Day 6: True Light

That man [John the Baptist] was not the light, but (he came) so that he might witness about the light. The true light which enlightens every human being was coming into the world. (John 1:8-9)

Some of us love the limelight: to be the centre of conversation and attention. Such people are often very handy in social contexts. Others of us tend to avoid the limelight. Psychological analysis of any biblical person is generally speculative: did John the Baptist enjoy the limelight or not? We can’t really say. We can say, however, that he decisively stepped out of the limelight when Jesus Christ comes into the world. He famously says a little later: “that man [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Along with life and light, truth is also a fundamental concept in John’s Gospel. Here, we have its first mention: “the true light … was coming into the world”. The concept of truth occupies an interesting place in contemporary thought. We appear to have moved beyond thoroughgoing scepticism towards anything claiming to be true, to affirming almost anything and everything which is claimed to be true.

Consequently, if we claim that the Christian faith is the exclusive truth, then we find ourselves in hot water in today’s culture – even branded as dangerous. Yesterday, we saw that following John the Baptist’s example, the role of Christians is to witness about what we believe to be true. We are most certainly not the true light: we can only point to the One who is.

At one moment in history, Jesus Christ “was … coming into the world”. This signifies an immediate, decisive, and powerful entry.[1] The True Light, who created the cosmos, alone has the power to shine into our lives, and to show us that we were made for relationship with God. We are dependent on Christ to make the first move towards us. This is what he does by coming into the world.

[1] In the Greek here, we have a periphrastic construction (ἦν … ἐρχόμενον; verb of “to be” + participle) – quite rare in Gospel of John; more common in the more polished Greek of the Gospel of Luke – which indicates a progressive action.

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