John 8: 12-20: ”Lighten our darkness”.
“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.’13 The Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.’14 Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.’19 Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.” NIV
In John’s gospel you find a number of repeated themes. There are key words and phrases which come up again and again. Three of them are found in this short section:
- ”Light” (12). This is another of the ”I Am” sayings in the fourth gospel. They are undoubtedly claims to divinity.
There are at least two ways in which we may think of God/Christ being ”light”:
- Light is about clear sight: He brings illumination into our lives. He reveals spiritual truth to our hearts. He gives understanding. He also sheds light on our way. He shows us what to do/where to go. He guides our feet in His paths. At times He may only give enough light for the next step. But that is enough. And when you take it you’ll probably be able to see a further step;
- Light is about a clean conscience: He brings holiness into our lives (1 John 1:5ff). As we walk in the light of Biblical truth we find that we are on the sunlit road of godliness. To walk in the light means to live in openness before the Lord and fellow believers, confessing our sins and experiencing the cleansing of the blood of Christ.
- ”Testimony”/”witness” (13, 14, 17, 18): There is a legal air to this. Jesus is verified/affirmed as God’s Son. He is who He says He is. Of course, as God, Jesus knew precisely who He was and where He was going (14,15). He could capably testify to Himself, but the Pharisees would not accept this (13). However, because the Father also testified to Him, there was the required twofold witness (17,18).
- ”Hour” (20). It was not yet ”time” for Jesus to die. When He did die it was obvious that God was in control, not wicked men.This was not a tragic waste of a young life, but a purposeful death. It could not happen outside of God’s timescale.
This section of the fourth gospel opens with the words: ”When Jesus spoke again to the people…” (12). Note the little, but so important, word ”again”. Here is an insight into Jesus’ perseverance. We read in (7:43) that ”the people were divided because of Jesus”. Yes, there were those who were open to Him and interested in Him; in fact fascinated by Him. But others were aggressive and abusive and some wanted to kill Him. Yet Jesus would not be silenced. Like a rubber ball He came bouncing back!! When Manchester United won their first European Champions League title under Sir Alex Ferguson (then just plain Alex), they had to slowly but surely claw their way back into a game that they were losing at half time. In the closing minutes they equalised through Teddy Sheringham, then ‘super sub’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on and won it for them with virtually the last kick of the match. In his post match interview Sir Alex, as I recall, said something like this: ”I’m so proud of my team. They never gave in; they just kept going. The famous nineteenth century preacher C.H. Spurgeon said, ”By perseverance the snail made it to the ark.”
In Junior school, we regularly said this prayer at the end of the day. It seems appropriate to quote it here: ”Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee O Lord, and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.”