Sermon – August 19, 2018
There are many ways to view the world in which we live. Some try to be optimistic about our world, seeing the silver lining in the clouds. The Bible shares some of this optimism, but not the way that most do. John begins by showing us how dark the darkness actually is – that while God’s fingerprints, indeed even his very presence, is all around us, we continually neglect it. Yet, even so, that same God will to make himself known to us – he comes to us to redeem us! Yes, it is a bad, bad world, but Jesus has come that we may have the light of life.
1. God is present everywhere
Verse 10 can be read as a repetitive statement; that while v. 9 said the Son was coming, verse 10 strengthens that statement by insisting he really did come. But, I think that it is better to read it as a corrective to verse 9. While the Light was coming, John does not want his readers to be left with an improper understanding of God’s relationship to creation in between creating the world and inhabiting it. He was coming into the world, but he was always in the world. God is everywhere present, fully, from the smallest space imaginable, to the grandest scale conceived of, God is fully present in his Creation. As Augustine says about the Son:
He was sent therefore there where he already was.
Not only is God present in all his creation, everywhere, he has also left his calling card in the creation that surrounds us. He was in the world, and he made the world. Yet:
2. God is unseen by everyone
The world did not know him. We missed him. This is how dark the world is: although God surrounds them in his fullness, and although the imprint of his presence is never removed from our experience as creation, we are so blinded by sin and darkness that we do not know him. This is further explained in John 3:19-20
This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.
Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:23
But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!
Indeed, if God, who is light, surrounds us and marks everything around us with the knowledge of him, and we still miss it, how dark is the darkness of the world!
3. God is known by every believer
And yet, God is still know by those who believe in his name, who have received him. While these verses apply to what is to come in the Gospel, it also applies well to the history of Israel, just like the above verses did. God always kept a remnant who did not desert him and run into idolatry. These took God at his word. This is primarily what John means by believing in his name: believing the nature of the true Jesus, Son of God, Light and Word, as John himself presents it in his Gospel, and furthermore as he is presented in the rest of Scripture. We must accept Jesus on his terms, as to mold him into what we want is just to create him as an idol. John reminds us that this is our work: to see Jesus as who he claims to be, to receive him as that, and to believe in him. But behind that stands the very work of God, giving us new birth. While we have a needed and necessary response, let us never think that such a response is our own work. God’s creative hands are all over our initial creation, and our new creation in Christ.
Friends, we must continue to receive Jesus as he is presented to us; not as we might want him, but as he is. Whether we have done this for decades, or whether God is just now starting to stir in our hearts, let us cling to the incarnated Word. For he is a good savior, and we are part of a bad, bad world.