- Marvelous Light
- John 1:1-5
- Bill Couch February 14, 2016
Today is the first Sunday of Lent–the six Sundays leading up to the Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. On each of these Sundays were going to look at a passage of scripture from the Gospel according to the Apostle John. One of the themes of John’s Gospel focuses on the light that Jesus brought into our world of darkness. John uses the word “light” twenty-four times. During this series we are going to look at how the Light of Jesus impacts our lives. John introduces his theme of light in the first sentences of his Gospel.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood (or overcome) it. John 1:1-5
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood or overcome it.” Scientists have discovered some amazing things about the properties of light. Quantum physics tells us that light consists of waves. Different colors have different wave lengths. Violet is shortest wave length of visible light. And red is the longest wave length of visible light. There are colors that are invisible to the naked eye. On one end of that spectrum it is called ultraviolet light—waves that are shorter than violet. On the other end is infrared light—waves that are longer than red. There are other wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes like radio waves, microwaves and X-Rays. Quantum physics also tells us that light consists for particles called photons. Light has properties of both waves and particles.
Because of what we understand about light we are able to harness and control light for certain applications. We can amplify a beam of light which we call a laser beam. Lasers are useful as a cutting tool in manufacturing or a healing agent in medicine. Fiber optic cable uses light pulses to convey information fast over long distances. Some researchers are developing optical computers which could actually process information at the speed of light!
Scientists will tell you that even though we have discovered a great deal about the properties of light—we have not completely figured it out. There is a lot about light that remains a mystery.
John tells us that in the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God–referring to Jesus the one who reveals or communicates God to us. Through him all things were made. Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all present and active in the creation of the universe. On the first day of creation God said, “Let there be light and there was light.” Light was the prerequisite to creating life in the universe. Without light there is no intelligent life as we know it. The one who created light said, “I am the Light of the world.” It is no accident that Jesus compares himself to light. Let’s explore some of the ways in which light reveals to us truth about Jesus.
First of all light is essential to life. If you keep a plant in total darkness it will eventually die. I know that there are some plants and animals that God designed to exist in total darkness—but they are extremely rare. The vast majority of plants and animals require light to live. John said, “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men.” Light and life go together. The Bible makes it clear that when we are separated from God we dwell in darkness and we die. We cut ourselves off from the light—the source of life. Jesus used another analogy to clarify that he is the source of life. He said that he is the vine and we are the branches. Branches are dependent upon the vine for life—to supply the water and nutrients they need to live. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood.” (John 15:5,6 MSG) When separated from our Creator, the source of life, we are deadwood. Jesus offers us a living, organic, intimate connection with him. When we go through the activities and events of our day and never connect with Jesus—we are cutting ourselves off from the light and moving deeper and deeper in to darkness. When we speak without conferring with God—Disconnect! Darkness! When we plan our day and our lives centered around what we want to do without a thought of God—Disconnect! Darkness! Prayer connects us with Jesus—on-going conversation with God. “Lord, give me the words to say in this conversation.” Connection! Light! “Lord, help me with the decision. I want to do your will.” Connection! Light!”
Light illuminates our way. It helps us to see the path we should take. It helps us to see obstacles or dangers in our way. Have you ever walked across a dark room barefooted and stepped on a sharp object? Have you ever stumbled over something in the dark that you could not see? Have you ever tried to find a path through the woods on a dark night when there is no moonlight? When we operate in darkness we hurt ourselves; we stumble and fall; we get lost. When we go our own way and do our own thing we are operating in darkness, we hurt ourselves; we stumble and fall; we get lost. When we turn on the light we can see the things in our way and avoid them. When we turn on the light we can find our path our way. Jesus is our guiding light. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We turn on the light in our lives when we prayerfully seek his guidance and let him show us the way.
Light is mysterious. Science has discovered many things about light, but light is still a mystery. We can understand a lot about Jesus. We can know what is important to know about Jesus. He loves us. He gave his life for us. He forgives us. He lives in our hearts. He wants to be our friend. He is always with us. He can work all things together for good in our lives. These things we know, but even they are a mystery. How mysterious is it that the Creator of the universe can live in my heart? Jesus revealed what we need to know about God. We know what we need to know. The danger comes when we think that what we know is all there is to know about God. We put God in a box. We have him all figured out.
Our scripture reading this morning says: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” When we read this passage, we also said “or overcome it.” The Greek word that is used here has two meanings: “to understand” or “to overcome.” Some translations say “understood” and some say “overcome.” Some Biblical scholars suggest that John had both of these meanings in mind when he chose this particular word because the meanings are related. The meaning of the sentence is that darkness attempts to understand or comprehend the light in order that it can overcome it or control it.
We believe that if we can understand something then we can control it or manipulate it for our purposes. If we could fully understand the weather, then we could control it! If we can fully understand God—get him all figured out, then we can control him. We can use him for our purposes. This is what happens when we believe that we have God in a box. We know everything there is to know about God. I’ve heard people say that they have figured out a formula for prayer. If you pray in a certain way with certain words, then God is obligated to answer your prayer!! It is a way to control God. God becomes a vending machine. You put in the right stuff and you will get in return what you want. We give God a list every morning of all the things we think he should do for us. But the Bible reminds us that “his ways are higher than our ways.” No matter how much we know about God, he will always remain a mystery—beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend. He knows better than we do what we need. We know that he loves us. We know that he wants the best for us. We know that we can trust him. We know that he sees and knows things that we do not know.
Sometimes we get it in our minds that we need a certain job or a certain house or a certain boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife. We have a list of things that we think would be the best for us. It is OK for us to tell God what we would like. But when we begin to expect him to deliver on our every request—we are attempting to control God. We know better than he does what we need. We need to have more honest conversations with God who is all-knowing. “God, I would like this job. In fact I would really like this job. But you know better than I what is best for me. I know you love me and you want the best for me. I trust you with whatever you think is best.” We take our hands off the controls. We never know when we don’t get what we ask for whether God is saving us from something or saving us for something. As Ruth Graham (wife of Billy Graham) said, “I thank God that he did not answer all my prayers. Or I would have married the wrong man—several times.”
Accepting that God, like light, is mysterious, places us in a position of openness and listening. More of our prayer time needs to be spent in listening to God. “God, what do you want me to do today?” “God, is there someone you want me to contact today?” “God, what do you want to say to me right now? I’m listening.” Then we wait in silence. Sometimes we may sense him guiding our thoughts. Sometimes we may just sit in silence and not hear anything. That is OK. Just being with God without saying a word or needing to hear anything is one of the most powerful ways we can acknowledge that he is God. We are content just to be with him. Sometimes it is wonderful just to spend an entire prayer asking for nothing, just expressing our thanks and gratitude. German theologian, Meister Eckhart, wrote: “If the only prayer you ever pray in your entire life is “Thank you” it will be enough.
Light is essential for life. Light guides us through the dark moments of life. Light is mysterious—beyond our comprehension and control. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 How do you need to experience the light of Jesus in your life today?