In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
This powerful poetic, hymn-like opening to John’s Gospel introduces us to the main themes of the gospel. Among these themes are; life, light, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word, the logos, through which all things were made, and who reveals the Father to all mankind. Today’s verse deals with the theme of Jesus as light, the life and the light of the world.
John is using the very powerful metaphor of “light” here. Like all metaphors, it has different levels of meaning. In this case “light” has both physical and metaphysical, earthly and spiritual levels of meaning for us. A good metaphor, like this one, always points us toward the deeper meaning. The physical meaning and importance of John’s use of the word “light” is as a means for taking us into a deeper reality. Through the Holy Spirit, John reveals that Jesus is the very same life and light of God that pushed back the darkness at the beginning of creation, who has now come into the world, in the flesh, to push back the darkness of sin and death, once and for all, forever.
It is light that reveals, that makes things visible to our eyes. Darkness hides, obscures. It makes the world invisible to us. It distorts our sense of reality both physically and morally. This is true in the physical realm, but it is also true in the intellectual and the spiritual realms. Ignorance is the darkness of the intellectual life and sin is the darkness of the spiritual life. John opens his gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This reveals both a Christological and a Trinitarian truth to us. He is shedding light on our intellectual and spiritual understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is God, the very Word of God, through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing would have come into being. And here is the great mystery of our faith; this Word, God himself, this “light” chose, out of his love for us, to enter into the world darkened by sin and death. We are to look to him for he is the source of life eternal. He is the “light” that pushes back the darkness of our ignorance and the darkness of sin for all mankind.
Jesus is our life and our light. He is the light that shines in the darkness, that pushes back the darkness of our ignorance. It is he who sheds light on our sins and pushes their darkness away by the light of his redemption. His light conquers the darkness of ignorance and sin, and darkness cannot prevail over it. In him we have seen the light of our salvation. If we keep our eyes on him, no darkness can overwhelm us. For he is, “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, One in being with the Father, through whom all things were made, who, for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became man.” (Nicene Creed) Jesus is the light of the world. Thanks be to God!
Lord, we who have often been lost in the darkness of our sins, look to your light for our hope. In you there is no darkness. Help us to keep our eyes, our minds, and our hearts always focused on you. For it is in your light alone that we find our salvation. We lift our prayers to you, Lord, believing in the power of your hallowed name, Jesus. Amen!
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