The apostle John explains at the beginning of his Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). By “the light,” John is referring to the truth and clarity that Jesus gives to his followers. Here are some reflections on what it means to let Jesus be our light and to let him shine in our darkness.
I remember seeing them. They were like little pinpricks of light in the vast black ocean of space. I was staring wide-eyed out the windshield of our station wagon. Usually I sat in the back, but this night was different. Dad and Mom let me sit in the front, and I just craned my neck and stared at the incredible expanse of stars. I had always known they were there. But it was as if I was seeing them for the first time. I had gotten glasses that day. And for the first time, I could really see the stars.
History records that it was John the Apostle, the man who walked with Jesus closely for three years, who wrote the Fourth Gospel. John never identifies himself by name; rather he refers to himself simply as “the disciple Jesus loved.” No personal congratulations on being the Fourth Gospel writer, no fanfare. Simply “I am the disciple Jesus loved.”
“I had gotten glasses that day. And for the first time, I could really see the stars.”
As authors often do, this disciple who had learned humility under the kind example of Jesus, explained why he was writing. We find this toward the end of the book:
“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (John 20:30-31)
John’s intent was that people really see Jesus so that they could believe in Jesus, and by having that deep belief they would have life by the power of Jesus’ name. John, who wrote as an older man, summing up the life of Jesus, wanted us to see clearly, to see Jesus again for the first time.
What compels a man to humbly urge people to gaze at the light? I think it was because he saw who Jesus really was. This “disciple Jesus loved” saw what Jesus did. Heard what Jesus said. Walked where Jesus walked. Ate what Jesus ate. He laughed when Jesus joked. His mind stretched as Jesus spoke. He wept when Jesus died. And he saw Jesus alive again. Can you imagine?
Every word, every miracle, every mysterious statement, every healing must have been like little pinpricks of heaven’s light streaming past the darkness of the world, compelling John to see past and urge others to gaze at the light too. This is the same man who got to see Jesus revealed in his heavenly splendor; that book is called the book of “Revelation.” You can almost see John craning his neck like a little schoolboy with new glasses, going, “WOW!!! Come and see!”
“Every word, every miracle, every mysterious statement, every healing must have been like little pinpricks of heaven’s light streaming past the darkness of the world.”
The amazing thing is that John was a man just like you and me. No formal schooling to speak of. A man whose life was God, family, and work. Hopefully in that order. If the man who was arguably the closest friend Jesus ever had didn’t honor or glorify himself in the book he wrote, simply calling himself “the disciple Jesus loved,” maybe we ought to show the same humility when we choose to promote Jesus instead of ourselves.
What happens when we let Jesus’ light shine in our darkness? What changes the more we really see Jesus?
1. When the Light Shines in the Darkness, We See God as He Is.
John explains how Jesus is the greatest revelation of God that there is, because he is God living among us:
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:1-5)
“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14)
The greatest revelation (revealing) God has given to us is his Son, Jesus Christ. I believe God led John to write something that sounded like Genesis, only this time, God would reveal where Jesus was in the Beginning and what he was doing. The greatest revelation in all of time is Jesus.
“The greatest revelation in all of time is Jesus.”
Now to understand what John is teaching us about Jesus, we have to understand what he means by the word “Word.” When we talk about the “Word” of God, we typically mean the Bible. When John refers to the “Word of God,” he is talking about Jesus as he was before becoming a human. Here are 6 truths we learn about Jesus (and his Father) from these early verses in the Gospel of John:
- Jesus existed with God before the beginning of Creation. We understand that God and Jesus are not just two names for the same entity, but that in some way Jesus is distinct from the Father, yet they are both God.
- Jesus existed as God before the beginning of Creation. We must not miss this. Jesus is Before the creation of the world, Jesus existed spiritually with his Father and they are both, at the same time, God.
- Jesus was the worker of Creation. John 1:3 tell us that God created everything through Jesus. The sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies, air, water, gravity, human beings, plants, trees—everything. God spoke, and his “Word” created everything. As Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”
“God created everything through Jesus.”
- Jesus gave life to everything that was created. This is why life is precious. It’s not a random accident; life is a gift from God.
- Jesus’ life brought light into the world. Light is John’s way of describing “truth.” Jesus gave life and brought truth to us.
- Jesus, who existed before creation as God, became flesh. The word “Incarnation” (in “carne”) means that Jesus became physical flesh. The member of the Godhead that created the universe miraculously was formed into a little baby in the womb of a young virgin. John said he was full of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness (John 1:14). Those ordinary fishermen got to see God’s full glory in Jesus. The more they saw of Jesus, the less they could ever remain the same.
Does it comfort you to know that the God who created the universe walked on the same planet you do? Felt the same things, experienced similar struggles, was tempted in every basic way that we are—yet was without sin. Suffered more than anyone else will ever have to. The greatest revelation (revealing) is Jesus, and Jesus revealed God’s heart to us—one of unfailing love and faithfulness. What Jesus was, God is! When his light shines in our darkness, we see the true God as he really is.
2. When the Light Shines in the Darkness, We See Our Life as It Might Be.
The apostle John continues his introduction to his Gospel by introducing a different John and the calling God had for his life:
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9)
John the Apostle here is talking about John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. Can you imagine the honor of being appointed to be the man who would prep the crowd for Jesus to come?
What was John the Baptist’s calling? It was to be “a witness to tell about the light.” Guess what’s cool about that? It’s our calling too.
“Can you imagine the honor of being appointed to be the man who would prep the crowd for Jesus to come?”
If the greatest revelation is Jesus Christ, the greatest thing we could ever be called to do is share Jesus with other people. That is the single greatest calling on a life. Christians are called to shine the light of Jesus in every dark corner of the globe. Some of you will do that at your work, school, your own home. Some of you are or will be called to drop your “nets” and devote your life to shining the light of Jesus in dark places. Whether you are able to invest small or great in Jesus’ Kingdom, you are called to share the light you’ve been given.
Every Christian has been given light—Jesus’ truth. How you shine it may influence how people around you spend their eternity. Everyone is given a lifetime—throughout yours, in what are you investing it? In yourself and your pleasures, or in those who need to be loved by Jesus? How about your money—in whom are you investing your money? On what are you spending your talent? Are you spending your life on the greatest calling or something far less valuable?
The more Jesus’ light shines in our darkness, the more we see our lives as what God might empower them to be. He will empower us to point lost people to the holy light that found us as we too stumbled in the dark.
“The more Jesus’ light shines in our darkness, the more we see our lives as what God might empower them to be.”
3. When the Light Shines in the Darkness, We See Ourselves as God Sees Us.
“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:9-12)
What kind of God comes to the world he created, allows himself to be rejected by his own creation, and still dies willingly for their sin? Notice how twice John wrote of Jesus’ “unfailing love and faithfulness” (1:14, 17; “full of grace and truth” in NIV)? God’s love for us is so great that he will give us the right to oppose him—and when we accept him, he makes us his children. “To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
So, who are you? Husband? Wife? Father? Mother? Professional? Hard worker? Fun friend? What’s your identity? Teenager? Middle Aged? Elderly? Democrat? Republican? Man, woman, Jew, Gentile, upper crust, bottom of the barrel—did you know that once you are a child of God, all those things don’t really matter to God? The greatest identity you can be given is “child of God.”
“The greatest identity you can be given is ‘child of God.'”
Suppose a student or even a teacher, tells you you’re dumb. What does their opinion matter when you are a child of God?
Suppose a family member cuts you down in front of everyone or maybe just in private. What they say doesn’t determine how God sees you—you are a beloved child of God!
Suppose you don’t make a lot of money and can’t buy all the stuff your friends have. Some of the wealthiest people in God’s eyes don’t have a penny to their name. Their inheritance comes from God himself.
Suppose you make more money than all the people around you. Don’t allow money to make you who you are—get excited about your true identity, being a child of God!
Here’s something interesting: John didn’t say God made them “children of God.” It says he gave them the right to become children of God. Are you living down to the world’s expectations of you, or are you living up to the identity offered you in Christ? The more you let Jesus’ light shine in the darkness, the more you will understand your true identity as a child of God.
“Are you living down to the world’s expectations of you, or are you living up to the identity offered you in Christ?”
4. When the Light Shines in the Darkness, We See the Beauty of His Gift.
John’s introduction to his Gospel continues,
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13)
There is nothing like the gift of new life. It was about six months into our marriage that my wife and I found out God was giving us a child, a gift of new life.
But you know what? There’s another birth that God gives us that is even more beautiful than the precious little life in the womb. It’s when one of us places our faith in Jesus, repents of our sins, is baptized, and is born again. That birth God does in our hearts when we believe Jesus, trust in him to save us, and place our allegiance in him as our king.
“There’s another birth that God gives us that is even more beautiful than the precious little life in the womb.”
John was given the supreme privilege of helping us see Jesus again for the first time. He did it so we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him we would have life by the power of his name.
My hope is that as we continue to gaze on Jesus, we would be like that little first grader staring out into the brilliant night sky with a new set of glasses. God wants to amaze us by showing us Jesus so we can start and continue to have life in him.
Do you have life in Jesus? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus and begun to let him change you into what God created you for? Until you place your faith in Jesus and let him fill you, you will be full of darkness. Once you repent of your sins and invite Jesus to be your Savior, Lord, and king, you will be filled with life.
The more we let his light shine in our darkness, the more we see how things really are: Jesus is the greatest revelation, using your life to tell people about Jesus is the greatest calling, being a child of God is the greatest identity, and being reborn by the power of Jesus is the greatest gift.