light and records for us the words of Jesus, John 3:19-21 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (NIV 1984). Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah King who is the Son of God and expresses the Holy Conscience, is the light of the world…for what purpose?
Jesus is Light
The Apostle John identifies Jesus as the light (salvation from God) because it directly relates to the LIFE that God has been offering in the dark world (sin-filled world). We must not forget that God has always been about offering LIFE. Throughout the Bible we see the offer as it is continually made through covenants, miracles, prophets, and ultimately though the life and light of Jesus. Offering LIFE is what He does.
Remember in Genesis and the Tree of Life? Remember Deuteronomy 30:15-20 where Moses sets before the people of God life and death and urges them to choose LIFE and to love God? Remember and reflect on verses like Proverbs 12:28 which remind us, “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality” (NIV 1984, emphasis added). The ESV emphasizes it a little different by saying, “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Proverbs 12:28, emphasis added).
Why do we mention this? We mention this because verses like John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV 1984) is not a statement by Jesus made in a vacuum or without context. Statements by Jesus, like John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (ESV), are no accident and communicate what God has been doing all along since the Garden of Eden (and if you want to get theologically technical…well before that). Jesus came into the dark world as light and offers “immortality” and “no death”…a continuation of the offer God has been making all along. The offer of LIFE is one that God continues to offer through faith in His Son and expressed through His people the Church (we will see that soon).
The offer of LIFE from God is best and most fully expressed by the giving of His Son. The path of righteous is the WAY of Jesus, which led Him directly to the cross, through the grave, and ascended into Heaven. The cross most specifically is where we see His life and His light overcoming death and darkness. Those of us who talk about Jesus and His crucifixion tend to make the cross about saving us (which it is), but it is really about how His light shines even in death.
You cannot force the Truth to go away.
You cannot cover it in darkness and think its light will no longer shine.
The truth of who God is will never pass away because He has been consistent throughout all of human history. He has been working towards His perfect chief end the whole time. We can fully trust and put our faith in that fact. God proves this is His end (offering LIFE) because it is shown through the light of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus is Light in the Kingdom of Light
Through the cross Jesus has and is bringing forth a Kingdom of Light! What is this Kingdom of Light we are talking about? We have already discussed that in John 1 and in other passages the Apostle John poetically and theologically frames existence in terms of light and darkness.
The world is darkness and evil and death.
The world is apart from God.
Heaven is light and holiness and LIFE.
The Church is with God.
Jesus is the source of light (and LIFE) within that Kingdom of Light here on earth.
The Church is the extension Kingdom of Light.
Jesus Christ, as the source of light for the Kingdom, is the exact imprint of God’s nature. In fact, John 1:14 explains to us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NIV 1984). God is fully expressed in Jesus Christ. God’s purposes are fully expressed in Jesus Christ. God used Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to His people to transform their hearts and minds in the Kingdom of Light (see also Romans 5:1-5 and Romans 8:29 for similar thoughts).
Jesus Christ has ushered believers into the Kingdom of Light where LIFE in Him is the way of life and spiritual reality. To have LIFE, is to share in God’s life giving ways. To have LIFE, means His divine holy character is working in us and transforming us. To have LIFE, means we turn away from darkness and death towards God in repentance and He gifts us with His Spirit. Thus, we become children of light. Even the Apostle Paul agrees with the Apostle John on this when he faithfully writes, “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:12, NIV 1984). Jesus Christ is the beginning and source of this Kingdom of Light and the perfect representative of God who gives God all the glory for salvation.
As we are thinking about this Kingdom of Light, we should not forget the Apostle Paul’s words to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13, ESV). The goal of the Christian in the Kingdom of Light is to be the image of Christ. If that is not our goal in being a Christian, what is the point of following Christ? The Scriptures further remind us (2 Thessalonians 1) that, when Jesus Christ returns, the fullness of His glory will be revealed and some of that glory will be reflected in His glorified saints. Glorified saints will bear His image completely because of repentance and the gift of life given to them.
Lies. It had to be a lie. How could she be pregnant? What good would come of this? How could she put such a thing on God? It was not something he had ever heard of before. What possible reason could she have for spinning a tale of an angel messenger and pregnancy and the Messiah? Only questions. Only heart hurting questions. She had just told him something earlier that evening that had changed his world and it seemed quite fantastic. Fantastic meaning “hard-to-believe” and not fantastic as in “over-the-top joy.”
It was night time and the man sat on the edge of his bed and just rocked back and forth. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to think? What would God want him to do? It was dark outside and seemed even darker in his room. He thought perhaps it might be best to send her into a neighboring region and allow her to live there for awhile. A quiet divorce. Nothing shameful. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to think? What would God want him to do? The darkness seemed to grow around him. His eyes grew heavy. His mind swam in mush as he craved sleep, but felt incredibly worried and his heart felt pressed.
Groggy, he laid down. The man tossed and turned for what seemed like an eternity and finally sleep overtook him. It was not a restful sleep. He had a light-bearing visitor in his dream. A messenger. A teller of tales of the Divine. The light-bearing messenger clearly called him by name and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” He awoke in a sweat. He would never forget those words. He would tell others those words. It was still the middle of the night, but light now filled his heart rather than darkness. Answers streamed into his heart rather than questions.
He could not wait to see his betrothed. Oh yes, she was still his betrothed. The next morning he went to see her and embraced her warmly and tightly. She wept. She wept so deeply. She thought she would never see him again. He comforted her. He told her the exact words of the light-bearing messenger. He told her of his intention to wed. Soon. Immediately. No delay. Obedient. They committed themselves to the path that God Almighty had laid out for them and accepted their role in bringing light into a dark world.
The purpose of it all was to show God’s glory. He saw that now. But only a little. She understood that now. But only a little. He would have to stay the course and be faithful. So would she. They would have to support one another. The child growing in her was to be the Savior and save people from their sins. Not ordinary. Extraordinary. Divine. He would indeed stand the test that lay ahead of him because the end result was that God would be glorified. He had been asked to play a part in the redemptive history of his people and he would not shrink back. He would obey.