“4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
John continues to allude to the beginning of the Story by referencing light and darkness that were terms used in the creation account. The Son separated actual light and darkness in the process of creation and chooses to use these ideas to express the present reality of the recipients of this Gospel.
Due to the rebellion of Adam and Eve, humanity is confronted with two paths or realities that continue to be at war: the path of God, which is the light, and the path of the Enemy, which is the darkness. John takes these primal images and uses them to express the post-Fall reality of our pursuit of God or our pursuit of brokenness and continued rebellion. I appreciate the honesty of John to name the challenges that we all face. We have to wrestle with the identity of the path that we will choose to pursue. Will the mission and message of Jesus shape our path or will our own brokenness provide the direction for our lives?
John explains that Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to be an example as to how life was meant to be lived in relationship with God. His mission and message were to be the path for those who wanted to pursue the light. However, he did not simply provide an example; rather, through his death and resurrection he provided the means by which humanity could be restored to God and actually experience the life God had originally intended.
Jesus came to shine the light of his mission and message into the darkness so that people would be rescued from the path that would ultimately lead to their destruction. However, John shares some very difficult news: even though Jesus has gone to those in the darkness, they will not understand his message or will simply continue to believe the lies of the Enemy and reject the light. At the end of the day, the message of Jesus makes no sense to those who continue to live in the darkness.
The Apostle John continues by introducing John the Baptist to his audience,
“6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
John was a prophet who powerfully spoke against the religious leaders of Jerusalem and exposed the hypocrisy of those in power. Many people were drawn to his message of repentance and would be baptized by him in the Jordan as a sign of the new direction of their lives. John influenced so many people, that many wondered if he was the messiah. The Apostle John makes it clear (and so did John the Baptist on many occasions) that John was not the messiah, but was to be a witness for the messiah.
John the Baptist is a fascinating character in the Gospel accounts because his key role is to be the herald or announcer for the arrival and identification of the promised messiah. John understood (far better than many of us do today) that the Story was not about him, even though he had an important role. His primary responsibility was to be a witness.
One of the practices we need to better understand today is our role as witnesses to the mission and message of Jesus. Like John, we need to understand that the Story is not about us, but that we do have an important role in that Story: we need to share the message of the light with others. How are you doing with that mission and how am I doing with this mission?
Too often we seem afraid to tell others about Jesus due to fear of rejection, possible ridicule, or a lack of confidence in being able to share the message well with others. Can I encourage you to have the courage to simply share with others what Jesus has done to and through you, and allow God’s Spirit to bring about change in others? May we be reminded of John and his willingness to be a witness for Jesus even in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Apostle Jon makes a final statement concerning the Son of God,
“9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”
John emphasizes that the Son is the true source of what it means to be light, which begs the question, does there exist a false light? In the Old Testament, a prophet by the name of Isaiah spoke into the brokenness of Israel by sharing the words given to him by God. On one occasion, he shared the following statement,
“Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Isaiah confronted the people by warning them that they had developed the habit of exchanging the truth for a lie and now redefined the truth with lies with which they were far more comfortable.
Do we face this same challenge today? Has the church adopted language or phrases that appear to be true and spiritual, but in reality have replaced the heart and meaning of the mission and message of Jesus? Have we exchanged the truth for a lie which makes us feel far more comfortable with the mission and message of Jesus than we really should?
We pray to be safe and that somehow God wants to make sure that nothing ever bad happens to us, but if you study the ministry of Jesus, you begin to realize that his message was not about safety, rather, it was about being subversive. The message of Jesus was not a conservative message, but a message that would pull down those in power and empower those with little or no voice.
We embrace the label of being a Christian with all the historical baggage that comes along with that term. There are actions and activities that are supposed to come along with this: church attendance, keeping the Ten Commandments, conservative political agendas, and simply being good people. What if the mission and message of Jesus had more to do with a relationship with God rather than a conservative political agenda or being very moral?
When you talk to religious people you may hear quite often how blessed they are and the gratitude they have because things are going well and they are financially successful. What if the mission and message of Jesus was not about being blessed, but was about being a blessing to others?
There are many other topics/issues we could discuss, but my hope and prayer for all of us is that we would allow the light of Jesus’ mission and message to invade our present journey and help reveal what actions and decisions are not of the light, but are really a result of the darkness. May the light of Jesus’ mission and message transform every aspect of your life.
Hear Pastor Chuck’s full message on “Light and Darkness” on our podcast.