Often, at the beginning of a work of literature or piece of music, a writer or composer will present a theme, and then allow that theme to recur again and again. John’s major themes in his gospel are “life” and “light”. The word “life” occurs 36 times, and the word “light” occurs at least 15 times in John’s gospel.
I. JESUS CHRIST: “The Life” (verse 4)
We have already learned, from verses 1-3, that Jesus Christ (the Logos) is eternal (“In the beginning was the Word”), that He is equally God along with the Father and Holy Spirit (“and the Word was with God”), and that He was involved in the work of creation (“All things were made through Him . . . “). Now, in verse 4, John carries the concept of the Logos a step further when he says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” There is a connection between “life” and “light” in this passage of scripture, One obvious connection, in a physical sense, is that light is necessary for physical life. There are at least four things that are necessary for human life: light, air, water and food. The Lord Jesus refers to Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, the “Light of the world”, the “Bread of Life”, the “Living Water”, and “breathing on His disciples He said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ “.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life. We aren’t really living until we have Christ living in us and are living for Him. I like the way that evangelist Billy Graham put it: “Jesus is Life with a capital L!” He shared this illustration about one of the greatest Christian writers of this modern age. “C.S.Lewis, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Oxford and later at Cambridge, had to do the same thing. He spent his life exploring the literature of the centuries. In his remarkable autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY, he tells of his pilgrimage from atheism to Christianity. His turning point came with the realization that the writing with the deepest meaning and greatest content was based on a deep, personal faith in God, written by men like St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and George Macdonald.” Reading their writings brightened his days and pointed him to the source of their joy and convictions about life. As a result. C.S. Lewis decided to re-study the scriptures and re-consider the claims of Christ. His life was changed and his book, “Mere Christianity” is a classic. In the following quote from “Mere Christianity” you will see how C.S. Lewis’s pre-conceived ideas about Jesus Christ changed as he studied God’s Word:
“I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher. but I don’t accept his claims to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
As the “Bread of Life”, Jesus satisfied the craving that C.S. Lewis had for knowing the truth. He found that truth in a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his life changed dramatically because “the Life” now lived and reigned in Him.
II. JESUS CHRIST: “The Light” (verses 4-5)
The Greek word John uses is “phos”, which literally means “brightness” or “brilliance”. We get our English words “photo” and “phosphorous” from that word. The Greek gods were said to live in a world of brightness, whereas our world was one of darkness. However, according to myth, when Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man, things weren’t quite so dark anymore.
Jesus’ life was a light to men. The Lord Jesus is not only the giver of physical and spiritual life, He is also the source of light for our journey through life. He was a revealing light. He reveals what we are in comparison to Him. Pastor and evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they just shine.” Jesus’ light is so bright that it is meant to take the focus away from ourselves and put the focus on Him. The light of His Person and His character shows us life the way it really is; the way it was meant to be. When we have the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ living and reigning in us, we can’t help but shine.
We find this idea expressed and implied in many places in the Old Testament. God’s nearness or closeness was indicated or demonstrated by light (Exodus 13:21ff, Nehemiah 9:12, Daniel 2:22, Habakkuk 3:4) The “pillar of fire”, “the light”, “the sunlight” are among the many indications of God’s presence and holiness. and are among the many self-manifestations of God.
Secondly, the Lord Jesus is a guiding light – a Light that shined in the darkness. This may seem obvious to you, but it’s been a fresh insight to me and I’ve been thinking about it all day. It is this: Darkness cannot extinguish light, but light can extinguish darkness. No matter how dark the darkness, a bright light will extinguish enough darkness for us to find our way. Applying those thoughts to John 1:4-5, the Lord Jesus Christ is the only remedy for mankind who is in the darkness of sin. John records these words of Jesus in chapter 8, verse 12: “I am the light of the world. he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
The world’s difficulties and problems can be summed up in the words of verse 5: “And the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.” Even today, there are many in this world who are living in spiritual darkness and don’t even realize it. I believe there is a much greater number of people in this world today who have chosen to live in spiritual darkness and oppose the light of Jesus Christ. Are you in the darkness or in the light?
The Greek word “katelaben”, in verse 5, has several meanings. It can mean “understand” and it can also mean “overcome”. Did you do any wrestling in high school or college? Have you ever watched a wrestling match in person or on T.V.? The Greeks loved the sport of wrestling, and this word was used when a wrestler took down his opponent and pinned him to the mat. King Herod the Great tried to kill Jesus when Jesus was only a little child. He gave the order that all the male babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas who were two years old or younger must be killed. Yet he failed to kill the baby Jesus!
Mothers and fathers who lost their children in that slaughter by Herod must have wondered, “Is it ever going to end? How can it get any worse than this? Those were dark times!
During His public ministry the Scribes and Pharisees tried to kill Jesus many times, but their plans failed because it was not yet His time to die. When that time came, Jesus went voluntarily and peaceably to His death. While Jesus was on the cross, darkness came over the earth for three hours, and the forces of darkness thought they had won the match. But Jesus would not go down for the count! He rose from the dead and was victorious over the powers of darkness! Jesus was, and is, a beacon in a world of darkness; a Light that has no power failures!
We are also living in dark times today. There is moral and social decline, political unrest, and spiritual decay, to name a few. The difference is that there are now many lights all over the world, shining like stars in the night-time skies. These stars are men and women, and boys and girls who have repented of their sins and invited Jesus Christ to have His rightful place in their lives as Lord and Savior. As a result, their lives have changed dramatically and the light of Christ is shining out through their actions and attitudes (Matthew 5:16).
May the life and light of the Lord Jesus Christ shine forth in your life. Maybe it’s for the very first time; maybe it has been a moment-by-moment experience for many years, In either case, stay close to Him and “be shiny”!
More will be added to this work-in-progress soon. Please come back and visit this construction site again soon.