Jesus is the only true light in the world, a light that shines all the brighter in the darkness, and this light means life for men and women.
According to the apostle John, “life” is found in the “word,” and that life is the “light of men.” And at present, it is “shining in the darkness,” and the darkness “cannot seize” or suppress it. This same “word” has been “made flesh” in Jesus – In him, the glory and life of God have been truly and fully manifested. Moreover, his disciples are summoned to “testify” of the light in this dark world.
There are many competitors in the world clamoring for our attention, claiming they are true lights, sources of illumination, shining cities on hills. Political ideologies, philosophies, religions, economic theories, and messianic figures have all declared themselves to be the way, mankind’s best hope for peace, safety, and life, supposed bulwarks against evil and darkness.
But all such claims have failed, and in John’s gospel, there is only one source for the true light that “illuminates every man who is coming into the world.” And according to John, “light” and “life” are inextricably linked.
At most, all such competitors constitute shadowy counterfeits that are exposed when the true “light of God” radiates brightly in this dark and fallen world.
It begins with John the Baptist, the “man sent from God” before the “light” to bear witness of it so men might “believe.” And that “light” came to fruition in Jesus of Nazareth, and in him, all men and women who believe now see the “glory as of the only born from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Moreover, his disciples become his “lights of the world” and are summoned to let their “light shine before men so that they may glorify their Father in heaven.” The fullness of God’s light and life are manifested in the Son of God, and that light is reflected in his followers as they bear witness before the world – (John 1:1-14).
TESTIMONY OF JOHN
Thus, Jesus is the “light of the world,” and there is no other source of “life.” And his saints become the true shining “city on a hill” because they let HIS light shine in their lives. There is no true light or life apart from Jesus, and his church is called to mediate his light to all men.
John testified that he was not the light – “I am not the Messiah.” Instead, he was the “voice crying in the wilderness, straighten the way of the Lord.” He summoned the entire nation of Israel to repent and be baptized in preparation for the arrival of the “light,” the “Coming One” for whom John was unworthy to perform even the most menial of tasks – (John 1:19-28).
When John saw this “Coming One” approaching him, he declared Jesus of Nazareth to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” The reason John baptized men in water was so the Messiah “should be made manifest to Israel” – (John 1:29-34).
And John’s testimony was confirmed by the most impeccable witness – the “Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and it abode upon him” – for John was told by the very One who sent him that “upon whomever you see the Spirit descending and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”
Thus, John testified before the world that Jesus is the Son of God, the only one in whom the light and life of God are found.
TESTIMONY OF JESUS
After John was arrested by Herod, Jesus appeared in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee in fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in the book of Isaiah:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations. The people that sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up” – (Isaiah 9-1-2, Matthew 4:12-17).
It was at that time that Jesus began to proclaim – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven –is at hand!” As the context makes clear, he is that “great light” that has come to lead the nations out of the darkness.
All this was set in motion because “God so loved the world.” So much so, that he gave his only Son over to a cruel and unjust death so that “whoever believes in him” will have everlasting life.
God sent Jesus to save the world, not to destroy it. But all men who refuse to believe “on the name of the only born Son of God” will be judged, not because the Almighty is capricious or sadistic, but because they choose to reject the “light that has come into the world” – (John 3:16-21).
And they do so because they love the darkness rather than the light, for their works are evil.” In fact, their wicked deeds and words expose their hatred of the “light, and they come not to the light lest his works should be reproved.”
In contrast, all men and women who embrace the true light demonstrate that their works “have been wrought by God.” And to his disciples, Jesus testifies that-:
- “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life… When I am in the world, I am the light of the world” – (John 8:12, 9:5).
On one occasion, he exhorted his disciples to “walk while you have the light, that darkness does not overtake you. He that is walking in the darkness knows not where he is going.” And by believing in the “light,” his followers become “sons of light” who reflect the life found in him to the world – (John 12:35).
[Lattern – Photo by Joshua Bartell on Unsplash]
The apostle Paul echoes this last saying in his first letter to the Thessalonians and applies it to the future “day of the Lord” that will come suddenly and overwhelm the unprepared who live in “darkness”:
- “But you are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief, for you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” – (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5).
HIS LIGHT AND LIFE
John’s gospel opens by declaring that God has created all things by His “word,” the “logos,” and “light” and “life” are found only in it.
Moreover, this “word” has become “flesh” and has been manifested in Jesus, a man from the insignificant village of Nazareth. And he gave concrete form to this idea when he claimed that anyone who “believes in me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that beholds me beholds him that sent me.”
Jesus is the light of the world because he is the true and full expression of the light and life of God Himself, the very “word” by which He created life. And that is why whoever believes in him will not “abide in the darkness” any longer. And that is also why any man or woman who refuses to heed his words will be condemned:
“He that rejects me and receives not my sayings has one that judges him. The word which I speak will judge him on the last day. For I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent me, he has given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting” – (John 12:44-50).
In his later first epistle, John summarizes the belief that Jesus is the “light of the world.”
He is the “word of life” that was manifested in the world, namely, the “word” that “we have seen and bear witness and declare to you the everlasting life that was with the Father and manifested to us.” Because this “word of life” has entered the world in Jesus, the “darkness is passing away, and the true light already is shining.” – (1 John 1:1-3, 2:8).
Thus, in a very dark world, Jesus is the bright light of God that radiates life, truth, and hope to all men, and there is no other. In him alone, the fullness of God’s grace and truth are on display for all to see and embrace.
As He said to his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And that is also why he can say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”