28 April 2010

John 12:41-50

"I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness." (v.46)


John's Gospel is made up of a series of signs and discourses. Jesus feeds the 5,000 (John 6:5-15) and a discourse follows in which he speaks of himself as the bread of life. Lazarus is raised from the dead (John 11:1-45) and there follows a conversation in which Jesus is described as the resurrection and the life. Today's passage comes at the end of those signs and discourses and immediately before what are known as the 'Farewell Discourses' (chapters 13-17).

These verses reiterate themes that are common throughout John's Gospel. The first of these is that what Jesus does and says mirrors the thoughts and the actions of God. The second is that it is God who judges humanity on the basis of whether or not they believe in Jesus. Finally there is the contrast between light and darkness. This contrast is not simply about the difference between having access to a source of light to counteract the darkness, there are moral and spiritual overtones as well.

The darkness is for those who do not have faith in Jesus. Those who accept the light will live and act in a different way because their lives are dominated by the knowledge of God. In these few verses therefore, John brings together some of the key ideas within his Gospel before beginning the Passion story (detailing the suffering and death of Christ).

Reading John can sometimes make us feel like we are going in circles because of the involved way he writes, but what he says about Jesus as the light offers a holistic view of faith.

John is very clear that if someone is to be 'in the light' this is about a personal relationship with God which then has to be practised in the way we live. It is the same as the Methodist notion of there being "no holiness without social holiness". What John's teaching about light suggests is that our devotional life - our personal relationship with God - needs to include a concern for social justice and a living out of the gospel (the good news of Jesus) in practical ways.

To Ponder

In what ways can you put your prayers of intercession (prayer for others) into action?

In what ways does the idea of Jesus as the light help you to understand and share your faith in the contemporary world?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Christine Jones

Christine Jones, an ordained Methodist minister, is currently director of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, a centre which emphasises the importance of bringing theology and contemporary culture together. At UTU she is responsible for preordination training, teaching on the Foundation Degree, MA and supervising MPhil PhD students.