On sunday 18th December we had the last service of 2011, what a great year! Rachel continued the teaching series on the ‘The True Image Revealed’. This series has looked at the 7 ‘I am’ statements Jesus made in John’s gospel, and the 7 signs/miracles that point to who Jesus is. The question posed is what they say about Jesus’ identity and mission, and also what it says about our identity and mission.
Rachel focussed on John 8:12 – ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This statement was said on the last day of the feast of tabernacles – a week long Jewish festival in september/october, which celebrated God’s provision when the people of Israel wandered through the wilderness when they fled from Egypt.
God led them for 40 years with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. This was the defining story of the Jewish people. Every evening of the festival of tabernacles, 4 huge lamps would be lit and would fill every courtyard in Jerusalem with light, to celebrate God’s salvation.
When we think of Jesus’ statement that ‘I am the light of the world’ we often think of a little christingle light at Christmas. But the context of Jesus’ statement would have been in a courtyard with 4 massive lanterns that flooded the place with light, and in whose light people would celebrate God’s provision. Jesus’ words would have echoed with meaning, referring to the pillar of fire in the wilderness. However, Jesus was referring to a salvation far greater than the liberation from the Egyptians. He was bringing salavation from sin and darkness. Dan Carson stated that ‘Jesus’ pronouncement is clear: he is the fulfillment of all the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated’.
In the old testament the Jewish people were called to be a light to the world, Isaiah 42:6 shows this when God calls the people saying: ‘I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles’. Jesus is the true light of the world, bringing God’s presence to save and heal. This light is found through following Jesus: ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’. This is not a static belief in the right thing, but an active staying close to Jesus.
Jesus stepped down into darkness and entered a messy situation – a stable in Bethlehem. He was surrounded by genocide – with Herod on the hunt to kill him. We may think that our darkness is too much for God’s light, but no darkness is too dark for the Light of the World.
In John 9:1-7 we see the sign/miracle of Jesus healing a man born blind from birth. Jesus saw this man and acted. We often are so busy in life that we don’t see people. Other times we see people not just as strangers – and respond to what God is doing around us.
Jesus sees those whom others don’t.
The blind man in the passage would have had no standing in the community. But Jesus sees him. Some of us might feel invisible – but Jesus sees, notices and loves us. He’s never left us. The disciples were oblivious to the blind man. They were more interested in a theological debate about whose sin caused his blindness? Jesus challenges them not to look at the reason why, but to look for the heavenly purpose. The message translation puts it well:
‘Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.’
In Dan Carson’s commentary on these verses, he states that ‘There is a sense in which every aspect of our lives, including our own suffering, is an occasion for the manifestation of God’s glory and his purposes.’ God doesn’t call us into suffering, but He can bring something of beauty out of it.
Jesus has a sense of urgency in his teaching and calls us to work: ‘As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me’ (John 9:4). We’ve got a job to do and need to follow the Father’s promptings. In the miracle, Jesus spat on the ground and used the dust to bring light to the blind. There is something of re-creation about this as it echoes God forming man out of the dust. In the bible the only healing of blind people were done by Jesus – this was a signpost to the Messiah – through the miracle Jesus was saying ‘it’s me!’. I’m the one you’ve been waiting for.
Light saves, but also divides. Jesus healed the blind man on a sabbath, and the pharisees were not happy about that. This completely misses the point – a blind man had just been healed and they were fixed on the sabbath rules. Light also reveals darkness and shows who is really blind: there was the man who was physically blind, and then those who were spiritually blind.
There are times when we can’t see God’s presence, and hold to tightly to our own agendas and plans. But God brings light to our blindness. May God open our eyes to see Him and to see what He is doing around us. Jesus not only offers us, but others this light and life.
In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says to us: ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.’ We have a job to do – through the Holy Spirit in us, we carry the presence of God. We are called to see light come to people’s darkness. Who is God highlighting to us? God calls us to dark places to bring His light – but we are not to fear the darkness. We are called to stand with those in pain, and not to be afraid:
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it‘ (John1:5)
MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
ps there is no KXC service on Christmas Day or New Years Day. But there is a walk on Hampstead Heath on New Year’s Day at 2pm, see:
The next service is in 2012 on Sunday 8th January.