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Thirty-six times in his Gospel, the Apostle John uses the word “life,” making it a major theme of his book. John 1:3 is the first occasion, where he says of Jesus, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life.”
Let’s stop for a moment and think about what that means. John says that everything came from Christ but that He, the Creator of all things, didn’t come from anyone or anything. Nobody had to give Him life, because as He Himself later says, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.”
By the way, the word for life here not bios referring to physical life, but Zoe referring to the source of life on which every living being depends, from the simplest one-celled organism to human beings, the most complex creatures God made. Acts 17:24 says of Him, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.”
That’s the God Jesus claimed to be—the God who has life in Himself and shares it with every other living creature. John 5:25 is one example. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”
Do you know what an amazing statement that is?! It takes our finite minds to truths we cannot hope to understand. Try that as you’re trying to fall asleep tonight. Think about God the Father and God the Son being eternally alive together – never a moment when they didn’t exist – and you’ll find it’s more than your feeble mind can take in—trying to grasp the eternity of God.
Furthermore, John adds, contained within His eternity are the power, hope, and understanding that we need as creatures. Verse 4 continues, “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.”
Darkness refers to Satan, his demonic army, and the kingdom of darkness he’s created in this world. That’s why John immediately assures us that the darkness did not “comprehend” the light. The devil has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot appreciate what new life in Christ means. Like mice scurrying for a hiding place when the light is turned on, they flee from the truth, so their sins won’t be discovered. Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.”
That’s what we used to be like too! You and I used to live in the darkness. But no longer! Isaiah 9 says of us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; and those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined,” so that we now love the Light and the new insights it gives us.
John says the Light is also powerful. Physicists still have a hard time defining light. After all, it can’t be matter since it has no mass and travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. And yet, it also occupies space and can be reflected, absorbed, and produce great heat. So what is it? The best stab science is able to make at it is to say that it’s energy—electromagnetic, radiant energy which, when it hits the retina of our eyes, stimulates our sense of sight.
Jesus does the same thing for us souls. 1 Corinthians 1:24 says, “To those who are called, Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God.” He gives us an understanding of the truth as well as the power to overcome the darkness when it presses in upon us. Some of you will notice in the margin of your Bible that there is an alternate reading for verse 5, and that the word “comprehend” can be translated “overcome.” “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” That’s the best translation of this word katalambano, which means to “take something down” like a wrestler takes down an opponent. However, in this case, I think this is one of those unusual verses where the author has both concepts in mind. Jesus gives us a new understanding of the truth as well as power to keep from being overwhelmed by the darkness.
I’m sure you have felt that way at times—discouraged by all the evil around us and wondering if there’s any hope left in the world. But then the Light breaks in upon you, and suddenly you find yourself with new power and understanding.
It makes me think of the time our family toured the Oregon Caves while on vacation. The caves are passages extending three miles underground. My most vivid memory occurred halfway through the tour, when the guide turned off the lights and asked all of guests to do the same thing with our flashlights. It suddenly became pitch black, so that none of us could see our hands in front of our faces. So we immediately asked that he turn it the lights back on, and it’s amazing how quickly the darkness flees.
That’s what John is saying here. “The Light of Christ is so strong that no matter how hard the darkness tries—and believe me, the devil has been trying without success to snuff out the Light of Christ from the moment He entered this world! First, he inspired Herod to slaughter all the babies in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Next the he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Then he attacked Him in the Garden, trying to keep Him from going to the Cross. And finally, he tried to destroy Him on the cross, prematurely celebrating that he had won. But guess what! The Light is still shining! In fact, it’s been shining for almost 2,000 years, and there’s still no sign that it will ever go out.
That’s what Jesus promised, and His promises cannot be broken. He said in John 8:12, “I AM the Light of the World. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life.”
In fact, His Light isn’t just holding its own against the darkness; it’s winning the battle despite our fears of the opposite. 1 John 2:8 assures us, “The darkness is passing away, and the True Light is already shining.” Colossians 1:17 says something similar. There Paul reminds us that Christ is not only the Creator who gives life to all things, He’s also the One who holds all things together by His almighty power.
So be not afraid, little children, it isn’t the government that will save you; nor is it the church or the angels of God who are keeping the world’s evil; it’s Jesus Christ who is not only the Maker of all things, He is also the Sustainer of all things who is this moment holding all things—this world, your life, your marriage, your finances—together by His gracious and almighty power.
So let me ask you as I bring this study to a close. Have you seen the Light? If not, open your heart and believe today! Accept what God says about His Son—that He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father in every way. Then honor the Father by giving the same love, worship, reverence, and honor to Jesus His Son.
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This next week we will continue our study of John’s Gospel by examining John 1:6-14, which I’ve entitled “Have you seen the Light?” I hope you’ll join us. It’s a faith-builder!