Scripture: The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:9-13, 15 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus, John tells us that God sent John the Baptist to witness the light so that all might come to faith through his preaching. But even though he served a critical role, John the Baptist is not the light but solely points others to the light, i.e., bears witness. In verse 15, John inserts a similar parenthetical detail regarding how John the Baptist testified that Jesus (still unnamed) is preeminent and eternal, even though his ministry follows the foundational work of John the Baptist.
For today’s devotion, John returns to the theme of Jesus being the substance of true light (1:9-13). His light shines on everyone because he created the world and entered into it as the incarnate Son. Still, the world (those blinded by unrepentant sin) did not grasp his messianic identity. And even though his mission focused on God’s chosen people (Israel), ironically, the vast majority rejected him. But those who believed Jesus is the Christ received their inheritance as children of God—born again not of human origin but of the Spirit of God.
Takeaway: John will build on this theme of being born of the spirit in Chapter 3 with the discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus (to be covered in a future Daily Focus devotion). Our focus is two-fold: Jesus is the true light that stirs reception or rejection. The Greek John uses for true is alēthinon (genuine), i.e., Christ is the ultimate reality of light. But while his light shines on everyone (implying the invitation is for all), only those who seek the light will benefit. Repeating a central point that the Son of God created our world (kosmos in Greek, better understood as the human culture), John tells us that our worldly society did not know (egnō in Greek) him. To not “know” in this context implies a failure to recognize, i.e., spiritual blindness. And as mentioned above, unrepentant sin spurs such a precarious state of being.
Our takeaway? Those who realized they were hopeless sinners and “knew” they needed a Savior received the Light of the World with open hearts and minds. Thus, we see a correlation between light and reception and darkness and rejection. And we see the corresponding consequences: receiving the light merits adoption into the family of God, and vice versa with rejecting the light. But we must not lose sight of John’s emphasis on “will.” We cannot will our way into the kingdom of heaven. God initiates, first by sending his Son, then by sending his Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit woos us toward the light and breaks down our defenses so that we might discover the joy of our salvation. Our part? Cooperate with the Holy Spirit. He will instill in our minds and emotions the desire to receive the light and to do things God’s way rather than ours.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who entered our broken world and shined his light of truth and beauty on us to bring forgiveness and healing. Still, we pull toward the darkness, seeking to do things our way. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit and keep receiving the light when it shines into the darkened corners of the unsurrendered elements of our wills? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling