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Always Facing the Light

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An interesting series of biblical-theological allusions to light and darkness emerge in the Gospel of John. In the first 14 verses of chapter 1, the apostle John takes his readers from the preexistence of Christ through the creation of the world by Christ to the incarnation of Christ. Between declaring that “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (v. 3) and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14), John tells us,

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)

When we come to chapter 3, the apostle picks back up on the metaphor of light and darkness. After telling us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by cover of night, he writes:

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21)

In chapter 8, Jesus expressly declared what was already taught in chapters 1 and 3 when he said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

In chapter 11, Jesus links the metaphor of light to the light of the creation day when he said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10)

In chapter 12, he likens his time in the world to the rising of the sun:

The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light…I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.'” (John 12:34-36, 46).

Given the redemptive-historical nature of John’s Gospel (i.e. creation, tabernacle and Covenant themes), it seems altogether appropriate for us to go back to the Old Testament to understand the biblical theology of the light/darkness metaphors. In order to understand more of the glory of Christ in the work of redemption we must first go back to the creation account of Genesis 1.

‘Let There Be Light’

The very first words of God in the realm of special revelation, were “Let there be light.” We cannot emphasize the importance of these words enough. There is a rich theological intentionality to the Scriptures opening with a focus on darkness and light. When God first formed the heavens and the earth, Moses tells us that “the earth was without form and void, and that darkness spread across the face of the deep.” It was into this world of darkness that God spoke those very first words, “Let there be light!”

The point of Genesis 1:3 is not for you to try to understand scientifically how there could have been light without the luminary bodies, but to learn the theological rationale for light in the world. First, God made light so that man could see the glories of his handiwork in creation. Second, God made light without a sun so that man would understand that all things derived their life and preservation from God apart from the means to which we are tempted to attribute power and sustenance. Third (and most important to our considerations here), we are to understand that God is tell us something about the redemptive work that will occur after the fall of man.