There are many names for Jesus in the Bible. We are familiar with the words of Isaiah, “He shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6) In the Christmas story we are told that Jesus would be named Immanuel (Mt. 1:23). In other places He is called the Lamb, the King of Kings, the Rose of Sharon, the Bread of Life, the Son of God, the Son of Man, I Am, Living Water, the Alpha and Omega and already in John’s gospel He has already been called the Word, and the One through whom Everything has been made.
This morning we are going to look at two more titles for Jesus. In John 1:4,5 Jesus is called the Life and the Light. This isn’t the only place where those terms are used of Jesus. In John 8:12 John records Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In John 14:6 Both terms are combined with a third, ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In John 8:32 Jesus told his disciples that if they held to His teaching they would “know the truth and the truth would set them free.”
John makes three simple statements in the text.
In Him Was Life
It seems like an easy enough statement to say that in Jesus there was life. The question is: What does that mean?
First, it could mean that in Jesus we find our source of physical life. He is the one who gives us physical life. Of course, after we read last week that He is the Creator, we know that there is a sense in which that is true. As Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”. However, I don’t think John is trying to repeat what he has just said, I think he is trying to expand it.
Second, it could mean that Jesus is the True Life or the one who makes it possible for us to live life as it was meant to be. In other words, Christ made us and we were created to find our fulfillment and true happiness only as we are in right relationship with Him.
Third, it could be that John is referring primarily to the fact that in Jesus we have everlasting life. Jesus is the one that makes it possible to “live even though we die”. He is the one who “opens the door” to eternal life.
Which is the right interpretation? I would say that it is all of the above. Jesus is life to us in every single way possible.
That Life Was the Light of Men
John tells us that this life is the light of men. The first thing God did in the creative process was create light. Stop and think about what an appropriate picture it is to call Jesus the Light.
First, He is the radiance of God. Jesus has told us that those who had seen Him had sent he Father. In Hebrews 1 we read, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Heb 1:3).
Maybe you can think about it this way. You wouldn’t know what you looked like unless you saw a picture of yourself or saw yourself in a mirror. In a very similar way, we don’t know what God is like until we look at Jesus. His light enables us to see God.
Second, He reveals God’s heart. The purpose of an illustration or an analogy in a sermon is to help bring light to a passage. Sometimes a difficult concept becomes more understandable through a picture. We hear a particular illustration and all of a sudden we say, “a light went on”. We “get it”.
Jesus is like that illustration. He shows us God’s desires through His teaching, through His miracles, through His example and through His death and resurrection. We learn about God’s holiness, His wisdom, His mercy, His compassion, His grace, His love, His forgiveness and actually a great deal more from looking at the life of Jesus. Through Jesus the things of God (His commands, His character, His invitation) begin to make sense.
Third, Jesus enables us to find truth. He is like headlights on a dark night or a light in a darkened room. People in the city have no idea what dark really is. In the city you are surrounded by street lights. Night is really more like “a little less light”. In the country, it’s just plain dark! If you didn’t have headlights on your car you would find travel difficult and dangerous.
It’s the same in our homes. How many of you have run into something or stepped on something in a dark room? The problem is that we can’t see obstacles in the dark.
Our hearts (or souls, if you will) are like this. We are darkened by sin. We don’t know which direction to go. When Jesus comes into a life it is like He walks into a dark room and turns on the light! Suddenly hidden sin is exposed and the way through the maze of the rubbish of our lives is suddenly revealed.
Fourth, Jesus is the One who brings security. Many people and businesses that have outdoor lights that stay on all night are often called? They are often called Security Lights. Why? It’s because they eliminate many of the shadows where harmful people and items might be hiding. Jesus is like that security light. He helps us to know that we are right with God.
Perhaps when you were a child you didn’t like being in the dark. In the dark you imagined all kinds of things that were causing the sounds you heard. For some you may have actually cried out to your parents. Mom and dad usually had a simple solution: turn on the light! When the light was on you could see well enough to know what was and wasn’t in the dark.
When we are given the light of Christ we feel more secure because we know the truth. We can better see the plan of God and we are able to rest in Him.
The Darkness Does Not Understand
The concepts of light and darkness are familiar ones to John. Light represents what is good and godly. Darkness symbolizes what is corrupt and evil. John tells us that the light (Christ) shines in the darkness (the sinful world) but the darkness has not understood it.
This is actually a difficult verse because there is some question about the interpretation. Some version say the darkness doesn’t understand the light. Some say the darkness cannot overcome or extinguish the light. The confusion in translation comes from the fact that the Greek word katalambano is actually a fairly common word that is used in a number of different ways. I think the best translation according to the context is that the darkness did not understand the light.
Back when electricity was first being introduced to a little Scottish village, most everybody in a particular church switched from the propane lanterns to electricity just as soon as it could be hooked up. However, the oldest couple in the congregation couldn’t get their electricity because they were waiting for the poles to go up and the wire to be strung. So they continued to use their propane lanterns. The day finally came and the electricity was hooked up in their home. Everyone came for the festive event. The old man waited for it to get extra dark; then he told his wife to go turn on the switch. When she did, the light filled the room, and everyone rejoiced. The old man grinned from ear to ear, picked up a propane lamp and said, “It sure makes lighting my lamps easier.” And with that he lit a lamp and his wife turned off the electricity.
Many in the world are just like this man. They talk about Jesus as the light, they celebrate Christmas, but they don’t understand the light.
- They think the light is about rules and regulations
- They think the light is about religion and ritual
- They think the light is about politics.
- They think the light is about controlling social mores.
- They think it is about trying harder.
Of course, this is not what the Life and Light of the world is really about. As electricity was not meant to help you light your lanterns but to replace your lanterns, so Jesus did not come to give us more rules. He came into the world to introduce us to the God we could not find. He didn’t come to the world to get us to be more religious, He came to teach us how to have a living and vital relationship with God. Jesus wasn’t at all concerned about politics. He doesn’t care about such things. He is concerned that we honor God with our lives regardless of what political party we belong to. The world around us simply doesn’t get it. Next week we are going to address the issue of why so many people hate the idea of Christmas. For now, it is enough to know that the world, by and large, doesn’t get it.
In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us that when we become His follower we become mini-lights as well. Don’t misunderstand this. We don’t become “little gods”. We reflect God. It is kind of like the sun and the moon. The sun is called the greater light and the moon is called the lesser light that shines at night. We know that in truth the moon has no light in itself. It’s light comes because it reflects the light of the sun. That is what our job is: to reflect the light of the Son of God.
Let me draw a couple of conclusions from the fact that Jesus is life and light. First, since Jesus is life and light we should pursue Him eagerly. It just makes sense doesn’t it? Every one of us is looking for what is found only in Christ. We are all looking for purpose, a new direction, forgiveness, and a genuine relationship with God.
Vince Lombardi wrote a book entitled Run To Daylight. It contains a chapter on running backs. It describes how football players learn all the plays, and then practice them over and over again until everything becomes practically automatic. And when game-time arrives, they have to remember all the numbers, and all the signals, and all the advice, and all the coaching. But as the running back tucks the ball under his arm and begins to run, he has time to remember just one thing, Lombardi says — to run to daylight. If the hole in the opposing team’s defense doesn’t open where you expected it to open up and you see daylight somewhere else — you run to daylight. And if you get through the line and the secondary begin to close in — again — you look for the light and run for the light. In Bethlehem, with the coming of Jesus, a light had dawned in Israel. He is the light of the world. It is for us — to take the ball — and run to daylight!
It makes sense for us to realign our priorities and to develop disciplines that will help us to pursue the light. We should pursue the One who is Life and light with all our energy! Imagine what our lives would be like if we were as diligent in pursuing Jesus as we are in pursuing financial security. Imagine if we were as devoted to Him as we are to our children.
I encourage you to make some specific goals for your spiritual life. Read the Bible regularly, keep working at prayer, put yourself in a position where you can learn and grow, look for opportunities to serve others, and be available to serve the Lord in various ministry opportunities.
Second, Since Jesus is the life and light, we should make every effort to tell others. I know, I know! We are always talking about the need we have to tell others about Christ. But let’s be candid. We know we should tell others but we don’t.
When our children were born did we tell others (sometimes perfect strangers) about them? Did we hand people pictures and say, “Do you want to see my new baby?” This doesn’t stop when they grow up . . . we love to talk about our kids. Why? It’s because they fill our hearts with life and joy.
Doesn’t Christ do the same thing? If He does, then why are we silent? I’ve tried to search my own heart on this question. Much of the time, I think we just don’t want to be bothered. We don’t want to risk a confrontation or risk rejection. We would rather wait for someone else to speak up. We get fired up about lots of others things but when it comes to Light and Life of life we grow timid.
We will fiercely debate school consolidation; we will forcefully discuss the merits of a baseball trade; we will verbally replay a big game over and over again; we will become animated when we talk politics; we will argue over who should be disqualified from our favorite reality show (if you have a favorite reality show); but we find it difficult to talk about the One who can transform a life forever. Does that strike you as odd?
I’m not scolding . . .I have the same problem. I am just confused. Are we silent because of our fear or is it because we have not fully grasped the impact of Christ ourselves? Is it because we aren’t true believers? Is it because we have determined that the message of the gospel is spiritual rather than practical? How can we keep silent about what is so important? It seems like Satan has been very effective in getting us to push the sharing of our faith to the back burner of our lives.
So here is what I suggest. First, search your own heart. Evaluate your own position as a believer. Are you trusting Christ or are you trusting yourself? Are you willing to follow Him or aren’t you? Second, make every effort to introduce others to the Christ who can change the life of anyone who will trust Him. So here are some suggestions,
- Invite someone to worship with you at one of our special worship services
- Say “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet
- When someone says, “Happy Holidays” respond by saying, “Happy Holy-Days to you!” And if they ask, be prepared to tell them that Christmas is a Holy Day because it reminds us of the time when God became a man to reach out to us.
- Share something of the message of Jesus in your Christmas cards.
- Add a gospel tract with your gifts
- Briefly share your testimony in a Christmas Letter
- Take time to share your testimony at a Christmas party. It can be something as simple as saying, “At this time of the year when we are reminded of what God has done for us in sending Christ to earth to show us the way home, I am very grateful. I am grateful for the new life that comes through faith in Christ, and I am grateful that God has allowed me to work with all of you.” [A simple statement like this is quick and plants a seed that God can cause to grow.]
- Make a statement in your actions by making it a family priority to worship on Christmas Day this year.
This is just a starting point. Certainly there are many other ways to open doors. Our job is to move in the right direction. We must be willing to pass on the Words of Life and Hope.
We not only should do this. We CAN do this. This is a message of hope and life. When embraced it can change even the most hardened life. We have been given the wonderful key that can set others free. It’s a privilege and an honor. We don’t have to be people who can show hundreds of proofs why Christianity is true. We don’t have to have our evangelistic message memorized. We just need to tell the story about how we discovered the One who brought light to our hearts and minds and brought new, everlasting and eternal life to our souls. If we will do this, others will be brought to faith and new life.
May God give us the courage to extend the gift of life and light to those with whom we come in contact.