Do you remember a moment from your childhood, when you were wrapped warmly in your blankets in your bed, engulfed in the comforting darkness of sleep, only to have your light switch flipped on by an insistent parent or your annoying sibling? It’s amazing how as children we are afraid of the dark when we are trying to go to sleep, yet we cling to the darkness upon being awoken. We try to shield our eyes from the flood of light, but there is no escaping the deluge.
Genesis 1:3 describes our father turning on a light switch for the very first time, with the simple words “Let there be light,” God put in motion something that could never be undone. One thing we typically run past when reading about creation is that God created light on Day One of creation, yet He did not create the sun until Day Four. Now some will say that he created the sun on Day One, and on Day Four He put it in place in our solar system, but this doesn’t seem to be what the text lays out. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:3 is “or,” meaning “shine,” or “to become light.” The Hebrew word used in verse 14 is “maor,” meaning “luminary,” or “light-giver.” Simply, on Day One God creates the concept of light and light itself, then on Day Four, He creates a source to give us that light. It would be like the difference in discovering electricity and building a flashlight.
Regardless of where you land on what was actually created on Day One, we know that “The Light” doesn’t need the sun. We are foretold of a day when the sun will no longer exist, yet the light will never end. Revelation 21 put it this way…
“The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk… and there will be no night there.” Revelation 21:23-25 (ESV)
For eleven verses in Genesis we have light without the sun, and in the final two chapters of the Bible, we have light without the sun again. Simply, there was a light shining before we existed, and a light will continue to shine for all of eternity. That much is easy to believe in theory. What we find so hard to believe is that in the midst of all the darkness that currently surrounds us, the light that began on Day One, the light that will shine on forever, is shinning at this very moment. Yet, unlike that moment from our childhood, the light isn’t always visible for us to see.
We see news broadcast, daily, on just how bleak the future looks, just how evil our enemies are, and how dense the darkness is that surrounds us. Due to our obsession with the 24 news cycles, most of us live each day without any glimpse of light. Yet, this is not the way that the book of John tells of the time between the creation of light, and the eternal light of heaven.
John 1 goes back to expound upon the beginning of time.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was. In him was life, and the life was the LIGHT of men.” John 1:1-4 (ESV)
We see, from the beginning of John’s Gospel, that Jesus was present at the foundation of all things, being one with the Father and the Spirit, being the light that existed before the Sun, Moon, or Stars were created. Jesus stood before time, and will be the lamp for New Jerusalem, but what about at this very moment. Within our Christian communities we talk about Christ and his Spirit being present with us, yet when we see tragic events unfolding, we react as if Jesus has flipped the front porch lights off for the evening and will turn it back on at some point upon his return. This is not the reality of those who are in Christ.
There is no denying that the darkness keeps getting darker, but does this mean that it can somehow overpower the light? John gives us the answer in the very next verse.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV)
This should give us great hope, but then we look around and are confused about where the light is. John continues his overview in a very peculiar way. He momentarily shifts his focus from God to man, and unless we get what John is telling us, we will always see the darkness instead of the light.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.” John 1:6-7 (ESV)
John is not speaking of himself in this passage, but of John the Baptist, the forerunner in the wilderness proclaiming that the Messiah was coming on the scene. John the Baptist had a very important part to play in the story, but John the Baptist was not the story. John continues:
“He (John the Baptist) was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:8 (ESV)
I think the first problem we have, in a world where darkness seems to overtake the light, is that WE attempt to be the light, or we look to other created beings as the light. Who do we look to first when the darkness arrives? Do we look to leaders (political, educational, spiritual, or family) to be the light? If so, it’s not going to give us what we so desperately need. When the darkness arrives, do we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and attempt to be the light ourselves? If so, we will burn out too quickly to be much of any impact on the darkness. See John (the Baptist), understood his role, he wasn’t the man with all the answers; he was the man pointing to that Man (thanks, Jared C. Wilson for also understanding that.)
We have to come to grips that we are not the light that others need, when we try and be the “end all, be all, fix all” for ourselves and others, we only perpetuate the darkness. We are to do what John did, and point those in darkness to the “true light.”
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9 (ESV)
The second mistake we make is not recognizing the light. Like the bitter thief on the cross next to Jesus, everything we need is standing right beside us, but because it doesn’t look like what we want it to look like, we don’t see it. We are not alone, John saw it too.
“He (the light/Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” John 1:10
God longs for us to know him, for us to see him in the midst of the darkness. The light of God hasn’t gone anywhere, but we are often too busy trying to be our own light or attempting to manipulate the light of God to look like what we want it to look like. When I make these mistakes, I can’t find the light for the life of me, but that does not mean the light is not there. God is waiting for me to open my eyes to it.
In Acts, Stephen was able to see the light in the midst of the darkness of being stoned to death. The woman, who had had issues with bleeding for years on end, saw light where the physicians of the day only saw darkness. The woman at the well saw light through the shadows of darkness cast by the men in her life. The man who was consumed with demonic possession met the light in the darkest of living spaces (he literally lived in a graveyard.) And unlike the thief mentioned earlier, the felon on the opposite side of Christ on the cross looked through the darkness and found all he needed hanging next to him.
This perpetual light is not a promise that everything will always be perfectly okay, it is a promise that when things are not, God is still there. In the words of the Smith’s classic, “There is a light that never goes out.” If we aren’t seeing it, it’s because we’ve stopped looking in the right direction. Let us look to Christ, and Christ alone.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)
Grace and Peace to you.