Jesus, The Light of Men – John 1:4-5

Throughout this week I am going to share some daily encouragement (gems I have found in my studies) on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, as we consider the biblical truths surrounding His birth, we can all slow down and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. As you are encouraged… please share with others the hope of Christ this Christmas season! (The running commentary is from The Incarnation in the Gospels)

In Him Was Life

The first of these theme-words appears at the beginning of John 1:4, “In him was life.” The word life appears 36 times in the gospel of John, far more than any other New Testament book. It is one of his most important themes. The preceding verses say that “the Word was with God” and “was God,” and that “all things were made through him” (John 1:1–3). The second person of the Godhead, the “Word,” who is the subject of this gospel, is the source of all life in this universe. Not merely does he possess life, but life itself is found in him and comes through him. Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

This is what John wants us to see in Christ: “In him was life.” Are you really living? Do you feel that your life matters for something important? Are you excited about things, or just keeping occupied? Jesus has life to give to those who trust in him. “I came that they may have life,” he said, “and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The Light Shining

This is the very connection John makes, that the life in Christ comes as a light shining in the darkness. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:4–5). Light is another of John’s great themes. The first recorded words of God are, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). Light is an image that everyone understands, and it brings a rich array of meaning.

The first thing light does is reveal. When you walk into a dark room, you turn on the light to see. This is what Isaiah prophesied about the coming of Jesus: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isa. 9:2). Man was living in a spiritual darkness, ignorant about God and living in superstition. So Jesus came to reveal God. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he said (John 14:9). James Boice comments, “Jesus is revealed as the One who knows God the Father and who makes him known.… Before Christ came into the world, the world was in darkness. The world did not know God. Christ came. His light shone before men. Then men had light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Do you know God? Do you know what God is like? Jesus came to reveal God to you. Do you know God by personal acquaintance, by his presence within your spirit? Jesus came also to bring us into fellowship with God as worshipers in spirit and in truth.

Light not only reveals but it also warms. To “walk in the darkness” is to walk in sin and moral depravity, but the light of Christ warms the heart so that it is changed. This spiritual transformation is what Jesus meant in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

Thirdly, light not only reveals and warms, but it also guides. We think of the glory cloud of light that guided Israel through the desert during the exodus. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Likewise, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). If you come to Jesus Christ in faith and follow as his disciple, he will be a light to guide you “in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3).

Fourthly, light conveys and stimulates life. If you want a plant to grow, you place it in the sunshine. Likewise, you will grow upward as the light of Christ’s Word shines in you. His light shines with the power of his life through his Word.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). This great verse summarizes what it means for us to be Christ-like. Jesus wants you to be a lamp that reflects his light in the world. He wants you to reveal God to those around you; he wants you to warm others so they will seek after truth and love; he wants you to be a guide to others; and he wants his light shining in and through you to bring others to life. He said: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Darkness against the Light

The third image John uses is darkness. This is the opposite of light. If light stands for the knowledge of God, darkness represents the spiritual ignorance in which the world is perishing. If light stands for warmth and goodness, then the darkened world is that which is enslaved in sin and evil. If the light leads us in good paths, darkness is the realm of the lost and blind. If light brings life, then darkness is the realm of death.

Darkness is opposed to light. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” This indicates that the coming of Christ as the light meets the opposition of the darkened world. Jesus said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

Nothing has ever condemned this world more than its response to the coming of Jesus Christ. If people tell you the world or the human race is basically good, remind them what it did to Jesus. He came without any sin, healing and teaching the way to God. He was a light shining in the darkness. But for that very reason the world hated him. The hypocritical Pharisees resented him for exposing their legalism. The priests and scribes envied his popularity. The power-hungry Romans thought him a threat to their military domination. And it wasn’t just the elite, for the ordinary people also called out for Jesus’ blood: “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” they demanded of Pontius Pilate (John 19:15). When God’s Son came into the world, the world nailed him to a cross—the cruelest form of execution they could possibly devise—to suffer and die. People today similarly despise Jesus; for all their supposed admiration they refuse his claim to be Savior and Lord and resent his holy example that exposes their sin.

The Light of Christ

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” These are great themes that John unfolds all through his gospel: life, light, and darkness. But remember that John is really pointing to Jesus. What matters in life, then, is not what we are and have been, not what others have done, not what challenges or trials the future might hold. What matters is that Christ has come with life through his light that shines in the world, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

That is the way to life and light: to cease trusting in yourself or in anything else of this world that might commend you to God, and surrender your case into the hands of Jesus. “I have come into the world as light,” he said, “so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). That light is still shining, and through him you can have life everlasting, life abundant, life in Christ[1]

[1] Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels, ed. Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 149–160.

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