What’s so special about Jesus? For some who have no clue, He’s just an epithet spit out in anger; others think of Him as the founder of Christianity. Of course that’s a ridiculous question, given who He really is. But even though we know Jesus is God–the Word made flesh–whose death paid the penalty for all of our sins and opened access to the Father for us, is there more about our Savior we should understand?
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
For many years I misunderstood this passage. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I didn’t understand it at all, because, honestly, I did not discern any difference between the words “life” and “light;” they could have been interchanged, and I wouldn’t have known any better. Yet there is a difference, and it is a significant one.
Jesus Christ, whose existence in first century Palestine was recorded in the writings of the secular historian Josephus, was and is different than any other human being who ever lived on the earth. He is the only One who has the distinction of possessing LIFE in Himself, which is, as the passage says, the LIGHT OF MANKIND.
What I’m trying to say, however, is not that He was alive–we’re all alive until we die, so that wouldn’t be anything unique. The power He has–that no one else who ever walked this earth had or will ever have–is the power to give us spiritual LIFE. Not physically, because we’re not dead yet, but our spirits–that part of us that is born dead and unreceptive to the loving advances of our Creator who wants to fellowship with us. Jesus is the only One who can revive our spirits from the dead.
Yet, it is not a universal light in the sense that not everyone is illuminated by it, because not everyone gets it–literally and figuratively. As His disciple John said, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)
In our natural condition, we cannot get it in either sense–we can neither understand the light, nor receive it. Yet, when God calls us and we respond to that call, something miraculous happens–for the first time, we do finally get it. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) When it hits us that God is reaching out to us–that He is calling us personally–and we respond to Him, yes, we are instantly forgiven everything wrong we have ever done, yes, we are accepted into His economy–into His kingdom, as the phraseology of Scripture calls it. But something else truly awesome also occurs–we get the LIFE–the eternal, never ending life that Jesus has that we did not have before–the raising of our dead spirits back to life! And just in case we don’t recognize how truly significant the life Jesus Christ gives is, it isn’t “merely” (and I put that in quotes because this aspect of it is enormous) an issue of where we go after death–it is a matter of what changes now too. Many people, especially before Jesus gives them this life, before He “wakes them up” (so to speak) to Himself, think of spiritual issues exclusively in terms of eternity–whether they will be in heaven or hell, whether they will be punished or not. But unless you’re advanced in years or terminally ill, looking at it merely this way makes the discussion seem irrelevant to the here and now. Yet, getting the life Jesus gives is very much an issue for the moment.
Physical life without Jesus–without the new birth and the life He gives–is described as darkness; with Him it is light. Without it, our existence is animalistic–because we are missing an entire dimension of our existence, our lives revolve around our desires–what we eat, what we wear, what we drive, where we live, where we work, whom we marry, how to amuse ourselves, etc. Apart from the fact that animals have no need for clothing, a human being’s existence before His spirit is raised from the dead is not unlike that of the animal kingdom. Consider the physical effect of the absence of life on a person. With a physical life, you are a person, a living, breathing human being; without it you are merely a body–an empty shell, soon to be reabsorbed into the elements you were created from. In the same way, with the life Jesus gives we are alive; we are forgiven and accepted, capable of communing with the eternal God who created us, able to understand the things He wants us to know, able to live life to the fullest and accomplish everything He wants us to. Without it, we are none of these, and all we have is a repulsion towards any mention of Christ.
Life without the illuminating influence of the Spirit of God is truly dark. Perhaps this is because He is the only hope in a fallen world. Sin brings so much pain to and through each and every one of us–something we tend to not notice as clearly when we’re young–but Christ gives hope of an existence subsequent to this one where there will be no pain. Not only does He give us the ability to participate–to fellowship–with Him while we are still here on earth, He gives us sight to see the next which helps us persevere in Him with hope. The truth really is that having Jesus–the life that comes only from Him–makes all the difference. Everything else without Him would still be meaningless; conversely, nothing else but Him is ultimately all I really need!
Thank You that You have the life that is our light; give us that life! Amen.