Thursday, December 31, Christmastide

Reader: “I am the light of the world.” 

Response: “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness.”

Scripture: John 8:12-19

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”

Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”

“Where is your father?” they asked.

Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.”

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:

Every year around this time, there is some “new study” wondering if Jesus was an actual historical person? Who really, was he? Was he married? How could someone be born of a virgin? Etc. In fact, that was the very question which surfaced in each of the first chapters of John’s gospel. Chapter one, Nathaneal’s question 1:49, chapter two miracle at Cana 2:11, chapter three Nicodemas 3:34, chapter four woman at the well 4:26, chapter five Jesus forgave sin 5:18, chapter six feeding 5,000 6:14, and chapter seven miracles 7:26. The seventh chapter takes place in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles, a celebration with Messianic implications. In the latter part of the chapter, at the climax of the feast, Jesus spoke as being the source of “living water.” The Jewish crowd picked up on the Messianic implications of such a statement hearkening back to Moses’ comment about a greater Prophet would arise from among the Jews. There was division among the people as to if Jesus was or was not the Messiah. At the end of chapter seven there is a later insertion in the first verses of chapter eight in regards to the woman caught in adultery (7:53-8:11). So 8:12 should be read right after 7:52 since it is in the very same setting and carries the same theme further. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Again, hearing this as a Jew in Jesus’ day would (and did) trigger a Messianic connection. 

God’s presence throughout the First Testament very often was signaled by light. “Let there be light” at creation, light in the burning bush, light leading the Israelites in the desert, the great light hovering over the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. The Feast of Tabernacles had a great celebration of light in the Temple, the eighth and last day when countless lamps and lights were lit in commemoration of days gone by. That’s what was going on when Jesus made his statement that he was the light of the world! He was, in effect, claiming to be God, thereby identifying with the light of God hovering over the Ark! 

The Pharisees understood exactly what he was claiming and quickly bristled at the statement. Jesus took up their challenge reminding them that there needed to be two witnesses to prove the validity of a fact. The two witnesses as to his identity were his Father in heaven and himself. (Note how often in Scripture there are two witnesses validating an act or statement: E.g. two servants accompanying Abraham and Isaac, two angels visited Lot before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses and the burning bush,  two thieves crucified with Jesus, two angels at the tomb and at the ascension, and many more examples.) 

The challenge in our day is the same in perhaps a more passive way. First, my guess is that most people never think about Jesus at all unless there is some kind of crisis. People who dismiss Jesus, are actually dismissing their own caricature of Jesus. I find social media comments about Jesus most often ill-informed, not really knowing what the Scriptures actually say and taking things completely out of context. The challenge and calling for all of us this coming year is to let Jesus speak through us in a world trying hopelessly to manufacture its own light and truth. Let’s be one of those two witnesses! 

Music: “Mary Had a Baby”    Nathaniel Dett Chorale   Love it!

I thought these last few days of this year’s devotionals, I’d include a few of the secular classics, not for their theology, but for their beauty and familiarity, since God loves music and beauty. He invented both!

Bonus: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”  Home Free Video      Get ready to shed a tear(s)! 

Prayer:Most gracious Father, who hast been infinitely merciful to us, not only in the year past, but through all the years of our life, be pleased to accept our most unfeigned thanks for Thine innumerable blessings to us; graciously pardoning the manifold sins and infirmities of our life past, and bountifully bestowing upon us all Thine abundant grace. And, every year which Thou shalt be pleased to add to our lives, add also, we humbly implore Thee, more strength to our faith, more ardor to our love, and a greater perfection to our obedience; and grant that, in a humble sincerity and constant perseverance, we may serve Thee most faithfully the remainder of our lives, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.     ―Charles How (1661-1745), Prayers Ancient and Modern