Monday, 23 March 2015

Lent day 29

In today's John's Gospel, Jesus is portrayed disputing with Temple teachers and leaders about the nature of his authority, and his claim to an close relationship with God, whom he regards as a witness confirming the truth he proclaims. It's in this context he declares.

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)
This precedes the story in the next chapter of the healing of the man born blind, where this statement is repeated.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)

It's not the first time the association of Jesus with light has been presented in this Gospel. It occurs in the discourse after his night meeting with Nicodemus, where he offers this strategic analysis of the fallen human condition.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)

The first section of John's first chapter is not part of the narrative, but a formal introduction, a prologue to the whole Gospel message, proclaiming Jesus to be the incarnate Son and Word of God. This is where the association of Jesus and light begins.

"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4)

The prologue also introduces John the Baptist, identifying him relation to Jesus who is the light.

"There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-7)

God in the moment of creation is proclaimed to be the author of light. 

"And God said "Let there be light." And there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

This idea is modified later in the first Johannine Epistle, where God is identified with what his Word created.

"God is light, in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while walking in darkness, we lie, and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another ..." (1 John 1:5b:7b)

As his passion approaches, John portrays Jesus speaking in these terms

"You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:35-6)

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
(John 12:46)

In what he says metaphorically speaking its clear that he understands himself to be God the Father's only Son. This is the truth by which he lives, and it is the basis on which he sacrifices his life. His truth, at a spiritual and moral level puts all human existence and behaviour under scrutiny, not just because he is a manifestation of the divine, but because he has fully taken upon himself human nature. He is the 'proper' man, the archetype of genuine humanity, reveal what human beings can be and can achieve when they walk in the light of divine truth.

From Jesus's teaching in Matthew's Gospel, however, comes a statement which is even more challenging, because of the way it identifies us with him.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden... let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:14 & 16)

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