THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
by Bob Wheeler
“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.” John 1:4,5; NKJV
The Bible often uses the word “darkness” as a metaphor for man’s lost condition. It refers partly to man’s spiritual blindness, and partly to his evil deeds. When we are in a dark room we cannot see. We grope around blindly. We stumble over objects we cannot see. And that is how the Bible describes the spiritual blindness of fallen man.
“The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.”
The natural man, the man outside of Christ, tries to shut God out of his thinking. He tries to devise an alternative explanation of reality. And yet he must still live in a world created by God, and all he succeeds in doing with his secular thinking is to blind himself to reality. He squanders his substance on the fleeting pleasures of life, wrecks his relationships and ruins his health. He harms himself and others in the process. By living for self he destroys himself. In the end he is left with an empty, ruined life.
But darkness is also a vivid image of all the evil that exists in the world. The apostle Paul could speak of “the unfruitful works of darkness,” and says that “it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Eph. 5:11,12). As human beings we have a natural propensity towards evil; and yet we also have a conscience, and are aware that many of the things that we do are wrong. As a result we experience shame and try to hide our actions from public view. And so darkness becomes a cloak for evil deeds, the place where shameful things are done.
Moreover darkness is a metaphor for the pervasive gloom and despair that results from man’s fallen condition. The psalmist could speak of
“Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Bound in affliction and irons –
Because they rebelled against the words of God,
And despised the counsel of the Most High . . .”
The man without God finds himself in a hopeless position. He simply exists, and he has no realistic hope of life after death. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol and drugs.
“Therefore justice is far from us,
Nor does righteousness overtake us:
We look for light, but there is darkness!
We grope for the wall like the blind,
And we grope as if we had no eyes;
We stumble at noon day as at twilight;
We are as dead men in desolate places.”
This, then, is the world into which Christ was born 2,000 years ago. And John says that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
There had been, of course, prophets that had come before Jesus, the most recent of which had been John the Baptist. But Jesus was a prophet unlike any which had gone before Him. As the Son of God He had a comprehensive knowledge of all things. Moreover He was perfectly blameless in His personal conduct. As such He was a ray of light shining in the darkness, exposing evil and enabling us to understand God’s purpose and will for our lives. He enables us to see things as they actually are and live accordingly. As Jesus Himself put it, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me will not abide in darkness” (John 12:46).
“And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,” John tells us (John 1:5). The word translated “comprehend” literally means “to seize, lay hold of, take possession of.” The commentators debate exactly what John meant by this, but the context suggests that the world rejected the light – refused to take it as its own. And herein lies the tragedy of the Incarnation: Christ came into the world bringing salvation, but the majority of the human race refuses to accept it. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). In our modern world we call this “secularism” – we banish religion from the public sphere; we even try to take Christ out of Christmas!
Christ is the light of the world. The world is a dark place indeed, filled with malice and deceit, sorrow and despair. For all of our social and economic problems, our root problem is spiritual: we are estranged from our Creator. Christ has come to us as a light from heaven, offering us a path of escape. Has He shone His light in our hearts today?