John 12:37-50

I remember going down into the depth of Mammoth Cave in central Kentucky. Down winding trails amid stalactites and stalagmites we traversed mostly in silence except for the faint sound of water dripping in the background. When we reached the largest cavern several hundred feet underground, the guide pointed out the extensive system of electric lights in the cave, and then, after a warning, shuts them off. The blackness is so thick and total it is disorienting. I have heard of darkness so complete one could not see their hand in front of their face, but this was the only time I have ever experienced it.

That is comparable to people not plugged into the eternal source of light. Spiritually they are living in a dark, isolated, cold existence that will only become bleaker and bleaker if something is not done.
In the cave, after a few seconds of complete blackout the guide lights one match. One tiny match can light up an entire cavern of thousands of square feet. On the first Christmas morning it may have seemed like one small match, but Jesus was born and his twinkling light began to flutter in order to dispel the darkness of evil, death, and hell.
In Jesus’ day, the world was dark, cold, and impersonal. The people yearned for hope and a new dawning. They longed for light. In fact this light was so desired that John in his gospel used this image as a recurring theme to communicate the coming of Jesus Christ. Over and over again John records Jesus’ announcement that He is the light. One of those occurrences was when Jesus was completing his public ministry. The crowds had begun to wane. The flurry of activity around him was not as strong. Yet, Jesus reminds His hearers, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).
The Revelation of the Light
Jesus revealed to His hearers that He was the light. What did Jesus mean? Light was symbolic of deity. The Rabbis used light as a name for the Messiah that was promised to come. So when Jesus said He was the light, He was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah that would come. He was saying that He was God. Christmas is just as much about the Savior’s deity as it is about His infancy.
Light is also necessary for daily existence. Without sunlight crops don’t grow, plants can’t go through the process to give off oxygen, we humans become depressed. We need light to survive, to live physically. We also need the light from God to survive spiritually. God’s light exposes our sin, leads us into the truth, and reminds us what is good. Just as the universe has only one sun, and it is the center and source of physical life; so there is but one God who is the center of all and the source of spiritual life.
So, Jesus reveals himself as the light. For what reason?
The Reason for the Light
Jesus states that reason: “So that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46). If light represents God, the source of spiritual life, then darkness represents everything God is not. It represents falsehood, evil, death, and hell.
The fact remains that light and darkness cannot coexist. Robert Louis Stevenson looked out his window one evening many years ago. Those were the days before electric lights. Stevenson saw the town lamplighter coming along. As this lamplighter lit the street lamps in succession, Stevenson was impressed at the sight. He wrote about the lamplighter who went along “punching holes in the darkness.”
Jesus came into this world, that first Christmas morning, to punch holes in our spiritual darkness. Without Christ we are like a ship lost on the open sea in a dense fog, groping for the eternal shore, waiting with beating heart for someone to dispel the darkness with the light of salvation. That is what Christ has done — He has punched a hole in the darkness of our sin, our doomed existence, so that we can see God and be rescued from our ill-fated destiny.
The Retrospection concerning the Light
Do you get the picture? Without Christ we live in a spiritually dark, cold, and impersonal world, but Christ came to dispel the darkness so that spiritually we could live in the light of his life and love. That leads us to a few questions we will want to reminisce.
First, how do you know when you are in the light? The key word in John 12:46 is believe. To believe means to acknowledge the light of Jesus, turn toward it, and begin walking in its glow. To know you are in the light is to pinpoint a time when the light dawned on you and you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as the light of your life.
Second, if you are living in the darkness, what will it take for you to see the light? For some it is a crisis — a gut wrenching disaster in their lives. This is what happened to Saul who later became Paul. He was blinded by a light. In that physically blind state he came to see the spiritual light of Jesus.
What kind of crisis will it take for you? Do you need to have the rug of your security pulled from under you? A physical ailment? A loss of a loved one? God doesn’t send calamity and misfortune into people’s lives just for His pleasure. Many of the calamities and crises come upon us because we choose to walk in the darkness rather than the light. Yet in the midst of those crises God can get our attention. If you are going through a difficulty now, perhaps the light of God’s love is trying to break through.
For others it is confusion. This confusion is like the dawn. Where a war of sorts is being waged — a war between the night and day, darkness and light. Sometimes the confusion is concerning direction and guidance. Where do I go? What do I do? A light is needed. Sometimes this confusion is depression. We ask ourselves, why is it that I have everything I could possibly need or desire in my external world, yet internally I’m not at peace. A light is needed. Sometimes this confusion is over meaning. People will say: surely there has to be more to life than this. They struggle to know their place in life. A light is needed. Don’t think of your crisis and confusion as an enemy, but as a friend gently tugging you toward the light.
Third, why live in darkness when light is available? Jesus came to dispel the darkness, to punch holes in it, to make it possible for us to get to God, to live eternally. All we have to do is believe in Him, to ask Him into our lives. Give me one good reason why you won’t ask Christ into your life and live in the light of His love?
The Reaction to the Light
The people Jesus addressed with His message of light did one of three things.
First, there are those who saw the light but would not believe (John 12:37). They saw the signs without accepting the significance of those signs. They witnessed the miracles of Jesus but treated them as freaks of nature. They saw the light but preferred to stay in the darkness. And having rejected the light so many times their hearts became cold and calloused and closed to the light. “For this reason they could not believe” (John 12:39).
Second, there are those who believed but would not confess (John 12:42-43). These people had places of position, power, and prestige. They did not want to give up these places. They were secret believers, closet Christians. They chose to hide their light rath-er than reveal it. The Scriptures are rather clear on what we are to do when we possess the light (Matthew 5:14-16 and Matthew 10:32).
Third, there are those who believe and follow the light (John 12:44-45). Belief separates light from darkness. We move from the position of darkness in to the light. We are transported from the devil to the divine. We move from spiritual darkness to spiritual life. We cross the chasm of death into life.
What will your reaction be?
That day I was in Mammoth Cave after the guide had turned off all the lights, a little girl, suddenly enveloped in the utter darkness, was frightened and began to cry. Immediately she heard the voice of another little person, I presume to be her brother. He said, “Don’t cry. Somebody here knows how to turn on the lights.”
In a real sense that is the message of Christmas. Jesus came to turn on the light in our darkness.

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