Light To A Dark World
Text: Jn. 1:6-13
1. Illustration: As Craig T. Kocher in his commentary on our text states, "Christian hope is fundamentally different from optimism. Christian hope locks its steely eyes on the devastation of the world around it, and readily acknowledges that things may not get better. Christian hope does not bury its heat in Yule-tide cheer and artificial lights, but like an Advent wreath glowing stronger and brighter each week, this hope pushes its way into the brokenness of the world clearing a path in the wilderness so the true light might burst into the darkness."
Kocher then goes on to cite a story told by Tom Long, about a rabbi Hugo Grynn, who was sent to Auschwitz as a little boy. In the midst of the concentration camp, in the midst of the death and horror all around them, many Jews held onto whatever shreds of their religious observances they could, without drawing the ire of the guards. One cold winter's evening, Hugo's father gathered the family in the barracks. It was the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights.
The young child watched in horror as his father took the family's last pad of butter and made a makeshift candle, using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the candle. "Father, no!" Hugo cried. "That butter is our last bit of food! How will we survive?"
"We can live for many days without food," his father said. "We can not live a single minute without faith and hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here! Not anywhere!"
2. Light provides vision, but it also brings hope!
3. There are three things necessary when considering the light...
a. Proclaiming The Light
b. Rejecting The Light
c. Receiving The Light
Proposition: Jesus, the light of the world, came to give us hope.
Transition: John tells us about the one who came...
I. Proclaiming The Light (6-9).
A. To Tell About The Light
1. Imagine someone who has lived in darkness all their life. How would it affect them if someone were to hold a flashlight in their face? They probably would hold their hand to their face and ask. "What is that?" They would have to be educated as to what light is and why it is so vital.
2. That was the mission of John the Baptist. This is what John the Evangelist said, "God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony."
a. The text introduces him simply as "a man named John." The Apostle assumes that his readers are familiar with him, and in fact may have caused problems in John's congregation.
b. This may stem from a sect of the Baptist’s followers who had no knowledge of Jesus' completed work.
c. The important thing about John the Baptist was that he was "sent."
d. The use of this word refers to the authority that commissioned him; the identification by name is incidental (Tenney, The Expositor's Bible Commentary – Volume 9: John and Acts, 30).
e. To tell: to provide information about a person or an event concerning which the speaker has direct knowledge
(Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains, (33.262-33.273)".
f. "Witness" is distinctly a Johannine word. It is especially pertinent in this Gospel, which is an attempt to establish by adequate testimony the claims of Jesus as the Son of God.
g. The preaching of John the Baptist, which must have been known to the readers of the fourth Gospel, was preparatory to the coming of the Christ.
h. John the Baptist told the crowds listening to him that he was only the forerunner of another who would confer on them the Holy Spirit and that they must repent, or change their attitude, in anticipation of meeting him.
i. The author was careful to specify that John the Baptist was not the genuine light but that he came to attest it.
j. As the Word came to bring the heavenly light to humanity, so John came to speak from a human level and to awaken people to their need of God's revelation (Tenney, 30-31).
k. It is perhaps significant that there is no mention of his baptizing Jesus. But there is repeated reference to his witness.
l. For this Evangelist John's witness is what matters. It was for witness that John came, and nothing else that he did can be compared in importance to this (Morris, 79).
3. John further illustrates this by saying, "John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light."
a. Just as he brings out the true greatness of John, so he makes clear his limitations.
b. He goes on to repeat the truth that John came to bear witness.
c. That was the whole reason for his appearance. That was why he was "sent from God."
d. Those who did not understand this were misinterpreting his whole mission (Morris, 81).
4. The Evangelist now focuses his attention from the Baptist to Jesus. He says, "The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world."
a. "True" (alethinon) means "real" or "genuine" as opposed to "facsimile" or "secondary" rather than "false."
b. Christ is the real light of humanity who was about to enter the world.
c. The text should be understood to mean, not that he had already illumined everyone, but that his function would be to give the light of truth to all whom his ministry would affect, whether in greater or lesser degree (Tenney, 31).
d. The Evangelist is speaking about the Word as "the true light," and going on from that, about the illumination he gives to people.
e. Other lights "were flickers of the truth; some were faint glimpses of reality; some were wisps which men followed, and which led men out into the dark and left them there" (Barclay).
f. But Christ is the genuine light. He is the light that brings real illumination. There is nothing unreal or shadowy about the light that is Christ (Morris, 83).
1. Illustration: Dr. Martin Neimoller was an outstanding German pastor during the time of Adolf Hitler's reign. Neimoller was sent to prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before being sent to prison Neimoller had a 30-minute visit with Adolf Hitler. Hitler tried to persuade Neimoller to join his forces and turn from the stupidity of Christianity. For thirty minutes they discussed philosophy and the ideology of Nietzism. Neimoller would not give up his living faith in Jesus so Hitler sent him to prison.
Years later Neimoller was released from prison. He testified he had visions that haunted him. He dreamed that he saw Hitler standing before the judgment seat of God and Neimoller was standing off to the side watching the panorama of events. In his vision he saw Christ turn to Hitler and say, "What is your excuse for all your crimes?" In reply Hitler says: "No one told me the Gospel."
2. Just as the Baptist was sent to testify about Jesus, we too are sent to testify.
a. Acts 1:8 (NLT)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
b. Just as the Baptist was sent to proclaim the light in a dark world we are called to proclaim the light of Christ.
c. The world we live in is just as dark and lost as the one John lived in.
d. A world that is lost and without hope outside of the light of the Gospel.
e. Just like the pastor in the story, who had a chance to tell Hitler about the love of Jesus, we have the opportunity to change eternal destinies by being His witnesses.
f. Don't wait, don't waste time and energy on things that don't matter!
g. Tell them about the light of the world!
Transition: Unfortunately, many will be...
II. Rejecting The Light (10-11).
A. Rejected Him
1. Have you ever heard the phrase, "The more things change the more they remain the same?" Well nothing could be more true than the way people respond to Jesus.
2. In verse 10 John says, "He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him."
a. The "world" is first introduced here is John's Gospel. It refers to the people for whom Jesus came.
b. They rejected him as the true light because of their sin.
c. John assumes here the sinfulness of all people, and it is because of this that they cannot know God.
d. Their religious quest has missed the mark, and they cannot find God without the Light (Aker, 12).
e. John has a way of emphasizing a word by the simplest of all devices, repetition. He does this here.
f. Three times, at least in the Greek, he repeats the word "world," and each time it comes first in its clause.
g. Clearly John wishes to fasten attention on it. He says three things.
h. First, the Word (or the light) was "in the world."
i. The verb conveys the thought of continuity. He did not simply pay a fleeting visit, but was there continuously.
j. The second point is the reminder that the world owes its very existence to the Word.
k. The third point deals with the rejection of the Word by the world, and this rejection is heightened by the way John leads up to it.
l. The Word was in the world continuously, the world that he had made, and yet the world did not know him.
m. "Did not recognize him" refers to more than intellectual knowledge.
n. There is also the thought of the failure to know intimately, to know and love as a friend, to be in right relation.
o. It did not come to know the Word when the Word was in its very midst.
p. The world did not know him. The world never does. The world's characteristic reaction to the Word is one of indifference (Morris, 84-85).
3. Not only did the world reject Jesus, but his own people alse rejected him. John says, "He came to his own people, and even they rejected him."
a. When the Word came to this world he did not come as an alien. He came home.
b. Moreover, he came to Israel. Had he come to some other nation it would have been bad enough, but Israel was uniquely God's own people.
c. The Word did not go where he could not have expected to be known. He came home, where the people should have known him (Morris, 85).
d. Even Jesus own family didn't believe in him, and it wasn't until after the resurrection that they finally believed.
B. Rejecting The Truth
1. Illustration: One day, Adrian Rogers, the former president of the southern Baptist church, now Pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis, Tenn felt discouraged that people were not responding to His invitations. He felt so distraught that he asked God to give him a verse for encouragement. He opened his Bible and pointed at a verse and it read, "They are not rejecting you, but Me." After that Dr. Rogers no longer worried about the results from his invitations knowing that people were not rejecting him or teaching, but God and His word’s invitation.
2. By rejecting Jesus we are rejecting the truth.
a. Romans 1:22-23 (NLT)
Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
b. Jesus came to this world to sacrifice himself for our sins and we rejected him.
c. We rejected him because we loved our sin more.
d. We rejected him because we were afraid we would have to change.
e. We rejected him because he called us to not only believe, but to repent and believe.
f. In doing so we have demonstrated our own foolishness.
g. God has offered us through Jesus grace, forgiveness and hope, but we said no!
Transition: However, we can change our destiny by...
III. Receiving The Light (12-13).
A. Believed And Accepted Him
1. Jesus gives us an alternative to rejecting his offer of salvation, simply receiving it.
2. In verse 12 it says, "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God."
a. John does not wish to leave the impression (which might be gained from v. 11) that nobody responded to the Word.
b. The bulk of the people did not respond, but some did, and John now turns his attention to them (Morris, 86).
c. "Believe" refers not to a one time event like at an altar call, but to a continuous act, a lifestyle or state of being.
d. With habitual belief come the right to become the children of God (Aker, 13).
e. Another key phrase here is "accepted him." In spite of the many who rejected the Word, there were some who received him.
f. This provides the initial definition of "believe" by equating it with "receive."
g. When we accept a gift, whether tangible or intangible, we thereby demonstrate our confidence in its reality and trustworthiness.
h. We make it part of our own possessions. By being so received, Jesus gives to those who receive him a right to membership in the family of God.
i. "Become" indicates clearly that people are not the spiritual children of God by natural birth, for we cannot become what we already are. This verb implies a change of nature.
j. The word children (tekna) is parallel to the Scottish bairns—"born ones."
k. It emphasizes vital origin and is used as a term of endearment. Believers are God's "little ones," related to him by birth (Tenney, 32).
l. The word right (exousia) may be misleading since it suggests a legal claim. Exousia can also mean "power" or "authority."
m. The imagery of coming alive as God's children suggests the focus here is on the power that produces divine life.
n. But it is a power that must be exercised by the person—John does not say "he made them children of God" but "he gave them power to become children of God"
3. John unpacks this idea further when he says, "They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God."
a. The structure of this verse shows a strong contrast between human effort and divine activity.
b. Three parallel, negative elements, "not of physical birth," nor "from human passion," nor "plan," contrasted with a single positive one "a birth that comes from God."
c. By using these three elements, John emphasizes that no human effort can make someone a child of God - it takes divine activity (Aker, 13).
B. Receiving Jesus
1. Illustration: I discovered the chipmunks while stopping at a scenic over-look in Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado). They were amazing; bravely coming right up to people to take food out of their hands. These little creatures had willingly changed their lifestyle-- they set aside their previous fear of humans, in order to receive something essential to their existence: food. They were not afraid of my hand because my hand fed them. And so they allowed their lives to be radically changed in order that they might be fed by this hand.
We, too, should be like these chipmunks. Where we were once afraid of that nail-pierced Hand that was extended to us, we now know that it is that very Hand that feeds us and gives us life. And so, like the chipmunks, we’ve allowed our lives to be radically changed in order that we might truly be blessed by His Hand. (George W.J. Shearer)
2. Salvation is a FREE GIFT from Jesus; all we have to do is RECEIVE IT!
a. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
b. Salvation is a free gift; you can't buy it, you can't earn it, and you can't steal it.
c. Salvation can only be received as a gift from God.
d. Jesus has already paid the price.
e. Jesus has already done the work for you.
f. Jesus is reaching out his hand to you and saying, "hear it is - take it - it's yours!"
g. Accept him as your Savior and he give you the power and authority to become a child of God.
h. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.
i. Don't say, "I've got more time later."
j. Say Jesus I accept what you did for me on the cross.
1. There are three things necessary when considering the light...
a. Proclaiming The Light
b. Rejecting The Light
c. Receiving The Light
2. If you are here today and you have not accepted Jesus you need to receive him today.
3. If you are here and you have accepted Jesus will you take up the call to proclaim the Light?