Scripture: John 1:1-18
Key verses: (3,14) “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Reflection: Last week we finished Matthew’s gospel. This week we begin John. These two gospels couldn’t be more different in their style and orientation. Matthew is likely written for an early Jewish Christian community. It is the most “Jewish” of the four gospels. John, on the other hand, is the most “Gentile” of the four gospels, filled with passages that appeal to terms from Greek philosophy, as opposed to references to Hebrew prophets found throughout Matthew. This is illustrated in the opening verses of John’s gospel as he employs the Greek concept of “the logos,” or “the Word,” to describe the coming of Jesus.
Scholar Leslie Newbigin describes the first eighteen verses of John as “an overture.” He suggests these verses contain the great themes to be illumined throughout the gospel: life, light, truth, and glory. He writes, “Like the overture to an opera they announce in brief form the great themes that will be developed as the story unfolds.” John 1 contains the first reference to the great theme of light and darkness. “Light” is mentioned 73 times in John. It is of particular significance in Jesus’ exchange with Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus in the dark in John 3. Remember Jesus says to him, “The light has come into the world, but people love darkness more than light.” In John 8, Jesus describes himself as “the light of the world,” and in John 9 he invokes that title while healing a man born blind. In John 11, Jesus again invokes the metaphor of light to describe himself and his ministry within the narrative of raising Lazarus from the dead. Finally, in John 12:35 and following, Jesus invokes light once again in the final words of his public ministry.
That’s enough Bible study, what does this mean for our lives? None of these exegetical matters came to my mind when I first read today’s Gospel lection. What came to my mind was Christmas Eve. Every Christmas Eve John 1 is recited as we begin lighting our candles to illumine the darkness before singing, “Silent Night.” It’s one of my favorite moments of the year. Proclaiming these powerful words from John while demonstrating their great truth. One candle has the power to banish darkness. By the time the light has spread to every person in worship, that light comes to represent the life of each person present, shining in the midst of a world whose darkness cannot overcome that light. It is a moment of grace and truth, and it is glorious. Life, light, truth, glory; the four great themes of John all present in that one moment through this one passage.
The second thing that came to my mind was the old Vacation Bible School song, “This Little Light of Mine.” That song was inspired by a passage from Matthew, that gospel from the opposite end of the spectrum. “Let your light so shine before all people that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Two very different gospels invoking the same metaphor to proclaim gospel truth. Your very life is the light of God within you, Christ in you, a gift of God’s grace. That’s the truth! Let your light shine this day in the midst of the world’s darkness that God’s glory might be revealed in you. Life, light, truth, glory—that’s what it’s all about.
Prayer: May the light of your love shine forth in my life this day, O Lord, that you might be glorified in all I do. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].