Our world is overwhelmed with darkness.
Today, all of North America will experience an eclipse. Some will experience a total eclipse. That is, at some point, the day will be like the night. You will be able to see stars. Birds will sing their evening songs. Crickets will chirp – or whatever it is they do. And for a brief moment in time, darkness will cover our land when there is usually light.
While this is a spectacular sight and reminds us of the glory of the God of creation, it also reminds us that, in our current condition, our world is covered with darkness. In this darkness we see hate and horrible acts of violence we’ve witnessed recently in Charlottesville, in Spain, and in Finland. And, as most of you know, unimaginable horrors are ongoing every day.
Some of this darkness is familiar to you. Perhaps you know how Jairus felt when he had to leave his twelve-year-old daughter who was dying to search for a miracle worker named Jesus. Or perhaps you know how the woman with the issue of blood felt as she lived in shame and pain for twelve years. She had exhausted all of her resources on possible solutions only to finder herself worse. In desperation, she also went in search of the miracle worker Jesus (see Mark 4). And we can all attest to the darkness of sin, shame, sickness, and death that we deal with on a daily basis.
We might ask a question like this today…
“Where is the light? Where is hope?”
I think the Apostle John would quickly answer, “I have the answer.”
“The Light” and “Hope” is a person who existed before the darkness of sin, shame, and death covered this earth. When he came into this world, I saw him, touched him, listened to him, and now I proclaim him to you so that he might be your light and hope.”
Last Sunday we looked at verses 1-3:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Thanks to the Apostle John, we came to this conclusion about the identity of Jesus…
Jesus is the eternal, preexistent, now incarnate Word and one-of-a-kind Son of the Father who is himself God. [i]
The Bible witnesses to one God who has eternally existed in three persons – the in-generate Father and the generated Son and Spirit. There is enough unity within the God-head that we affirm he is one God. Yet there is enough diversity within the Godhead that we affirm three Persons who have eternally existed and relate to one another.[ii]
The Word that has eternally existed, according to verse 14, “took on flesh and dwelt among us.” And it appears John calls Jesus the Word because – “…in his coming, and working, and teaching, and dying, and rising – He was the final and decisive Message [Word] of God.[iii]
So, if someone were to ask you, “Who is God? What has he said? What does he want?” Our answer is: “Look at the Son – his life, his ministry, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection.
Do you hear what God is saying through, with, and in his Son Jesus Christ?
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Since the Word is the source of everything that exists, it makes since that “in him was the essence of life” and that life was the “light of men” created in his image.
This Wednesday a couple of us from the church were blessed to witness to three teenagers. The first thing they wanted to know was whether or not I supported Trump. Then one of them wanted to know how we knew God existed. One of the things we pointed to was this: Here we are – three teenagers and two adults, living, breathing, heart beating, conversing with each other …about God.
Now, the fact that there is life (living & breathing) and light (an awareness of our existence and purpose) reveals God’s existence because he himself is the source of that life and light – both natural (life and light/understanding) and supernatural (eternal life and heavenly understanding).
You see, In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul said that God who made everyone also determined the time and place they would live. That means you! …So that they would seek God and feel their way towards him and find him. Paul says that he is actually not far from us for “In him we live and move and have our being” (see Acts 17:26-28).
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Many people would make the opposite argument today: “Since the darkness seems to be overwhelming, there must be no God.”
Sometimes I come to the church at night and, instead of turning on the lights, I turn on my phone light and use that to see where I’m going. And while that doesn’t light up the entire place (in fact it’s a very small light), when I turn it on, every time, without exception, around my phone, the darkness retreats. It’s an amazing thing! Oh, it’s a small light. And you would think that in a room as large as the sanctuary that that amount of darkness would overpower a small light, but every time…the darkness cannot overcome the light.
So too, God has been revealing himself to a world full of human sin, shame, demonic oppression, and death, and the darkness has not been able to extinguish the light.
Notice just how dark the world had become:
So dark God had to send someone to point to the light…
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
God sent John (the Baptist) before the arrival of Christ and, true to any real witness of Christ, John did not point to himself but to Jesus Christ as the answer to the dark problems sin, shame, and death.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
Although we may know the answer…I think it’s helpful here if we stop and ask…
Why did he come?
He came to overcome the darkness.
But notice, it doesn’t appear to be an immediate victory.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
He came to his own creation: The wind and the waves listened to him. The water supported him. But his own people declared, “We will not have this man rule over us!” His own people shouted, “Crucify him!”
And while it appears the darkness is winning, John would say something to the effect of, “The match has been struck.” For, in 1 John 2:8 he would declare…
“…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).
Today, how are we to make sense of the significance of the true light which came into our dark world to live, minister, teach, die, and rise from the grave? What does John want us to take away from this?
Those who reject Jesus (life & light) remain in darkness and will pass away with this evil age.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48).
Those who receive Jesus (life & light) become children of God and part of the kingdom that will be established forever.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).
How then should we respond?
(1) Receive him.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Come as you are.” The idea is, “It doesn’t matter…jeans, t-shirt, suit…come as you are…problems…burdens…come as you are…no need to try to clean up or fix things before you come to Jesus…just come to Jesus…he’ll fix you.”
And, that’s good theology.
But better theology is this: “Come as you are,” yes…but also, “Take him as he is.” I find this strange – that in Mark 4:36 the disciples left the crowd and boarded their boat and “…they took him [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was” (Mark 4:36).
The Apostle John wants us to believe in Jesus. He wants us to receive Jesus. But we can only truly receive Jesus when we receive him just as he is…as he truly is. The crowds loved him! They pressed upon on him in order to be cured of their physical diseases. They pressed upon him in order to be blessed with food for their stomach. But when he opened his mouth to speak, the crowds were divided and people went home…
Many things Jesus said were hard to hear: He said things like, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples’ (John 8:31).
Are you abiding in his word? His words are not always easy. But Peter would say, “Where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (see John 6:68).
(2) Find your life in him.
In John 12:25 Jesus said, “He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life, in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Paul said, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).
(3) Walk in the light.
In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
And after three years with Jesus, the Apostle John had this message to share:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 5)
(4) Be a light.
In John 9:5 Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
And Jesus prayed to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
Jesus said that John the Baptist was a “burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). A lamp simply allows the light within it to shine brightly. And I’m convinced that if we receive Jesus for who he truly is, find our life in Jesus fully, and walk in the light consistently, we can’t help but be a lamp through which Jesus shines brightly.
(5) Hope in him.
16For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17).
When his disciples were “in the dark,” Jesus shared…
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
And Paul encouraged God’s children by sharing…
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3).
[i] ESV study Bible