Sermon series Hello, My Name Is Jesus
I Said It - John 1:1-2, 6
I Made It - John 1:3
I Show It - John 1:4-5
I'm Here - John 1:9-11
I Am Here - John 1:12
I Give It - John 1:13
I Have Come - John 1:14
Consider life for just a moment. Try to define it. Try to put it in words. It is more than merely saying we are living beings. It is more than simply breathing or our heart pumping or our brain running. It is beyond our intellect to try to explain all the processes that must take place for you and me to live. It is overwhelming to consider what all is needed for us to truthfully say we are alive. But Jesus knows. And, even better he is it. He started it. He created it. He fashioned it. He is life. Take Jesus away and there is no life.
Consider light for just a moment. Can you imagine the moment when light burst forth to overwhelm darkness? We, for the most part, have never known total darkness. Picture total darkness in your minds-think about the fear and the anxiety that comes with being in the dark. Feel your heart racing, your palms sweating, your body shaking. Then, imagine God saying "Let there be light." And light burst forth to overwhelm the darkness. I suppose a blind person receiving their sight might have an inkling of understanding of this transcendent moment. I read of a blind man who gained his sight saying: "I never knew that red was so vibrant; the sun sets were so beautiful; the grass was so green; and the smiles so precious." Yet Jesus was there. He ignited light.
In Jesus we have the embodiment of both life and light. As John continues his introduction of Jesus, he focuses on the pair of words: Light and life. John wrote, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:4-5 NIV). In this verse, through these two words, Jesus is saying, "I will show you the way to God."
Let's be honest, we often take these two benefits, life and light, for granted. For example, when is the last time you went to bed wondering if you would wake up? Most of us give little thought to our demise, unless we are threatened or deathly ill. Or when was the last time you went to bed wondering if the sun would rise the next morning? We pretty much count on the sun to rise and light bulbs to work. Life and light are givens. So when John says that Jesus is life and light we treat it sort of ho-hum, no big deal. Could John be referring to something more than merely physical life and rays of light?
Life and light are the two basic words on which John's introduction of Jesus is presented. These words reveal two more truths about Jesus.
I. The Truths
A. Jesus is the life-giver
John says, "In him was life." John uses the term life thirty-six times in his gospel. Jesus says time and time again that he is the giver of life, the author of life. To Maratha as her brother Lazarus lay dead in the tomb, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25 NIV). To Thomas, who was bewildered about death and the afterlife, Jesus states, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6 NIV). To a crowd of people, Jesus utters, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
The word John uses for life is zoe in which the English words zoo and zoology are derived. It refers to life as God has it. It is the essence of life not limited by time, nor hindered by death. The word zoe stands in contrast to another Greek word for life, bios, in which the English word biology is derived. It refers to the duration of life-one's life span, the time between one's birth date and one's death date; or it refers to the necessities of life-one's food, shelter, and clothing.
As a divine gift, the life became the light that points people to God. Now, John presents the second truth.
B. Jesus is the light-bearer
John continues, ". . . that life was the light of men." There is an interesting grammatical construction here. In the Greek text both "life" and "light" carry the definite article. So this phrase could be translated as it is printed: "that life was the light of men" or "that light was the life of men." Either way works. Either is true. Just as John links life with Christ, so does he link light with Christ. Just as the first Creation began with "Let there be light!" so the New Creation begins with the entrance of light into the heart of the believer. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world was the dawning of a new day for sinful man.
John uses this word light twenty-one times in his gospel. Jesus said on two occasions, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12, 9:5 NIV). To the people of John's day, light was symbolic of deity. The Rabbis used light as a name for the Messiah that was promised to come. When John said Jesus is the light, he is claiming that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. It was another way he was saying that Jesus is God.
C. Darkness is the villain
Over against light and life is darkness. In John's story Jesus is the hero, and darkness is the villain. John continues, "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." The darkness stands as the antithesis to the light and life. Darkness stands for life without Christ, and especially for that which has turned its back on Christ. With one word, darkness, John introduces Satan, who, by the way, is called "the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). The cosmic struggle between God and Satan is revealed. In fact, Satan strives to keep people in the darkness, because darkness means death and hell, while light means life and heaven.
The words not understood mean simply that the world cannot understand the demands of Christ. We see this over and over again in John's gospel that the people will not understand what Jesus is saying and doing and, as a result, they will oppose him. And, in the end, they kill him for their misunderstanding. But, the words not understand can also mean never overcome, a reminder that Satan will never overcome Jesus. Try as it might, the darkness cannot extinguish the light. The people killed Jesus. It appeared that Satan had won. But Jesus rose from the dead, victorious.
II. The significance
What does all of this talk about life, light, and darkness mean to us?
A. Jesus gives you something you could never get on your own
The point that John is making is that Jesus has brought us physical life but he wants to give us eternal life. We may know life as humans have it, but not know life as God has it. We can be breathing, our heart pumping blood, but not have everlasting life. The life that Jesus gives is infinitely and eternally different than the life one possesses now. Jesus wants to give you something you could never get on your own-eternal life.
The clearest statement that Jesus made about this gift is the most quoted and most endearing verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV).
We are a curious folk. We will do anything and everything we can do to prolong life on this earth. We will exercise, eat the right diet, and sleep the appropriate number of hours each night. When we are sick we will visit doctors who will run tests and prescribe medications and treatments. And, if those don't work we will try alternative approaches. But the fact is we are going to die.
In preparing for a funeral sermon, I needed some information about the family of the deceased that I did not have in my notes from my meeting with them. I went online at the funeral home site. I had done this before. but on this day I was struck by something so obvious. Under deceased's name were the words: Birth Date and Death Date. Every one of us will have a birth date and a death date. It is unavoidable. If we could put a graphic to this life it would look like this:
A line with a beginning and end.
We do everything we can do to increase the length of the line but it will end. And all the while Jesus wants to give that which we could never get on our own, eternal life. The life that Jesus gives looks like this:
A line that has a beginning but does not end. Death does not impact our eternal life. In death we simply change residences.
B. Jesus gives you something better than you deserve
Not only does Jesus gives you something you could never get on your own-eternal life, he gives you something better than you deserve-abundant life. Here's the twist. Jesus promises to give us eternal life, meaning that when we die, we live with him for eternity. But before that happens, he promises to give us an enhanced life while we are here on this earth. The life that he gives is not only eternal; it is abundant. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV). Jesus quantifies this life. The phrase "have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV) is translated "abundantly" or "fullness" or "overflowing." The word means to have a superabundance of a thing. It carries with it the idea of overflowing the container, more than one can handle, that which goes beyond necessity, life beyond our wildest dreams. It takes the characteristics of vitality, meaning energy, purpose, significance, outlook, hope, and joy. In our modern vernacular, we could say Jesus gives an upgrade on life.
Have you ever received an upgrade?
My wife and I had the good fortune several years ago of spending three weeks visiting Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. It was a wonderful trip, but needless to say I was dreading the nine hour flight home. When we arrived at the airport in Zurich to check-in, the United Airlines attendant informed us that our flight was full, overbooked. "However," she said, "seats are available in first class. Would you mind if we upgraded you and your wife to first class?"
Would I mind? That's like asking a Chicago Cubs fan if they would mind if the Cubs win the World Series this year. Would I mind? "Well," I said, "if you must, we'll take the upgrade."
Do you know what it is like sitting in first class on an international overseas flight? Let me tell you. The flight crew gave us continual attention. Food and drinks were offered repeatedly, not that cheap airplane food that is served back in the coach section-we are talking gourmet entrees, caviar, and delectable deserts. I finally had to tell the flight attendant to stop bring more food. I didn't think the seat belt would extend any more to circumvent my stomach. We were given warm towels to wash our face, soft pillows for our head, and blankets that don't smell like they have been used to change the oil in the plane for warmth. We received a personal toiletry kit-an engineering marvel that places comb, mouthwash, socks, and toothpaste in a small package. And the movies. We had our own personal television screen. It popped out of the arm of the seat. No need to strain the neck, like back in the cheap seats, from looking around the lady with the bouffant hairstyle in front. We watched what movies we wanted when we wanted for as long as we wanted. We were in plane heaven.
I could adjust to living that way. I didn't mind the upgrade at all. When it came time to de-board the plane, I cried. Well, not really, but I wanted to. While I did not merit or earn the upgrade, I enjoyed it immeasurably. It is the only way to fly.
It is the only way to live.
Who doesn't like upgrades?
Whether it is on rental cars, hotel rooms, carpet for your home, or memory for your computer. We like upgrades. We want upgrades.
Perhaps you have never thought of it this way before, but the life that Jesus gives is an upgrade. He upgrades despair to hope, bondage to freedom, perplexity to peace, and illness to health (to mention but a few). His most significant upgrade for us is in moving us from a predicament of lostness to the paradise of salvation, from a destination of hell to heaven. While we don't deserve it, he gives it.
Who doesn't want eternal life? Who doesn't want abundant life? If we have any sense, we should be saying, "Point me to it." Which Jesus does.
C. Jesus shows you where to go when you could never find it on your own
Jesus is the light. The first definition for "light" in the dictionary is "something that makes vision possible." In other words, light makes it possible for us to see. Without light, we are hopelessly blind-blind to our spiritual predicament, blind to the way out of spiritual darkness. Light makes it possible for us to see clearly, to see things as they really are. Jesus came as light to help a blind world regain its sight, to show people the way. Jesus said, "I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness" (John 12:46 NIV). On another occasion Jesus said, "I have come into this world, so that the blind will see" (John 9:39 NIV). Jesus brings us the light that restores us from spiritual darkness.
While on maneuvers, a battleship lookout noted a light in the dark, foggy night. After noting the light's coordinates, the captain recognized his ship was on a collision course with the other vessel. The captain instructed, "Signal the ship: We are on a collision course; advise you change course 20 degrees." The return signal countered, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."
The captain signaled, "I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees." The response was, "I'm a seaman second class, you'd better change your course 20 degrees." By this time the captain was furious. His signal curtly ordered, "I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees." The reply: "I'm a lighthouse. You make the call."
Without Christ we are like a ship lost on the open sea in a dense fog, groping for the eternal shore, waiting with beating heart for someone to dispel the darkness with the light of salvation. That is what Christ has done, he has provided the light in the darkness of our sin, our doomed existence, so that we can see God and be rescued from our ill-fated damnation.
Are you walking in the light today or are you still in darkness? Do you need to change your course so as not to meet your eternal demise?
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12 NIV).
III. The trust
These benefits of eternal life, abundant life, and spiritual life exist only in relationship with Jesus. Notice in John 1:4, John says, "In him was life." John uses the words "In him" not "by him" or "through him." In other words, the life that Jesus brings both the quantity and quality does not exist apart from a relationship with Christ. The life that belongs to God becomes ours when we enter into a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus reiterates this thought: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV). The I in this verse is emphatic, meaning that life is found in no other than him. Life is entered by no other than Jesus himself.
Physical life is granted to all who are living. Eternal, abundant, and spiritual life, while offered to all, is only possessed by those who trust in Jesus.
Life has one source; spiritual eyesight is obtained one way; heaven can be entered through one access. And the single means of admission to all that is life and light is Jesus.
What must we do? Trust in the life-giver and follow the light-bearer, Jesus.