Light: Reflecting the Source – Part II
Last week we started with our new sermon series on Light: Reflecting the Source by talking about God the creator. God’s first words to create this world was, “Let there be light.” The creator God knew we could not live and thrive without light and it was the first thing he created. He created it to give us life, purpose, and to bring order to chaos. Today we talk about the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
We are very familiar with the beginning of John’s gospel. I f you attended one of our Christmas Eve services you heard this scripture read. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of scripture ever written. The poetry is wonderful but what is even more impressive is what it tells us about the Light of the World.
I would wager everyone here has heard of Jesus of Nazareth, the baby born in a manger, God’s son. But do we truly understand who he is and what he meant to this world? Do we truly know and can explain to someone else who Jesus is? Can we say with certainty that we know Jesus? I think we can talk about what Jesus means to our personal lives but what I am talking about is can we talk theologically about who Jesus is? Theology is like biology or ecology. The suffix, the last part of each of these words is ‘ology’ which comes from the Greek word logos. It means the study of, specialty in or art of. The prefix or start of each of these words tell you what it is a study of. Bio means physical life. Therefore biology means the study of the physical life. Ecology is broken down like this, eco means interactions of environments, therefore ecology is the study of the different interactions of our environments.
For the word Theology, ‘theo’ comes from the Greek word that means God. Theology means the study of the nature of God. Can we talk about clearly about the nature of who Jesus is? We can all profess Jesus as our savior but can we explain him? We should be able to. If being a Christian means that we are followers of Jesus, then we should know who he is. We should be able to explain who he is and what he has meant for the world.
Here is the good news, this is already done for us, all we need to do is make it our own. The first chapter of John’s gospel lends itself to explain exactly who Jesus is. If we read this passage over and over we will understand who Jesus is and what he means to this world. For today’s sermon we are going to take this passage verse by verse to explain who Jesus is. You will find that at the end you will have a way to speak about Jesus you may never realized before.
So before we start I want you to forget everything you know about this God-man named Jesus. Cast out of your brain everything that your Sunday School Teachers have said (yes, for you High Schoolers, even me). Get rid of the image of Mel Gibson’s Jesus walking to Calvary. Get rid of that standard picture of Jesus laughing or all the other stain glass windows that make our sanctuary look so good. I want you to come to this scripture brand new, fresh ears, open heart. Come like someone who knows nothing about Jesus, God, or church. So find the first chapter of John in your Bible, one of the pew Bibles, or on your phone, wherever and follow along. Ready?
1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
This gospel starts where we always should; “In the beginning.” What was in the beginning, ‘the Word.” Well what is the Word? It tells us, the Word was with God and the Word was God. So when this whole thing called existence started the Word was with God and the Word was God. John starts off by linking “the Word” with God. They are one in the same. They are together, there in the beginning.
2 The Word was with God in the beginning.
John goes back and explains once again that the Word was with God in the beginning. This is key and we will learn why as we go along.
3 Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.
The Word created the world. Everything that has exists, is now and will be came into being through the Word. This, the Word, made everything we know. Since it has been around since the beginning, everything that we know and will know has been created through the Word. I know what you are thinking but what about a platypus? Did the Word really create a platypus because those things mess with my head. They are mammals but they lay eggs. They have a spur on their foot that on the males are filled with venom. It is like when things were left over there was pile of scraps and out of that pile came the platypus. The Word actually created that? Well as the verse continues, “without the Word nothing came into being.” Therefore since we have platypuses or platypi, or however you say more than one of those things. There is nothing that has been created that wasn’t created through the Word. That means all of creation, you, me, we all were created through this Word.
What came into being (4) through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.
Now if we continue with the last part of verse three and tack on four we see that the reason the Word created everything. Everything came into being through the Word because the Word is life. The Word is foundation of everything that lives. The foundation is what a building is built on. Without a solid foundations buildings fall down, so the word was created on the most solid thing God knew, The Word. This Word, as verse four says, is the light of all people. Remember last week (I know I told you to forget everything, so humor me and remember last week’s sermon) God’s first words were “Let there be light.” Light came to the world and now here in John’s gospel we are told this thing called light is the life for all people. Not just some people, not just ones we like, not just ones who look like us, but ALL people. The Word is the life that is the light for white, black, brown, yellow, red, straight, gay, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Republican, Libertarian, Democrats, American, African, English, Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Chinese, Russian. All people. All means all. “The life was the light for ALL people.” But what does this light do?
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
This light that is life, as John Wesley said, is our wisdom, holiness, happiness. It is the source of everything and it came to shine in the darkness. Since sin entered the world the world had been in darkness. This darkness surrounds us and at times consumes us. Our sin can take us over and consume us without us even knowing it. It is the darkness that seems like it will never end. It is into this darkness that the light comes in and no matter what the darkness does it cannot extinguish the light. During our Christmas Eve services we went to complete darkness. We admit that without God we will be in complete darkness but God did not want us to stay there so he sent the Light. He sent the Light that shines in the midst of the darkness and will always outshine it. There is no darkness, there is no sin, that the light cannot get rid of. No matter what a person has done, no matter how dark their soul feels, this light can shine in that darkness and transform it. (Amen?)
6 A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. 8 He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.
Between verses 6-8, the author of John’s gospel tells us a little bit about a man named John. We know from other gospels that this John is John the Baptist. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, John the Baptist is the one who goes before to pave the way for the one to come. But here in John’s gospel we learn something else. John is sent “as a witness to testify concerning the light.” To be a witness and to testify about something means you have to know it. John knew this light, understood it, and was on a mission “to testify concerning the light.” We will hear more about this man named John in a little bit.
9 The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world.
It is here that we hear what John’s testimony is about this light. John points to the “true light”. This “true light” “shines on all people”. Once again not just a select or chosen group of people, but all people. This light was coming to the world.
10 The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.
Now we learn a little about what happened when this light came to the world. Apparently this Light was in the world but the world didn’t recognize the light. It is the same light that gave the world life and it was the same light, the same Word, the world was created in but the world didn’t recognize the light. If you are created through this light why don’t we recognize it? Why can’t we see this light when it is right in front of us? Are we so blinded by our own darkness that we cannot see the light or at least recognize him.
11 The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him.
What is even worse is the light just doesn’t come to the world it comes to his own people. It came to the people that should have opened their arms to him and welcomed him but they didn’t welcome him. The truth is we are the same way. If this light walked in here would we recognize him? Would we be willing to let him sit by us? Would I be willing to let him preach for me? The truth is this light makes us uncomfortable many of the times and we aren’t comfortable with being uncomfortable. A sanctuary is a place where we should feel welcomed, and like we are being hugged the whole time. Yet this light came to give life to the world and sometimes light is blinding and even hard to really look at. So we would rather kick the light to the curb instead of let the light surround us and sit next to us.
12 But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, 13 born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God.
But not all was lost, we read that some did welcome him. As verse 12 & 13says, “Those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children born not of blood or by human desire or passion but born of God. It was thought at one point that this light, the Word, would come only for a certain group of people. They were the chosen people and God would bring them the light. But here we understand that God welcomes anyone, ALL PEOPLE (again) who believe in his name. It doesn’t matter who you were before the light came, once the light comes and you welcome him, you are born of God. There isn’t a check list, a test, or a certain amount of karma you have to build up. You believe in his name, the name of the Light, the Word, and you are born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
To make this happen the Word became flesh and made his home among us. I love that phrase, became flesh. This light, this Word, put on skin and made his home among us. He made himself comfortable in the constraining feeling of skin. The world came into being through him. All creation bears his light because it has life, but he chose to put on flesh…why? Because as verse 14 continues, his glory is full of grace and truth. This light, Word, is full of grace and truth and that is why he came. He came so we can see his glory, the glory of a father’s only son.
15 John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’”
This is when John speaks up again and cries out, pointing to this light, “this is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.” The beginning has shown up; the start of it all. The foundation of life, the essence of who we are, has come.
16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
With his arrival what do we receive. Once again, what a great verse, “grace upon grace.” Not just grace. But grace with an extra heaping helping of grace on top of it. This confers John’s testimony and tells us what we are dealing with. A light, a Word that brings grace upon grace. How many of us need grace upon grace today?
17 as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.
Verse 17 starts to separate this light and this Word from different ways of looking at the world. In the Old Testament we learn that the Law was given through Moses. Moses heard the law from God and gave it to the Israelites. He implemented them and upheld them. It is in the law that we hear “You shall not” and it makes it sound like if we can simply check off everything we will be okay. The law existed but it wasn’t Moses himself, it was something beyond Moses that he made sure people were following. When we look at the second part of this verse we learn more. We see that “grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.” For the first time John names the Light and the Word. It is Jesus Christ. He brings grace and truth but it isn’t handed down to him, it is him. Grace and truth came into being through him, just like the world, just like you and me. We all came into being through Jesus Christ. He is our foundation, our essence, our being, the image we are made in. What starts to warp our head is when we put this into practice. Grace and truth are Jesus Christ. It is not simply his actions on the cross, or in his resurrection, they are Jesus Christ. You want to know the truth, the truth is Jesus Christ. You want to know grace, grace IS Jesus Christ. You cannot know those things without knowing Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.
Verse 18 reminds us that no one has ever seen God but God was made known to us, just as grace and truth is made known, through the Light, the Word, through his only Son, Jesus Christ.
This is how we know Jesus. This is who Jesus is. This is his nature, his purpose, and how he interacts in the world. He is the source of all life, the true light. He is grace and truth. He is God’s only Son. He is the one who is to come and he is the Word that puts on flesh and dwells among us.
Jesus Christ is the light that shines in the darkness, that is for ALL to see. The light that darkness cannot extinguish, although it tries. The light for the world although the world and his people don’t recognize him. Jesus Christ is the Light of life, the light unto this dark and fallen world. He is our source of life and the way we can experience God. This light is grace, wisdom, understanding, peace, joy, and the truth. This light is my savior and I pray he is yours too. This light is my God and the one that deserves everything I have and am. This is the Light.
And all God’s people said….Amen.