We start the new year with a great message on who Jesus really is. He told us Himself that He is the light of the world. This morning we explore that in the context of the opening verses in the Gospel of John.
One of the things I like so much about the Gospel of John is the way it depicts the life and ministry of Jesus. The other gospels tell us stories about Jesus. Then, like the disciples, we are left to ask, “Who is this, that wind and sea obey him?” “Who is this who feeds the multitude on a couple of loaves and a few fish?” But in the Gospel of John, there's never a doubt who Jesus is, because he tells us. Usually he does so with a statement that begins with the words, "I am." Put him in a situation and he will clarify who he is and what he has come to do.
You can put him in the desert surrounded by people who are chronically unsatisfied, and Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
You can put him in the midst of people who are confused, people who ask, “Who are you, Jesus? What makes you different from all the other gurus, rabbis, and religious leaders?” And Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (10:7, 9).
You can put him at a graveside, in the midst of grief-stricken people, and Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (11:25).
Or you can put him in the midst of people who feel disconnected by life's difficulties, and Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5).
In the Gospel of John, in one situation after another, Jesus defines himself and says, “This is who I am....” In the eighth chapter, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). His words echo the opening words of our reading this morning, where John defines the person and work of Jesus in terms of light. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (1:4, 9).
What does our reading tell us about that light? About the person of Jesus? I think there are three things in particular I want to make sure that we understand about Jesus that we can see in this reading this morning. And they aren’t really connected, just really important facts from John that will help us as we live our lives of faith.
First, we see that Jesus was in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In verse 14, that Word became flesh and lived among us. The Word, that was from the beginning, was Jesus.
I think that it's interesting even in Genesis 1, we can see the trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Genesis 1:2, we see the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. Then we see the creation. God said, let there be light, and there was light. Our reading this morning, in verse 3, seems to be telling us that when God said it, and it came to be, nothing was made that Jesus didn't make, it reads, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” In Colossians 1:16, speaking of Jesus, Paul said, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him.”
In Hebrews 1:1-2, we read, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Did you get that? God made the universe through Jesus.
So while Genesis doesn't specifically mention Jesus, we have three different books, by three different authors, all speaking of Jesus' role in creation. It seems that when God spoke, Jesus created. The important thing for us to remember here, is that Jesus was from the beginning. Jesus wasn't just a part of the creation, like you and me, Jesus was the Creator, truly God incarnate.
Paul Flesner, in a collection of sermons called, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, wrote,
If John's Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus' birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.
He was God's self, God's soul, God's life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples' hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.
That's a pretty touching description. And Jesus was all that. And He was all that from the beginning.
Another thing we should learn about Jesus from this passage is that not everybody will believe in Him. He went to His people, God's chosen people, the Jewish people, but they largely rejected him. Flesner, in the same book, also wrote:
John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears, but they cleared their throats and walked away.
Acts 1:15 tells us that after His ascension into heaven, there were only about 120 believers. But what about the tens of thousands that saw His miracles. As many 10,000 or more were fed by just five small loaves of bread, but they never really believed. Of all the thousands of people who saw the proof, only about 120 really believed. It seems the vast majority rejected Him.
We see in Acts, Peter and Paul preached in the synagogues trying to prove that Jesus was the Christ, and in each case, some believed, but most didn't. We have been called to share our faith, but we have to understand that while some may believe, most won't. It's always been that way. And it will continue to be that way to the end of the time. God doesn't want any to perish, His salvation is freely offered to anyone who will accept, but most will reject his offer of life.
While many didn't believe, there is something else we can learn about Jesus from our reading. That to those that did believe become children of God. Children born of God, born of the Spirit. When we believe, we become God's children.
You and I, because of our faith in Jesus, are children of God. We are God's children. I hope that you can grasp the significance of that statement. I think that when we really understand it, it changes everything. Our response, as God's children, should be very different than the response of those who don’t know God. Because we know that our Father in heaven loves us, and is watching over us, and will guard our paths. We don't need to worry about what worries others. We are God's children. We don't have to get angry when we are wronged by others. We are God's children. We don't have to fret when the Stock Market takes a dive, and the price of gas escalates. We are God's children. And God is with us. And He loves us. And He always will.
Summed up, again, in the gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is the sacrifice of the Son that brings us to the table… (We celebrate communion after this message)