In the 2014 movie Interstellar there is a scene toward the end of the movie when the main character Cooper must enter a black hole to save the life of another person and possibly the entire human race. When Cooper arrives in the black hole there is nothing but darkness and it leaves the one watching feeling a sense of hopelessness. Cooper is alone and left with nothing but the cold vastness of space. But suddenly Cooper starts falling and we see a glimmer of light. Soon Cooper enters a multi-dimensional reality where he finds hope for himself and for humanity.
Why I am telling you this story? John’s Gospel communicates something similar for us. John understands something similar to Cooper—LIGHT is a symbol of understanding, LIGHT is a symbol of hope. Light gives each of us a chance to understand. Light gives us hope. In light we find life.
Theme: Jesus Christ offers the world true life and true understanding.
1. The Greatness of the Light—John 1.4-5.
Last week we explored how at the end of John’s life he saw Christ as supreme. The longer John was a Christian the greater Christ became. Today explores that theme even more by giving us another layer to the supremacy of Christ. The next layer of Christ’s greatness is the light He brings into the world—READ John 1.4-5.
John continues his meditations on the beginning of creation from the book of Genesis. As he dwells richly on the creation narrative in Genesis he sees God not only created rocks, mountains, oceans, rivers, stars, but also brought LIFE into the world. All the plants and animals have life. They grow and they die. John recognizes humanity was given a more significant life than the plants and animals, because they were made in the image of God.
As John dwells on the works of the Word in creation he quickly sees the Word as the source of life. But it is also here where I believe John begins to argue for a problem with this reality. John says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” What does this “…and the life was the light of men” mean? John is taking us to a deeper layer in thinking about the Word’s ministry of life-giver. In order to understand it we need to look at some verses later in this passage and connect some dots. John goes onto to say, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The ESV says, “the darkness has not overcome it,” but other translations say, “the darkness did not comprehend it.” Personally I think the later translation is a better one based on the rest of John’s argument. As we skip down to verse 9 we see John helping us understand what he is saying better—READ John 1.9-11. For John to say, “life was the light of men” is a way for him to say the Word gives us understanding—the Word helps us comprehend. Comprehending in John’s mind is about knowing God and receiving God. The Word, Jesus Christ, is the source of life, and the life Jesus offers helps us comprehend life. The Light, Jesus Christ, comes into the world, and people don’t know Him or receive Him, which is John’s way of saying they don’t comprehend God, the world or themselves. John understands the significance of light in life.
A few years back I was invited to sit in on a meeting among some of the most powerful leaders in Dayton. I don’t why I was invited, but I went. In this meeting they were talking about the significance of the light in a city. When the sun goes down, if you want people to feel like there is life in the city you need light. They said this is one reason why downtown Dayton has struggled, it needs more light. As someone who has traveled across this country, and the world, I found this to be true. Our world understands the importance of light.
When Cooper fell in that black hole he began to see how various events across the course of life were connected. He was able to find a way to communicate with his daughter across many years to save humanity. Jesus is offering the same thing. When we go to work it can feel like a black hole. When we go home it can feel like a black hole. When we go into ourselves it can feel like a black hole. In many ways these things feel disconnected from our faith. Jesus is over there, and all the other stuff is over here. Jesus helps us comprehend the connection between our work and our faith. Jesus helps us comprehend the connection between our lives and our faith. You cannot truly understand life apart from Christ. You cannot truly understand the work, relationships, you cannot even understand what you do for fun apart from Christ. What ends up happening is these things aren’t put in their proper place. For instance, your work can become meaningless or too meaningful. You can end up not caring about your work, or caring too much. But what Jesus does is help you comprehend your work the way God does. Jesus helps you understand the significance of the black hole you are experiencing.
2. The Responses to the Light—John 1.9-13.
John wants his reader to respond to this Light. The FIRST response is found in John 1.10-11 [READ]. The first way God offers us life and understanding was through His creation and through our consciences. Hebrews tells us since the coming of Christ God has done that even more clearly through His Son. Just as people rejected God through creation and conscience, they also reject Him through His Son. John 1.11 tells this rejection is not just from non-religious people, but also religious people.
God had a unique intimate relationship with Israel, yet she also rejected the Light. And let’s face it while rejection hurts, it hurts even worse from those we are close to. There are two deep wounds I have faced in my life when it comes to rejection. But one of the most glaring rejections I faced growing was around race. I came from a bi-racial family—my mother is white American and my father is black American. Therefore, I was immediately tossed into the middle of some strong racial tension. Not in my home, but in the world. Growing up in this country I quickly learned to expect rejection from the white community. But the part that hurt was the rejection of the black community. When I did not dress, talk, or act like the other black kids I was rejected by them as well. The reason hurt so much more was because the black community was not accepted by the white majority for very shallow reasons, so I thought they would be more accepting. But among blacks I was not black enough, and among whites I was not black enough or white enough. The wounds of people I thought could sympathize with my struggle were worse than those I knew would reject me.
I am sure you all could come up here and express countless forms of rejection you have faced. But what these experiences have taught me is help understand is the heart of my Savior more. The Light of God, Jesus Christ, helps me comprehend my own rejection more deeply. My rejection has meaning. Of course it hurts, but I cannot express to you how much it helps to know I have a God who can sympathize with my weakness. The Creator of the universe has faced rejection. The world often says, “If only God would appear, accept some responsibility, offer some help, then we might follow Him.” John’s Gospel demonstrates all these desires have been heard and action is taken, and it is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ see God heard and took action. In the Gospel we see God not only hope for our own rejection, but we should also see motivation to care for each others rejection. I don’t know about you, but I want to fight with all I have to make sure no one who comes through our doors will feel I worse rejection from the church than the world.
Finally there is a more positive response well—READ John 1.12-13. John says true acceptance is only found in Jesus Christ. Some might ask, “How does this work? What is finding acceptance in Christ like? What is accepting Christ like?” John says receiving is like being born, or more specifically, REBORN. We don’t come out of the womb understanding everything, but there is light and those who were born before us to help understand God, the world, and ourselves. When are spiritual born we begin to actually comprehend the world like a newborn child. What do we understand? FIRST we understand Christ. SECOND through the Holy Spirit, the Word, and the Church Christ teaches us about God, the world, others, and ourselves.
Some of you here today grew up without learning about Jesus, and you feel so far behind in your understanding, don’t let that deter you from finding life, light and hope in Jesus. Maybe you feel like you are being reborn, friend, receive truth of Jesus today! But let me address the most common types of unbelieving people who come into Refuge. They are those of you who grew up in church. Like Israel you grew up around the Word of God. You can articulate it academically, but you know deep down in your bones, when comes to an intimate relationship with God you still live in a black hole. You cannot really comprehend God. For you do not let your pride, fear, some past experience or whatever reason prevent you from coming to Christ today.