As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5)
We so often hear the last past part of this verse, while the first part is seldom mentioned or included. On reading this today, I was struck by the reminder that the words of Jesus are eternal. They transcend time and are therefore prophetic. Anything He says in any situation has the application of here and now, as well as what has been and what is to come. This is the inherent power of the Word of God – there are no spatial or temporal limitations, as the Spirit of God in the Word can never be restricted. Jesus came as Son of Man, but His empowerment was of the Spirit.
In the light of this remarkable truth, today’s verse takes on added significance. We need to step back and reevaluate the way we understand this to what Jesus is really saying. Some of the teaching I have heard on this verse is actually presumption, and makes for a shaky foundation to our faith. The real truth is that, when our Saviour, the Son of God Himself, includes a qualification in any statement He makes, we had best take it seriously.
We cannot, of course, deny that Jesus is the Light of the World. One way we define His purpose and earthy ministry is that He came to lead us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of Light. He is the epitome, the embodiment, of perfect light and is the only true light – the only light that has the power to accomplish these things. He is the Son of God, after all, holy and righteous, glorious and majestic. So why start this statement with a qualification.
The answer is actually quite simple and very practical. His light is a divine light which operates through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. To understand the implications of this, we can say that Jesus was essentially the supernatural (God) working in the natural (the physical realm). The power of the Light that is Christ is that it is not of this world or of the flesh. It is entirely and always supernatural.
The natural and the supernatural are, essentially, two opposites. They contradict one another completely, and something is needed to enable them to function in the same space. That something is Jesus. Christ, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, is the bridge between the two extremes. But in order for the supernatural to work in the physical, He has to be present. Without Him, the temporal and physical realm we live in could never experience eternity.
He tells us this Himself. He has to be in the world in order to be the light of the world in a practical sense. It doesn’t alter the fact that He is the Light – this truth remains constant. But to function as the light, He must be in the world. And that is where the work of the Holy Spirit is so critical. It is the Holy Spirit that does the ‘shining,’ as it were. He takes the light that is Christ and ‘turns it on.’ But it doesn’t happen through a supernatural ‘override.’ It has to happen through the presence of Jesus.
Again, let’s step back and look at the life of Christ on earth. While He never lost His true and full identity as the Son of God, He did set it aside. Jesus did not come to earth as God-Man. He lived as a man, taught as a man, did miracles as a man, suffered as a man and died as a man, and was finally resurrected as a man. To save a fallen world, the Son of God had to be fully identified with it. Jesus did not accomplish these things because He was God. He did so because He was a man empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Stepping further back for a moment, we find this dynamic relationship defined in eternity. Even as God created the world, He put in place the ‘rules’ that governed creation. In some ways, creation embodied the act of establishing control over chaos, and that includes both the physical and spiritual laws that sustain our universe and everything in it. One of those things was the interaction between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Creation happened by the Word and through the Spirit. God said, ‘let there be light.’ The Word, who is Christ, had to be present, even back then at the beginning of the World.
Nothing has changed. The rules still apply. We are called to follow Christ, to live like Him and to reveal Him to the world, and we do this through the eternal truth that He is present. We are the living stones of the temple, Christ is the living presence. The Word dwells in us and is present. If the Word is present, the Light is present. If the Light is present, the Holy Spirit is able to turn it on. This is the supernatural working within the natural, exactly as it did when Christ lived as a man on earth. He came to show us, in a very practical and simple way, just how to do it.
The key is this: So long as Jesus remains in the world, He is able to fulfill His purpose and be the Light of the World. The question, then, is not whether I’m letting ‘my little light shine’ but rather whether I’m letting Him shine His light through me. Jesus has returned to His rightful glory, and will come again in glory, but He has set up the perfect solution to enable the supernatural to continue to work in the natural. The Holy Spirit has the task of empowering according the purposes of God – of turning the light on – but we have the task of making ourselves available, not as lights but as the simple lamp that houses the light.
What an awesome and humbling thought it is, that the great God of the universe should choose to use weak, frail humans, prone to sin and self-indulgence, to fulfill this critical requirement. We are chosen as God’s way of ensuring that Jesus remains in the world. Those of us who have seen the true. light are to continue to reflect it through the Holy Spirit at work in and through us.
God doesn’t need us, not one tiny bit. His supernatural power is such that He could do anything, anywhere, anytime without even looking in our direction. But He has structured creation to include us. We may never know all the reasons why, but He has wired things to that we’re invited to actively participate – not as slaves or mindless robots but as sons and ambassadors. We are vessels through which Jesus maintains His constant presence in this world. As we surrender to the truth of ‘Christ in me and me in Him,’ we become part of the bridge He made between the natural and supernatural.
This is the eternal working within the temporal. We become part of the Light, of the Way, of the Truth, of the Life. As Jesus’ body, we are part the supernatural working of God. It does, of course, start in us as He works to shape and transform us according to His purposes. Having the presence of Jesus – being the presence of Jesus – in the world means that He is there, not me. He never said ‘as long as we are in the world.’ We’re part of a perfect plan, but we aren’t the plan. If we truly want the Light that is Christ to remain, we need yield to the work of the Spirit, to surrender to His grace, and to be willing to take up the challenge.
We choose how much of His light shines out. We impact the darknes only to the limitations we impose on the work of the Spirit in and through us. We decide whether or not to allow Jesus to manifest Himself in our lives, and to what extent. He desires to use us to bring light into dark and desperate places – those same places He confronted in His suffering and death. We all desire that He shine His light, but perhaps most of us would prefer it if He used another lamp. We want to see His light but hold onto ours. We want the best of both worlds – the benefits of the supernatural and the natural – but would prefer to chug along in our own comfortable Christianity.
In the end, it comes down to me and my attitude to Jesus. I have the potential to reach others, to shine His light and bring them out of darkness. But how much of the light of Christ truly lives in us? As we look at the lengths to which Jesus was will to go, the anguish and suffering He was willing to endure, can we honestly say we love even a tiny bit as much as He does?
Of course, we’re all under construction and will take a lifetime to learn from the Spirit and be transformed little by little. The challenge is not so much shining the light that is Jesus as being the light that is Jesus. To be the supernatural light, Jesus had to snuff out the natural light. To fulfill His purpose as the Son of God, Jesus had to destroy the Son of Man. The physical can never affect the spiritual. It is always the supernatural that will govern the natural. Do we choose me or Christ in me? The answer to that question will impact eternity, because Jesus is eternal. Where He is, He brings the power of eternity with Him.