The light in which we see light. John 1:9
We are told that at the beginning of time as we know it, the whole universe was
and very hot: a septillion (that is 1 with 24 zeroes) times hotter than the centre of the sun, give or take one or two centigrade.
Very small and very hot – the exact opposite of Russia!
And it was bright. At light frequencies that no human can see or bear.
This is the light from which all material life began.
And this light hurtling away from the centre out into nothingness, out of which came the stars and the planets, out of which ultimately comes life.
But John speaks of a different light, a greater light than this
‘The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.’
And when John speaks of something that is ‘true’ (he speaks of true bread, true water), he means authentic, solid, eternally lasting, ultimately real.
So when he speaks of true light, he is speaking of the authentic light that is behind light.
This eternal light is the source of material light and the source of all life - material and immaterial.
It is not a force, not a wave or a particle – but a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God.
There were moments when Jesus first followers glimpsed his glory
- when he turned water into wine
- when he fed 5000 people with a few loaves and fish
- when he gave sight to a man born blind
- when he raised Lazarus from the dead
- when he went to the cross and died on the cross for us
There was the event of that we know as the transfiguration. Jesus, we are told, appeared in glory and shone like the sun.
Peter writes many years later about that incident, when he says, ‘we were eye witnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16)
John writes here in John 1: We have seen his glory (v14)
And Jesus comes to us and invites us to receive him.
It is a bit like we’ve lived our life in a large locked dark room, and someone from the outside opens the door and light floods in. We can scuttle into the corner terrified of the light, or we can focus on it and go towards the light.
Many years ago I was on a ferry from Le Havre to Poole. It was pitch black, the sea was rough and I was seasick. I felt dreadful. I wanted to die. I moved to the front of the ferry, and looking out into the darkness I suddenly saw Poole Harbour lighthouse. It was very faint and very far away. But it was a light out there. A fixed point. I fixed my eyes on that light. It was what we were going towards; it was a fixed point; and it gave me hope!
Jesus is the light, the destination, the fixed point in a confusing, changing world.
He guides us and shows us the way to live and the purpose of our living.
As the Psalmist says, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. (Ps 119:105)
And Jesus is not just the light out there. He can become, if we receive him, the light in here, in our hearts and minds.
His light can come inside us, so that the darkness that is in us begins to be burnt up.
And his light is his presence in us and with us.
And as we look at his light, as we allow his light to come into us – so we begin to reflect that light.
Jesus says to his followers, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
We think of Moses who met with God in the Old Testament, and when he came out of the presence of God, his face was shining.
We think of Moses and Elijah who spoke with the glorified Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration and they shone with reflected glory.
We think of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who as they are about to stone him to death, looks up and sees heaven opened. And it says that his face was like the face of an angel.
Or I think of a former woman police officer in the UK, who in the course of her duty was hit on the head and paralyzed from the neck down. For the last 10 years she had not been able to leave her bed. She was a Christian and the small house group of which I was a member went to her home to sing carols. And I remember looking at her and being astonished. She had suffered so much, and yet as we sang of the love of God in sending Jesus, the true light, her face was utterly radiant.