Summary: 2nd sermon in a John series
The True Light
Helen Keller tells of that dramatic moment when Anne Sullivan first broke through her dark, silent world with the illumination of language:
“We walked down the path to the well house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant that wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”
The moment Helen Keller describes is that moment her world of darkness was shattered with the light of language. Although she was the same person physically, her life was transformed. She now had a way she could see and understand.
Spiritually speaking, people are living in a world of darkness. Some of you may recognize the words to the Simon and Garfunkel song from the 70’s entitled The Sound of Silence: “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” This is an accurate description of the way many people feel today—they are living in spiritual darkness. They are in need of spiritual illumination, a divine light.
Last week, we learned from the first 5 vv of John that Jesus Christ is the Originator of spiritual Light. The challenge of John’s Gospel as a whole is a call to believe on Jesus, so that by believing one can have life.
John begins by telling us who Jesus is: He is God. He is the Creator. He is Light and Life. Now, the apostle expands upon the truth that Jesus is the Light. And as the Light, He is the source of spiritual illumination. From our text, we examine 4 scenes regarding the Light:
I. The True Light Represented (6-8)
For John, the ultimate origins of the Messiah are in the Pre-incarnate Word who was with God and who was God. But when John begins the account of Jesus’ public ministry, he follows the Synoptics and takes us to the ministry of John the Baptist. In vv. 1-5, the Evangelist focuses upon the Word’s role in eternity. Now he turns to the Word’s relative place in human history, a story that begins with Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist. The Word, in whom exists the life that is the light of men, was first manifest in the public arena of history when a man called John the Baptizer bore witness of him.
Let’s observe what the text says regarding John the Baptist’s role:
A. “There came a man”
In contrast to the Word, who “was” in the beginning, John “came” into the world. Unlike the eternal Logos, John was born into the world. He was a created being.
B. This man was “sent from God”
The significance of John the Baptist is recognized in the fact that he was sent from God. He came with the authority of God Himself. As one sent from God, John is in the same category as Moses (Ex. 3.10-15), the prophets (Isa. 6.8; Jer. 1.4), and even Jesus Himself, who was sent from God. This man came by God’s own commission and with God’s own authority.
C. He was sent as a “witness” to the light.
The purpose of John was one: to bear witness to the true light. He was not the light but was sent to bear witness of the true light, and by his witness persons would believe in the light. Through his testimony, others would be delivered from spiritual darkness.
John employs courtroom language here: the Baptizer was a witness, a testimony, of the true light. What are the traits of a witness?
- a witness has seen/experienced something firsthand
- a witness is willing to testify to what he/she has seen/experienced
- a witness commits oneself to that truth. He/she is no longer neutral.
John is a witness of Jesus, the true light. He is a testimony of what he has experienced. He is willing to tell others (no matter what the cost—his own head). And he has committed himself to sharing what he has experienced.
This text is clear that the roles of the Logos and the witness are not to be confused. The apostle John reminds us, “He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness to the light.” Negatively, John was NOT the Light. Positively, he was a witness of the light. John was merely a witness, the voice of one crying in the desert. He was the preparer, the forerunner, the one who paved the way. John’s Gospel makes it clear that John the Baptist saw his role as subservient. He just wanted to point others to Jesus.