It was August 11, 1999. We were living in Romania and our girls, who were in high school at the time, were in Timisoara with friends, giving us our first taste of “the empty nest.” So we made it a date. We packed a lunch, grabbed some protective eyewear, and headed for a mountainside just outside of Sibiu to witness something neither of us had ever seen—a total eclipse of the sun.
What a spooky, once-in-a-lifetime experience it was! Slowly the moon crept up on the sun until it was totally obscured and it became night in the middle of the day. So there we sat eating our picnic lunch in the moon shadow, waiting for the sun to return. Raised in the scientific age, we were never really afraid but I could imagine how people in the ancient world might take it as harbinger of evil things to come praying for the light to shine on them again.
But then, as modern as you and I may be, the fact is that we too suffer from a fear of the darkness—perhaps not in a physical sense, but definitely in a spiritual sense. We see the ever-increasing immorality, violence, and anti-God spirit of the age, and we worry: “How long can we hold it together?” The answer: Not one second apart from the grace of Jesus Christ who, Colossians 1:15 says, “is the image of the invisible God,” which is why Jehovah also outlawed the making of graven images in the Old Testament. He was saving that sacred role for His only begotten (born not created, mind you)…His only begotten Son “by whom all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth.” Consequently, means, if He is the Creator of all things, He wasn’t created! He’s eternal!
For it wasn’t from the beginning that He was with God. It was “in the beginning” before the time-space continuum began. And if He existed before time and space were created, then He’s eternal and co-equal with the Father from eternity past. That’s the meaning of “oneness” in the Old Testament, by the say. It doesn’t mean singleness. It means unity, so that just as two can become one flesh in marriage, so the Father and Son have been One God from eternity past.
Furthermore, Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together,” which means it isn’t you or me or the government who is holding everything together. We couldn’t do that even if we tried. It is Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is the One who is holding this world, this nation, your marriage, your health, and your finances together by His gracious power. So let’s be sure to give Him the praise that is due Him!
That’s where we left off last week—with John 1:4, which says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it! In fact, John later encourages us in his epistle to the churches, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” So that’s where I want to pick up this study, asking you the question I ended with last week: Have you seen the Light and put your faith in Jesus?
For remember what we learned! Jesus said we’re to give the same degree of honor to Him that we give to the Father, and that just as we’ve learned to trust in God, we’re to put that same kind of faith in Jesus. For He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me!”
To see how and why we’re to do that, I want to introduce you to 3 players in the drama—the Witness, the Light, and the First Responders. But before I do, take a moment to read the passage. It says,, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
- The Witness
John has introduced us in the first 5 verses to the Eternal and Uncreated Word of God. But now he seems to be changing subjects, introducing us to a man named John. By the way, wherever you see the name John in this Gospel, it refers to John the Baptist or on a few occasions to the father of Peter, but never to the Apostle John who wrote this book. He preferred to remain anonymous and simply called himself “the disciple Jesus loved,” so the glory would go to Jesus and not to him.
That’s what we find here. John isn’t changing subjects. He’s taking us into the courtroom, asking us to listen to the first witness Jehovah has prepared to testify to the Deity of His Son. In fact, that’s something he does throughout this book—calls witness after witness to testify to the Deity of Christ—the 11 disciples; 5,000 who were fed; a man born blind; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who was raised from the dead; but the first and greatest witness is John who comes preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, saying: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” It says in verse 6, “There came a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.”
You might want to underline the phrase “sent from God” because I’d remind you this was the first prophet to appear in Israel in over 400 years. The last prophet was Malachi who was followed by 400 years of silence as a way of accentuating John’s ministry and preparing the people for the coming of the Lord.
I’d also remind you of his special birth. His father Zacharias, who was a priest, and his mother Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, mother, were both elderly and childless. So when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple announcing that his wife was going to bear a son, he doubted the angel’s word and was struck dumb until the day of John’s circumcision when he was asked, “What do you want to call him?” And the Bible says the moment he wrote the name “John,” meaning “Jehovah is gracious,” his tongue was loosened, and he went on prophesy that his son would be called “the prophet of the Most High” and go on before His face to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
He also enjoyed a special preparation. Luke says he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, raised in the wilderness where he wore a garment of camel’s hair, ate locusts and wild honey, and at the age of 30 began preaching in the wilderness saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make His paths straight.” The results were miraculous! John never had to do any marketing. And yet, Mark 1:5 says “all the country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to see him, being baptized in the Jordan River and confessing their sins—which tells us two things: 1) If we’re faithful to do God’s will in the way He wants us to do it, we don’t have to worry about the results. All we have to do is be faithful, and God will take care of the rest. And believe me, John was faithful—so faithful it cost him his life.
2) We’re to make Jesus the focal point of all we say and do. For like John, that is our mission. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “Be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” All you have to do is read the rest of chapter 1, and you’ll see how faithfully John shifted the focus away from himself to Jesus. In verse 15, he says to those being baptized by him, “He who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.” In verse 25, he denies being the Christ insisting that he isn’t worthy to untie the sandals of the One coming after him. In verse 29, he says to the crowd after Jesus’ baptism, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then in verse 35, he encourages two of his own disciples (Andrew and John) to follow Jesus, pointing to Him and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
And finally, later in chapter 3, when his ministry begins to wane because everybody is following Jesus instead of him, he’s perfectly OK with that, because he knows his work is now. So he says to his disciples who are worried about his declining popularity, “A man can receive nothing unless it’s been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, I have been sent ahead of Him.’…He must increase, but I must decrease.”’ Talk about humble, faithful witnesses! What do you think? Did God pick the right man? I’ll say. In fact, we’ll see in a later study that Jesus said of him, “No greater man has arisen among men than John the Baptist.” Talk about high praise!
And that’s what we ought to live for—not the praise of men, but God’s pleasure in seeing people believe in Christ through our witness for Him. Look one more time at verse 8, and you’ll see that’s what John was all about. It says, “He was not the Light, but came to give testimony to the Light, that all might believe through him.” Believe by taking somebody else’s word for it? Absolutely! That’s been God’s plan from the beginning—to spread the good news of Christ’s love by one hungry beggar telling another where he found food. C.S. Lewis called it “the good infection.” By the way, the plan has been wildly successful, for not only are there millions and billions in heaven today who have believed because one follower of Jesus told another, but there are still hundreds of thousands being won to Christ that way every day! That’s our job! Not to be religious counselors, spiritual gurus, or Christian life coaches. Our job is to be witnesses to the glory and Deity of Jesus Christ. John was the witness, but Jesus is the Light.
- The Light
John continues, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Who does John mean when he says, “The True Light?” He is talking about Jesus the Word of God in whom is life and whose life, he said in verse 3, “is the light of men.” John heard that from Jesus’ very own lips when He said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the Word. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life.”
That represents either the most arrogant and blasphemous statement ever made or the most hopeful and life-giving. Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” That’s something on which all the Old Testaments prophets agree. Jehovah is the One True Light of the World. So how can John say that Jesus is the One True Light and how could Jesus dare to say it about Himself unless it’s true—that He and the Father are One God, just as two are one flesh in marriage? You see there’s really no alternative. As C.S. Lewis put it, either Jesus was a liar inspired by the devil, a lunatic who thought He was God but wasn’t, or He is who He claimed to be—my Lord, my Light, and my Great Salvation!
Last week we saw two things the Light does for us. 1) It gives us power, for that’s what light is. Light is energy. Physicists define it as radiant, electromagnetic, and corpuscular energy traveling in waves at 186,000 miles per second, stimulating our retinas, and giving us the power to see. The fact that it’s corpuscular means it is also a quantum phenomenon and that the source of its power is unknown to modern science. But not to us! We know who it is. It isn’t a thing. It’s a Person—the Lord Jesus Christ who created all things by the Word of His power and lives to give new life to everyone who believes in Him. Lest you doubt that, John is going to prove it again and again in this Gospel.
In it, we’ll see Jesus, who the Bible calls the wisdom and power of God, turning water to wine, creating new eyes for a blind man, creating new limbs for a lame man, calming a storm, feeding 5,000 with two loaves of bread, and raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. The good news is: He hasn’t lost a watt of energy since then! So here’s what you do. Think of one thing you know God wants to do in your life, something you could never do for yourself, and start asking and trusting Him this very moment to do it for you in His goodness and grace. Let’s see how many prayers He answers for us in the next few weeks together!2) It reveals the truth to us. That’s why John calls Jesus the True Light. The word is aleithenos referring to that which is genuine and pure. John is contrasting it with all the false sources of light in the world. Did you know, for example, that the Bible says that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light in his efforts to lead you astray? Which means you can’t trust your own reasoning powers to ferret out the truth about God. The only thing you can trust is the Word of God which isn’t just a written thing. John says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so we’d no longer have any confusion as to what God is like. That’s his point later in verse 18: “No one has seen God at any time; they only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.”
So Jesus you can trust—not only what He says about God but also what He says about you. That’s why people are careful to avoid Him. Have you noticed that? You can talk to people about God or church but the moment you mention Jesus, they get nervous. Why? Because He’s so bright! Like the lights of an Operating Room, He exposes our every spiritual blemish, and that’s embarrassing.
It isn’t that they’re unaware of the Light. Verse 9 says the True Light enlightens every person who comes into the world. If you doubt that, ask a little child, “Do you believe in God?” She’ll say without hesitation, “Of course I do, silly! Don’t you?” I mean how could you not? He became a man at Bethlehem but verse 10 is clear. He’s been in this world from the beginning—making it, maintaining it, ministering to His creatures needs. Even the sparrows know that! So Paul says in Romans 1:19, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
You see, it isn’t that they don’t know about God. It’s that once sin gets ahold of us, we hide from Him and stop acknowledging Him as God. That’s what “know” means in verse 10. The word is ginosko meaning to acknowledge someone.
Jesus explained it in John 3:19. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness (sin, Satan, and all he offers) rather than the Light.” Why! “Because,” He says, “their deeds are evil! For example, I used to have a problem with anger and depression, but do you think I let anybody know it? Of course not! It’s embarrassing to admit you have a problem with your temper, your tongue, your appetite, your spending, or any other sins of the flesh. And yet, as Rick Warren says, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” So don’t hide from Him a moment longer. Step into the Light and let Doctor Jesus treat you, and He’ll heal you of that thing forever! I know because He did it for me. I might add, He also has the best bedside manner of any doctor in the world. The witness was John. The Light is Jesus. Finally, notice one more thing –
- The First Responders
Verse 11 continues, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Who is John talking about here? He’s talking about the people of Israel who God calls “My people” over 100 times in the Old Testament, starting with Pharaoh in Egypt to whom He says, “Let My people go!” Again He says through Solomon, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray…then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” These are the people to whom God gave the Law, the Land, the Prophets, and through them the Scriptures and the Savior of the world. And yet, when He finally came to earth, how did they respond? They called for His crucifixion, the most horrific crime in all of history! But then it wasn’t the Jews only who rejected Him. The Romans did too! And so would you, if not for the amazing grace of God!
The good news is God has always saved a remnant out of the world—Noah and his family from the Flood, Abraham and his family in the days of idolatry after the Flood, 11 disciples who left everything to follow Him, and 120 praying in an upper room after His ascension into heaven, a number that has grown to millions and billions in heaven and on earth who love Him today. For though His own did not receive Him, verse 12 says as many as did receive Him, “to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
Imagine that you’re 6 years old again—an orphan with no family of your own. A friend invites you home after school, and you think to yourself, “If only I had a family like this!” Then his father surprises you with a question, “Do you like it here?” “Sure!” you say. “Then why don’t you stay and be a part of our family?” What do you have to do to make it happen? Take his father at his word and stay. That’s what Jesus invites you to do—to come home and be a part of His family. All you have to do is say “yes” and stay. That’ll involve some changes in your attitude and behavior. You can’t join a family without it changing how you live. But that’s all there is to it from the human side. Believe and receive. They are one and the same thing. To receive is to believe and to believe is to receive. A simple act of the will leading to irrevocable membership in the family of God!
But we’re not merely adopted into God’s family. John says we’re born into it. This is a mystery and miracle we cannot see with our eyes. Verse 13 gives us the divine side—“who were born” (2 Peter says we actually become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust.”)…born not of blood (It isn’t your family connections that earn God’s favor. God has no spiritual grandchildren.)…nor of the will of the flesh (Trying harder and doing all sorts of good works won’t get you into God’s kingdom.)…nor of the will of man (No human organization can stamp your passport to heaven.)…but of God.” To escape the flames of hell and be welcomed into heaven, you have to be born of God. And yet, this is one thing in life you have no control over! You have no more ability to be born again than when you were born the first time. You had no say in whose DNA you inherited or whose family you were born into.
But you say, “If this is what decides my eternity, there must be something I can do!” Only one thing! You can ask. Ask Jesus to do it for you. For John says He is the One who gives us power to become children of God! And listen! Jesus says, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out!” So stop trying to believe or be good enough to be saved! You can’t do it! I tried for years and it did no good. What you can do is call upon the name of Jesus in helpless childlike faith, and the Bible promises, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So I ask you as we finish. Have you seen the Light and received Him into your life? If you have, give God the glory for it because, like the Apostle Paul, if He hadn’t opened your eyes by His grace, you’d still be on the wrong road. On the other hand, if you’re just beginning to see the Light, don’t hide from it. That’s how everyone reacts at first. When Peter first realized who Jesus is, He said, “Depart from Me, for I am a sinful man.” But thank God He hasn’t answered that prayer! He’s still reaching out to you, inviting you to stay and be a part of His family. He won’t force you to do that. You can resist Him if you like. But why do that? My prayer is that you’ll receive Him this very moment in prayer.
(To listen to or download the audio version of this message, click Audio. To download the written message, click Written. P.S. Feel free to send the links to this message to a friend who needs Jesus. For we all need Him, don’t we?)