Here is week two in the series. In this one we take a look at the growing controversy surrounding Jesus as He makes His way to Jerusalem during the final days of His life on earth. The closer He gets, the more intense the anger of the religious leaders becomes.
This is week one of an 11-week series I just completed with our men. It is an in-depth look at the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. You can listen to the audio and download a pdf of the actual handout from the series. This has been one of the most impactful series I have ever taught – for me! I hope you enjoy.
From Darkness to Light.
“I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” – John 12:46 NLT
When referring to Jesus, John used the metaphor of light throughout his gospel. He opened his account of the life of Jesus with these words, “… his life brought light to everyone.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:4-5 NLT). He went on to tell how John the Baptist, sent by God, told “about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony” (John 1:7 NLT). John the Baptist was to be a witness to the fact that “the one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9 NLT). It’s interesting how John used this word picture of light penetrating the darkness when referring to Jesus. It paints a vivid image of the state of the world from God’s perspective. Mankind was immersed in a suffocating darkness, caused by the presence of sin and the absence of truth. For more than 400 years, God had remained silent, no longer sending any prophets with any messages of either warning or hope. During the period of the kings and all the way up until the exile of Judah to Babylon, God had spoken regularly and relentlessly, calling His people to return to Him. He had given them warnings of what was to come, but also assurances that He would be faithful to them. He promised to return them to the Promised Land from their 70 years in exile, and He kept His word. But then the prophets ceased and God fell silent. For more than 400 years the world suffered without a word from God. Darkness reigned. The light of God’s truth dimmed. Even God’s chosen people became a shadow of what He had intended them to be. Their priesthood had become more political than spiritual. Their land was under constant attack and they suffered defeat at the hands of the Syrians, Egyptians and Romans during that time. They practiced their religion, but they did so, as it were, in darkness. They no longer heard from God. And over time, they became accustomed to the darkness. The became acclimated to their surroundings and learned to live without the light. Like Gollum in J. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, they grew comfortable living in an environment lacking in light.
But God was not going to remain silent forever. He was not going to allow the darkness to continue. As He did at the creation of the world, God would penetrate the darkness with light. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3-4 NLT). At just the right time, God caused His light to shine into the world again. The classic Christmas carol, O Holy Night, describes the scene quite beautifully.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
The prophet Isaiah predicted that this time would come. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, he wrote hundreds of years earlier, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness,a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:2 NLT). He went on to describe the source of this light: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NLT). Jesus Christ was the light of God penetrating the darkness that had engulfed the world and left men stumbling about blindly, attempting to grope their way toward a solution to their problem of sin, pain, and suffering.
Jesus made it perfectly clear why He had come and what was expected of those who heard His message. “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in men will no longer remain in darkness” (John 12:46 NLT). But John tells us the sad reality: “But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him” (John 12:37 NLT). Jesus had come offering them hope. He had come providing them with a way to reestablish their relationship with God the Father. He offered them light to help them navigate the darkness of this world, but they refused it. Jesus did not come to eliminate the darkness, but to illuminate it. Darkness is simply an absence of light. He came to provide light where there had been none. But this Light would not be with them forever. In just a few short days, His life and the Light would be extinguished. Jesus told them so. “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light” (John 12:35-36 NLT).
But by the end of that week, the Light of the world would be snuffed out. His life would be taken. Better yet, His life would be given, because He died willingly and gladly so that men might have eternal life and a permanent source of Light for their lives. Jesus had promised, “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” (John 8:12 NLT). His death made it possible for men to live in His light permanently – even while surrounded by the darkness of this world. Jesus came into the world as the Light of the world. He died so that His light might shine in the lives of men, making them sources of light that might illuminate the darkness. One Light became many lights. Paul made this clear when he wrote, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5:8 NLT). We have the Light of the world within us, not just with us. He indwells us and illuminates our lives, not just our surroundings. And we have the capacity and responsibility to shine into the darkness of this world, making a difference, exposing sin, illuminating the way to the One who can make a difference in the lives of men. Paul went on to say, “For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible” (Ephesians 5:9-14 NLT).
Those of us who are in Christ, have Christ in us. We have His light shining in and through us. We are lamps in the darkness, providing hope by revealing the truth of God’s transforming power in our lives. We are to shine as Jesus did. We are to expose darkness as He did. We are to illuminate the darkness, not attempt to eliminate it. When we live as children of the light, the darkness naturally recedes before us. Darkness cannot dwell in the presence of light. It diminishes as the light grows stronger. May we become increasingly bright lights in this sin-darkened world, “for light makes everything visible.”
Father, thank You for illuminating the darkness of my world with the Light of Your Son. Now help me to live as a child of the Light in the world in which You’ve placed me. Help me to shine brightly. Help me to clearly point the way to You for those who still live in darkness and cannot see for themselves. May my life by a light on a hill, clear for all to see, and a magnet to those who desire to escape the darkness of sin in their lives. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men