posted on May, 6 2016 @ 05:01 PM
“In the beginning”, according to Genesis, “God made the heavens and the earth”.
He began by speaking the command which summoned the light, and distinguishing the light from the darkness.
The opening words of John’s gospel echo the same story (ch1 vv3-5);
“In the beginning was the Word”, and all things were made “through” the Word.
The life which was in him was also “the light of men”, presenting itself to the world in this way.
This light “shines in the darkness”.
If you place a candle in a dark place, its light will begin to fade as you move into the distance. The darkness will swallow it up.
But this light is a light which the darkness cannot overcome.
In fact “the darkness” has no independent place as a character in John’s gospel.
It appears from time to time, but only as an alternative to the light.
This light was “coming into the world” (if we follow the better punctuation) to illuminate the human race in general (v9).
There were those who were willing to receive him, to “believe in his name”.
Therefore he could enable them to become the “children of God”, born by God’s will and power.
However, the light also comes as a means of judgement.
It has the effect of dividing men into two parties.
When light came into the world, there were people who came to the light, and there were people who hated the light.
If they loved and preferred the darkness, it was because their deeds were evil, and they did not want them exposed to the light of day.
Those who “do the truth” are willing to come to the light, to have their deeds examined.
But the opposite of “evil deeds” is not “good deeds”, but “deeds that are done in God”.
The presence or absence of God’s work is what makes the difference (ch3 vv19-21).
One of the features of the Feast of Tabernacles, at that time, was that lamps were lit in the Temple courtyard, to commemorate the pillar of fire
which had led Israel through the wilderness.
Jesus seems to be speaking against this background when he publicly declares himself as “the light of the world”.
He gives the promise that those who follow him will not “walk in darkness”, but will have the light of life (ch8 v12).
But this promise comes with a time-limit.
Jesus is the light of the world only “as long as I am in the world” (ch9 v5).
Therefore he is obliged to press on with the work which the Father has sent him to do, “while it is day”; that is while his life remains.
“Night comes, when no-one can work”.
This leads directly into the story of the healing of the blind man (ch9).
The story demonstrates the “judging” effect of the coming of the light.
On the one hand, the blind man himself has been made to see.
There is a rapid growth in his understanding and “vision” of Christ.
This develops from “the man called Jesus” (v11), to “he is a prophet” (v17) and “he must be a man sent by God” (v33).
Finally Jesus asks him if he believes in the Son of Man, and assures him that he has seen the Son of Man, which is sufficient reason for the man to
say “Lord, I believe” (vv35-38).
On the other hand, the attitude of the Pharisees becomes increasingly recalcitrant.
When they first summon the man for questioning, and debate the subject, there are voices pointing out that Jesus does not keep the sabbath.
Then they question the man’s parents. How has this healing happened? And had he really been blind, or had he been able to see all along? The parents
cautiously reply that they do not know, and refer the questioners back to the man itself. They are afraid of being “un-synagogued”
At the second interview with the former blind man, the Pharisees are telling him what answers they want him to give;
“Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner” (v24).
Their other objection to accepting Jesus is “We do not know where this man comes from” (v29). Yes, but if you would only observe his works and
listen to his teaching, you could easily work out where he came from.
The problem is that they are arguing backwards from their intended conclusion (that Jesus is not from God), which is always an obstacle to good
So they are obliged to ignore the blind man’s evidence that he had been healed by the work of Jesus, and they are obliged to ignore the soundness of
“We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God will listen to him… If this man were not
from God, he could do nothing” (vv31-33).
Instead, they reject him as “born in utter sin” (that is, he was born blind), and therefore unqualified to teach them anything, and they throw him
At the end of the chapter, Jesus draws the moral from this episode;
“For judgement I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind” (v39).
Some of the Pharisees, overhearing him, ask if he’s counting them in the second group.
Jesus answers their question in terms of the presence or absence of sin.
If they had really been blind, they would have had no sin.
Jesus would have healed them, their sins would have been forgiven.
But since they claim to be able to see, and since they were truly capable of seeing God at work, if only they had been willing to look, their sin
As Jesus gets closer to the end of his life, the “shortness of time” theme becomes more pressing.
When he announces his intention to return to Judaea, for the sake of Lazarus, the disciples point out his danger.
So he reminds them again of the limited number of hours in a day.
A man who walks in the day will not stumble, “because he sees the light of the world”.
If he walks in the night, he will stumble. Not just because he cannot see the light, but because “the light is not in him” (ch11
Therefore, while he still can, Jesus needs to enable as many people as possible to get the light of life into them.
His final appeal to the Jews dwells on the same point;
“The light is with you a little longer”. That is, you people will soon crucify me.
“Walk while you have the light”. That is, this is almost your last chance to “believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (ch12
This is the very definition of his mission;
“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (v46)
But John observes that they are still unwilling to take the opportunity, and sees it as a fulfilment of the words of Isaiah;
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,
Lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart,
And turn to me to heal them”.
The “light” theme is part of his appeal to the unbeliever, so it has no place in the final discourse with his disciples.
Every commentator notices that when Judas leaves them at the Last Supper, he goes out “into the night”.
The same night will soon be embracing Jesus himself, for a short time.
But as the opening chapter observed, the darkness cannot “swallow up” the light.
When Jesus meets his disciples for the last time in this gospel, it is at the dawning of a new day.