The True Light

That was the true light … John 1:9

In the first eighteen verses of his Gospel, the apostle John used rich imagery to portray the person of Jesus Christ. After describing Jesus as the eternal, divine, personal Logos (Word) – as opposed to the written Hebrew scriptures that testified of Him – John used a second image that was already popular among Jews. Jesus was the true Light. This is the first of a series of imagery in which John used the adjective ‘true’ or ‘good’ to emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

Like the Logos, the motif of ‘light’ too would have struck a chord with his Jewish readers. How were the Jews acquainted with the motif of ‘light’?

One of the first things God did after creating the heavens and the earth was to command, Let there be light! This is probably why Jews believed that light was extraneous to this universe. It was something that God sent into the dark cosmos. Light symbolized God’s presence, life, salvation, joy, and everything that was good.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?

Psalm 27:1

Jews considered their Torah and the rest of their scriptures as light because it was received from God as divine revelation.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light

Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23a

More specifically, light represented specific divine revelation that provided guidance to individuals or to a nation.

O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your dwelling places.

Ps 43:3

When John refers to the divine Logos as the true light, we must see this description in relation to the light that the Jews already had. The Hebrew scriptures were indeed unique; those were the only divinely inspired scriptures in the whole world. But here was an opportunity to experience God’s ultimate self-revelation firsthand at close quarters. In other words, a life-giving encounter with the God who chose to appear in flesh and blood – a tangible ‘God with us’ – in fulfillment of scriptural predictions is what makes the study of scriptures worthwhile. The Logos was that true Light that came into the world in flesh and blood.

John makes a direct comparison between Jesus – the Logos in flesh – and the Law that came through Moses:

For the Law was given through Moses;
grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17

This direct comparison helps us understand why John chose the word Logos to describe the divine Person who came in human flesh as Jesus. The Logos, who was known as Jesus after his birth, was the ultimate revelation of God (cf God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. NASB Hebrews 1:1-2). John went on to explain why Jesus was uniquely suited to reveal God to humanity.

That explains it well. Who else can reveal God to us other than Jesus who was in the bosom of the Father? The result is unique: Those who saw Jesus saw God. Those who touched Jesus touched God. Those who received Jesus received God. (cf. Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8-9 NASB)

The Jews of those days were careful to study their scriptures. For some reason, in spite of all their study, they could not understand that their scriptures pointed to Jesus. Even Jesus observed this anomaly. Their unbelief was not caused by a lack of evidence; their stubbornness ruined them. To the Jews who refused to believe His claims, Jesus said,

You don’t have His [God’s] word living in you, because you don’t believe the One He sent.
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.
And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.

John 5:38-40 HCSB

To such Jews, John had a reminder: Jesus was not just any light. He was the true light! Become His disciples and receive eternal life from Him!

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