“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Translation of the Text, St. John 3:30, behind John the Baptist, pointing to the crucified Christ; detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald)
He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (St. John 1: 8)
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. In the first day of creation, God created light. Darkness and light are fundamental realities of life. God created light in the midst of the darkness of no life. He created out of His divine being.
For with You is the fountain of life;
in Your light do we see light. (Psalm 36: 9)
This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1: 5)
The fundamental scientific reality of light, that even a pin prick of light, can lighten a totally dark room, but physically one can not box up darkness and let it loose in a room with light to darken the room. We can only block the light or turn it off. There are two types of darkness and light: physical and spiritual. Physically men and women cannot bring darkness into the light, but spiritually, this is possible. But when right light of God’s Law shines on that spiritual darkness, it is frightening to the Old Adam:
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (St. John 3)
Everyone who has not believed in the Lord our Savior Who came into the darkness is still in the dark. They have not believed in God’s just judgment of the darkness of wickedness. They have not believed in His utter forgiveness of sinners in the light of His Word.
The Lord sent John as witness about the light coming into the world, the light of salvation.
The Lord is my light and my salvation. (Psalm 27) He preached God’s Law, repentance so that through the Light of world, Jesus Christ, “…that all might believe through Him” (John 1). The Lord’s Word of Law, making straight the Lord’s way, prepares for our Savior’s inestimable mercy for sinners, the light of the world. “Thy Word O Lord is lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119: 105). The Lord showed us by His Law the way we are lost and by His promises fulfilled shows us the Way, Jesus Christ, the very light OF the world, love’s pure light, in our darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Fill with the radiance of Thy grace
The souls now lost in error’s maze
And all whom in their secret minds
Some dark delusion haunts and blinds.
It is frightening to be lost in the darkness, physical and spiritual. Years ago, friends of our family, the Johnsons, a family of 6 told this story. Pastor Johnson’s mother had died and his father later moved to a small rural town in Mississippi, out in the country. The Johnson family went to find Grandpa’s new home. They were driving and driving and unable to find the town. The sun had set and darkness descended. Dark country roads with no moon nor any street lights are ominous when one is lost. When it was pitch black, unable to find any town, they were scared. In the dark, lost, even for a short time can seem like an eternity. Finally, off in the horizon they saw a light and they were encouraged. As they drove closer and closer, they realized it was a fire and they were drawing closer to it, not turning around, maybe curious, or at least it was light and there might be someone there. Well, there were people there. Then came to that fire and they saw what it was: a KKK meeting and a cross burning. They sped away.
They found in the middle of the country darkness worse than any physical darkness: the darkness of racial hatred, which is wickedness masquerading as light in the darkness. In the fear of the dark on life’s journey, there are many tempting lights on the horizon, which beckon with their siren call. Jesus warned:
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.”(St. Matthew 6)
We look for light in enormous wealth, in celebrity and popularity, in celebrities, in more and more stuff, in what’s under the tree not Him who hung upon the Tree, in sexual encounters, in political movements, in our own intelligence and reason to save, in our nation…how we look at life matters. All of those things are good gifts from God but when bad eyes seek them for themselves as light, how great is the darkness. It is idolatry.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11)
John came to clear the vision as witness about the Light. He could say I am not the light. He said I am not the Christ. Christ said, beware of those who say, I am the Christ. They are not the light. Even the Church is not the light in the sense that the Church is not Christ. We are Christ’s body. We are called to do as John: bear witness regarding the Light. Light shines into the darkness. Light comes from the outside. Darkness, of the heart separated from the Lord, comes from within. Upon whom who has lighted shined? The light has shone upon those walking in the dark, then all those lesser lights are like Christmas lights left on in the morning and the sun shines and they look small and ineffectual. They are when the real light of the Lord’s grace shines.
The light has shone, the good news, as Isaiah said upon:
the faint of spirit
those who are bound
all who mourn
Not upon those who think they are the light. The brightest and the best bathe in their own light, as the religious muckity mucks from headquarters who came to investigate John. The prophet Isaiah’s list, the poor, the faint in spirit, captives, those who mourn sure sounds like another passage, Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn…the Beatitudes. He comes to find the lost. He has. He will. He comes to bless in worst distresses, in the light of His forgiveness, for,
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”(Isaiah 42)
Don’t quench the Spirit, encouraged the Apostle. Don’t put out the fire, the light of the Holy Spirit teaching Christ into your ears and into your heart, the light of the Word made flesh. But how does the fire and light of the Holy Spirit stay close to us? Just before Paul’s encouragement not to quench the Spirit, he shows how: Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances. When the power goes out, what’s one of the first things you go looking for? A flashlight. This trinity of unity is, “…the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Pray anytime…in need, in sorrow, in hope, for others, in rejoicing and thanksgiving. Your body is His Temple. In prayer, in a flash, reach for His light as He has reached you. When the lights of this world go out, it makes no sense not to pick up a flashlight. In this dark world, it makes no sense that by God’s grace we know where His light is in His Word, so to serve and help others. John was not worthy to do a slave’s work to stoop down and untie the sandals of Christ Jesus, and Christ Himself, in the night in which He was betrayed stooped down and untied the disciples’ sandals to wash their feet. He has untied us from the bounds of sin and death tied to His own life.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.