4 In him was life, and that life was the light [life] of men. 5 The light [illumination] shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. Cf. v6-9
Is often something we often read just before Christmas. It's a dark time of year. I remember people in St Petersburg going to the Fort and basking in the sun to soak in its rays when it came back from seeming oblivion in April... It’s thankfully getting lighter now, but this passage is so important I’d like to look at it in more detail.
Our first three children’s names are Rachel (Old Testament), James (New Testament), and Lucy (New Age!?). Actually it's from lucia meaning ‘light’ in Latin. Where would we be without light? Recently we had a power cut and there were screams from the kitchen – ironically from Lucy! There is an association of light with life and blessing in the Old Testament – at least that’s one of its uses:
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:9
1. The Light brings Illumination
Light (in John) mainly refers to spiritual light, illumination that clears away wrong or unhelpful thinking and sets us on right spiritual paths.
Spiritual light, or revelation. 5:35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 9:5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.", ‘The Logos… has come in flesh as a revealer. He comes to reveal to men life (1:4), light (1:4-5), grace (1:14), truth (1:14), glory (1:14), even God himself (1:18)’ (Guthrie).
Some people talk about light and darkness as opposites. For John it is a powerful metaphor for describing the way God speaks to us in the person of Jesus the Messiah, and the possible rejection of that. The key verse is: 19 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.” 3:9-21
2. Victory over Darkness
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not quenched or overcome it (it is more likely meaning of the Greek than the one in the NIV text). Note the Greek verbs – continuous and punctiliar respectively. It is likely that it is one time to show that Jesus came once; the cross (death and resurrection of) Jesus was one act in history. His victory happened once.
· Darkness = evil, sin, lack of eternal life i.e. spiritual death.
· The darkness cannot quench it. What is the speed of light? 300,000,000 m/s. What is the speed of darkness? The same, as it flees from the light. Darkness, you see, is merely an absence of light. Note these encouraging scriptures: The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1; …"Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" …thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’ 1Cor 15:54-58.
What difference is this going to make to our lives? Those we know who are struggling, perhaps on the edge of church – they need more light! Note that we need to come into the light, let the light shine on us, and reflect it to others. This brings me to mission:
Remember the attractiveness of Jesus (and therefore us as believers, especially as church)!
What difference is this going to make to our lives? We need to receive first, then give. Evangelism, as Michael Green said, is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. The importance of world-wide (as opposed to just local) mission: it is not so much that we need to go but that mission needs to happen in certain places that are unreached. Still, the UK church has a lot to offer. We may not be the best evangelists overseas, but we can encourage, help train, coordinate, provide support in all kinds of ways including technical ones. In our new global world mission will be in both directions, but let's not give up sending as well as receiving workers.
(Originally given as a sermon at Twyning Chapel in January 14).