I Can See

Today’s kind of a special day for me. Exactly eleven years ago today, I performed my first baptism. Though the senior pastor usually handled such ceremonies, from time to time, we assistant pastors got to participate when it was requested by the person being baptized. Since Jim was in my youth group, I was asked to perform the baptism.

And so, about ten minutes before the service began, I went to the designated “waiting room” to pray with Jim and answer any lingering questions. But, when I arrived, Jim was not alone.
Much to my surprise, he was talking with an older gentleman I didn’t recognize, who was answering His questions and explaining the ceremony. Though, reluctant at first, I joined the conversation with a sense of purpose and the confidence of one who had done this a thousand times before.
However, as soon as I finished my first sentence, the older man looked at me suspiciously and said, “Hi. My name is Frank Brusque. I’m the deacon here. Who are you?” Needless to say, I was a bit caught off guard by his question; and not just because he was so blunt, but simply because I was a pastor on staff, and had been for over a year.
Granted it was a very large church and I was “just” a youth pastor. But still, since the congregation voted to call me, I assumed everyone knew me. Nevertheless, much to my vexation, even after introducing myself as “a pastor,” Mr. Brusque still had no idea who I was.
Admittedly, looking back on the incident, much of what I felt stemmed from my own desire to be known and recognized. It’s a fault I’ve worked hard to change over the past 12 years, though not because it’s wrong to be known or recognized, but simply because it’s wrong to feel so entitled.
But, even when or if our motives are pure, there’s still something about that question that seems to get under our skin; especially when the person asking should know the answer. Somehow, when someone fails to recognize us, it offensive, as if they are saying something about our value as a person; which is why today’s passage is so baffling.
In it, we find Jesus, walking around Israel, teaching God’s truth, performing miracles, changing people’s lives, and ultimately demonstrating His own divinity, and along come the Pharisees, who dare to ask, “Who are you?”
Their question would be understandable if they had no prior knowledge of His claims, teachings, or miracles. But that wasn’t the case. This wasn’t the Pharisees first encounter with Jesus, but one in a long line that began with their criticizing His associations, and ended with His violent death on the cross.
Consequently, the Pharisees question is not na├»ve inquiry, but serious challenge. From the very beginning of His public ministry they were intent on provoking a confrontation with Jesus. Yet each time they failed to do so, because He never took the bate. Instead, He always answered their questions patiently and honestly, just as He does in today’s passage.
When the Pharisees ask, “Who are you?” Jesus simply responds “Just what I have been claiming all along.” OR “I am exactly who I have been claiming to be.” In other words, just as He asserted in v. 12, Jesus is the Light of the World. He brings light into a dark and cruel world: figuratively and actually.
You see, Jesus’ statement came near the end of a celebration known as the Feast of Tabernacles which commemorated how God rescued His people from their bondage in Egypt. During this feast, candles were lit to represent the pillar of fire that God used to lead them through the wilderness to safety (Ex. 13:21), and this is the image Jesus intended to place in the minds of the people.
He is the Light of the Word. He will is the one who leads His people out of darkness. He is the one who reveals the way of salvation. He is the one who guides us in the truth. And unlike the candles lit during the Feast, or even the pillar of fire, Christ’s light never goes out. It is eternal.
Thus, for those who know Him, His claim is more than a passing wish. It’s a reality. He is the Light of the World who reveals our darkness; illuminates the truth and exposes our sin. (Jn. 3:18-21), which can be difficult to accept.
That is to say, though most people acknowledge the existence of evil in the world, few accept responsibility for promoting it. Instead, most of us see ourselves as pretty good people compared to others who cheat, lie, steal, and murder.
Unfortunately in doing, we miss the point entirely, because salvation is not based on what we do, but entirely on the sacrifice of Christ. Consequently we often fail to see the damage done by our own sin and selfishness.
We fail to grasp the pain caused by our disparaging remarks about others. We fail to appreciate the distrust sown when we gossip. We fail to recognize the insecurities caused by our harsh words and criticisms. Because we see our own sin as less offensive and damaging than that of others, we fail to recognize all the darkness we’re responsible for spreading.
Instead, we see our occasional jokes about others as harmless fun. We accept our harshness toward our children as understandable frustration. We see our insincerity with friends as just the way it is. Besides, it’s not like we are killing someone or stealing from them.
But what if we could look into the future and see how our harsh words will affect our children later in life? What if we could look back and discern how our cruel jokes damaged others’ confidence and self-worth? What if we could look into the hearts of those we criticize and critique to see the anger that we sow?. I suspect that it would be hard to deny the gravity of our sin if we could see the actual consequences.
That’s what Christ does for us. He reveals our brokenness so that we might understand our need for healing and forgiveness. He enters our lives that we might not go on living in denial.
As the light of the world, He reveals the darkness of our hearts and exposes the real and potential consequences of our seemingly minor sins. In doing so, He shows us the way out and leads us to salvation, just as a candle, or a flash light might lead us out of a dark room. E.g.
On my sixth birthday, my parents allowed me to have six friends over for an all night party; and even before it started, I was certain it was going to be awesome. With an angel food cake, cherry frosting, sprinkles, boatloads of ice cream, and presents, I could not imagine how anything would be able to spoil the evening; but clearly I hadn’t been trying hard enough.
You see, shortly after my friends arrived, we went downstairs to tell ghost stories in our basement; which was entirely dark once all the windows were covered. Before long, one thing lead to another, and we found ourselves playing hide-and-seek amongst an assortment of tools, antiques, tractor parts, and other items from my father’s various collections.
It was truly difficult to see anything and a bit scary at times. Yet even now I must admit that it was pretty cool playing in the complete darkness. It would have been the best party of my childhood had Paul not run into me and knocked me into an antique mirror which immediately shattered leaving rather large piece of glass in embedded the palm of my hand.
Of course, without any light, I could not really see the cuts on my hand, though I didn’t need to. The excruciating pain told me that I was hurt and needed help; quickly.
But, I was paralyzed by shock. In the utter darkness, I could not see the way out; and with all my friends screaming, I was completely disoriented. Though it felt like I stood there for a lifetime, I’m certain it was only seconds before a light appeared behind me rescuing me from the darkness and chaos.
So it is, when Christ enters our lives, He rescues us from the darkness of our repeated failures and mistakes, by leading us to the cross where our sins are forgiven, our guilt removed, our health restored, and salvation is found.
He is the light of the world, who came to expose our brokenness and reveal God’s truth, (Jn. 3:18-21); and now He calls us to follow Him as He guides us by His truth.
In v. 13 the Pharisees accuse Jesus of falsehood saying that His testimony was “not valid” since He appeared as His own witness. Literally, they said, “your word is not true.” I.e. these Pharisees; these religious teachers, were calling Jesus a liar.
Though He was not obliged to do so, Jesus responds to this charge by appealing to His mission in v. 14 (Dt. 17:6, 19:15), His authority in v. 16 (Is. 11:3-5), His divinity in v. 23 (Is. 11:1-5), and His purpose in v. 26 (Is. 43:1-4). Each time He does so, He bases His argument on the law and the prophets of the OT, becasue He knew that the Pharisees accepted these as TRUE.
In fact, everything that Jesus says in these last eighteen verses stems from, or points to the truth of God’s Word, which is exactly what we are called to do.
He calls us to know His truth and acknowledge His truth; to understand it and accept it; to receive it into our hearts, and speak it into the lives of others as we practice it ourselves because that is how He reveals darkness, and leads to salvation; by the truth of His Word.
Consequently, each of us must examine our own lives to find the unresolved issues and secret sins that lure us back into darkness and undermine our confidence in the salvation that God provides through Christ. We must not go on trying to conceal our struggles and failures as if somehow we could.
After all, the Bible make’s it pretty clear that eventually, God will “expose the motives of our hearts” bringing “to light” all “our iniquities” and “secret sins” “hidden in darkness.” (Ps. 90:8; 1 Cor. 4:5) I.e. all our anger masked as justice, or gossip portrayed as honesty; all our selfish motives and vain pursuits, will one day be revealed for what they are; SIN
It’s what CS Lewis refers to as our “transparency” in His allegory “The Great Divorce.” One way or another, the light will eventually who we really are in our hearts, which is why insists that those who follow Him, will not continue to walk in darkness.
For to “follow” Him, is to love Him (1 Jn. 1:5-2:17); and to love Him is to obey Him (Jn. 14:15, 23, 24). Thus, we can’t go on ignoring our sin, no matter how minor it seems. To live in the light, we must acknowledge our brokenness to Him; and one another (Jm. 5:6).
After all, the old adage is right: We cannot fix what we refuse to acknowledge is broken. We cannot experience the healing that Jesus provides until we allow His light to reveal our need for healing. Just think about it.
Have you ever tried to fix something in the dark? Have you ever tried to remove a piece of glass from your hand, or mend a cut without any light? Have you ever tried to find something, or fix something when you can’t see? Of course not. That would not only be crazy, but dangerous as well.
In the summer of 07, we discovered that we needed to replace the electrical panel in our house to keep it from burning down. However, the time the electrician arrived, diagnosed the problem, and got to work, it was already 8:30 pm and growing darker by the minute.
As a result, he had to tap into the main power supply so he could have light while he worked. Though he seemed to know what he was doing, I knew it would be extremely dangerous, since he would be working with live electric lines.
Consequently, though it wasn’t much, I tried to make his job just a little easier by holding some flash lights for him until he could get to temporary electricity installed; and it’s a good thing that I did.
For even with the extra light, there was two loud explosions and smallish fires that had to be put out. Had he been working in the dark, I hate to think of what could have happened.
The fact is, we must be able to see what is broken in order to fix it; whether it’s an electrical panel, a bone, or a spiritual problem like gossip, lust, anger, envy, laziness, etc. Whatever they may be, we cannot let the pleasure of our sins, the fear of rejection, or the guilt of our struggle keep us in the dark. We don’t have to be paralyzed, because Christ brings us light.
Is it scary? Absolutely. Will it be difficult? Probably. Could it be painful? It’s likely. But we will not be alone.
Every one of us is in the same boat. Everyone one of us has baggage that needs to be unpacked. Everyone one of us has problems that need to be fixed. The issue is not whether we have struggles, but what we do about them that matters most.
Will we let the Light of the World reveal our darkness, lead us to salvation, and guide us by His truth? Or will we remain in the dark? That’s where the rubber hits the road.