This post is the first in a two-part series about the theme of light in the New Testament—Christ’s light beckons us to come forward to be forgiven, and in turn, we become lights in the world as representatives of Him.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that
no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.”
Without light, there is no sight. The Oxford Dictionary defines light as “the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.” Light is what enables us to perceive, to see, to know. This is true of our physical reality, and it is often used metaphorically to describe our cognitive and emotional experiences, as well. When “a light dawns” on a person’s face, they are experiencing the sense of wonder and illumination that comes from newfound understanding. And when something “comes to light,” it is revealed. Just as physical light reveals physical realities, spiritual light reveals spiritual realities, opening our eyes to see and know God—that we would discover Him, and be captivated by His radiance and love.
Jesus is the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12). He is what enables us to see, to understand, to know. A man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sensed this about Jesus, and he came to Jesus in the darkness, literally. We can guess at his reasons for coming in the dark of night, but more importantly, we discover in John chapter three that Nicodemus, though he was a high-ranking religious leader, was also in spiritual darkness. Nicodemus addressed Jesus by respectfully stating what he understood about Jesus—that He was a teacher sent from God— but within his statement were many unspoken questions and a deep struggle to understand who Jesus was and what He was doing. Of course, this was not lost on Jesus, and He immediately got to the heart of Nicodemus’ problem. Nicodemus was viewing things from an earthly perspective, and in fact that was all he was currently capable of seeing. Jesus tells him that he cannot understand the spiritual nature of the things of God because he has not been born again, born of the Spirit. He has not yet truly discovered and received Jesus as the illuminating Light that would bring him out of darkness and enable him to “see” spiritually.
Nicodemus was supposed to be a spiritual guide and teacher for the people, but he could not understand the basic spiritual principles Jesus tried to explain, even using earthly illustrations. So Jesus, ever gracious, laid out plainly for Nicodemus, and for us, one of the most important pieces of spiritual knowledge—take a moment to read John 3:16-21.
Looking for Light
Along with Jesus’ grace-filled words of salvation to Nicodemus came a stinging assessment of the human condition, of Nicodemus’ own condition: He was a sinner in hiding. He was lost in the dark. But Nicodemus did what a wise person does when they’re stumbling around in the dark, the thing we all must do as we stumble through the darkness of this broken world and of the sin within our own hearts. He looked for the Light. He sought Jesus out with a sincere heart. And when you come to Jesus in earnest, no matter how little knowledge you might have (or how much worldly knowledge you have that is getting in your way), no matter how deep the darkness you walk in, Jesus will shine His light on you and show you the way to salvation, the way to Himself.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives;
the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Nicodemus sought the Light, and he found it. After the chief priests’ failed attempt to arrest Jesus, they called Him a deceiver and declared that none of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him. But Nicodemus, a Pharisee, spoke up for Jesus (Jn. 7:50-51). And it was Nicodemus who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea, another secret believer, to give Jesus a proper burial after His death (Matt. 25:27; Jn. 19:38; c.f. Lk. 23:50-51). This time they walked by the light of day. They carried His body to a tomb, and Nicodemus brought burial spices—fifteen times what a customary Jewish burial called for and an amount well beyond what a household typically had on hand—an amount used only for the wealthy (c.f. Isa. 53:9). As Barry Shafer points out in his article An Unusual Thing Happened on the Way to Jesus’ Burial, you can’t hide when you carry the dead body of a high-profile public figure and seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloe in broad daylight. Apparently Nicodemus was done with hiding.
Sadly, not everyone will come into the Light, or admit that they are stumbling in the dark. When something comes into the light, it is exposed. We are afraid to come into the light of Jesus’ presence, because we know what He will find. Every one of us has done bad things, and we know it because we hide. We don’t like to be exposed because we know deep down that we are guilty. If we let down our carefully crafted facades and step into the light, all will be seen. And if we are found out, won’t we be rejected?
Stepping into the Light
We stay in the dark because we desperately long to be loved. Oh, but Dear One, you already are! “For God so loved!” “God did not send His Son to condemn, but to save!” The thing the hiders don’t understand is this: the moment you step with true faith into the Light of Christ and let Him shine into your heart, you become clothed in white, no longer a blemish to be found! Yes, each of us is guilty when we’re back there in the dark without Jesus, and if we receive our rightful sentence, it will be death, not just physical but spiritual—eternal separation from a Holy God whose presence the sinful cannot enter. It is a sentence too terrible to bear, and truthfully, we are right to be afraid. But for any of us who will believe in Jesus, turning away from our sin and turning to Him as Lord, He already paid our debt in full on the cross and then rose from the grave, raising every believer up along with Him out of sin, death, and darkness. Immediately, your verdict will be innocent, as declared by the Judge, because the Son was already convicted and took the punishment for every wrong you’ve ever done. It is finished (Jn. 19:30b)!
This is the Good News! So step into the light by confessing your sin (because if you deny it, you are still in the dark, c.f. 1 Jn. 1:8) and receiving Jesus not only as your Savior but also as your Lord, the One whom you now follow. Then out of a heart reborn and overflowing with gratitude, you will walk joyfully forward with Jesus, allowing His light to guide your way.
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness.”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
1 Peter 1:3, 8
It’s a scandalous, beautiful, absolute exchange. Believer, you have been set free from guilt, shame, hiding, and fear! You are loved, and you always have been. Your God has been wooing you all along, beckoning you through countless means not yet visible to your eyes, to step out into this marvelous light, into joy! Why would we not run to Him with open arms? Why would we not choose this life and the One who offers it to us? It sure beats crawling around in the darkness always afraid of being found out, because hiding doesn’t make us loved, it buries us. When we step into the Light, we allow ourselves to be truly known, completely forgiven, and deeply loved. By His Light our believing eyes can see that, in fact, we were known and loved all along. And that will make us come alive. Beloved, let us come into the Light!
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."