The Claims of the Christ: I Am The Bright Morning Star
It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon this earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
Surely that is true. I mean, God’s earth is beautiful but there is an overpowering splendor to the march of the army of the stars through the night sky. This globe is fair, yes, but the heavens which cradle it are fairer than the fair. The stars in their shining loveliness speak of God’s majesty. The stars in their fiery power tell of God’s sovereignty. The stars in their measured courses proclaim God’s providence. The stars in their incalculable vastness declare God’s power. Lincoln had it right. How can anyone “look up into the heavens and say there is no God”? Of course, I don’t know that I fully appreciated that fact until I visited the land where Jesus lived when He walked the roads of this earth.
I remember, for example, hiking through the Negev Desert in southern Israel where the day’s light is snapped off in an instant and night swoops over you in seconds, where tumbleweed rattles all night long in restless wind-driven journeys across barren wastes, and where the lonely echoing howl of a wild beast shivers the spine. It was as dark and lonely and fearsome a place as I have ever been. Yet in that desert when I looked up at the stars, their unobscured splendor staggered me as they shot tiny threads of light into that seemingly impenetrable darkness. And I remember up in the north of Israel, up near the border with Syria and Lebanon, climbing the heights of Mount Hermon, a great mountain peak jutting so far up into the middle eastern sky that there was snow on its slopes even in July. There as the light slowly drained out of the day and night oozed in accompanied by the majestic moaning of an icy wind, suddenly I looked up and the cascading stars overhead, looking rather like a glittering waterfall, cheered my chilled spirit.
Then I remember sailing on the Sea of Galilee at the end of a hectic day, when suddenly an even more hectic storm blew up. Wind and wave and rain combined to scream like banshees, the tentacles of creeping fear choked off our conversation, and the inky curtain of the night dropped its sinister pall over us. But suddenly high up overhead, in a break between storm clouds, a single blazing star, shining steadily, steadied our storm-tossed souls.
Go anywhere where the night is dark and you will learn to love the stars. And of course what’s true of our experience in this physical world is equally true of our experience in the world of the spirit. Go, for example, to the desert of wasted opportunity or tremble in the icy darkness of sin or experience the stormy blackness of death and even there you can see the star. You can see Jesus. You see, I think it is no accident that the very last words Jesus speaks to us on the pages of Scripture are these: “I am the bright morning star.” What a marvelous claim that is. It is said that the night is darkest just before the dawn—and that is why the brightest star is the one which shines in that deep darkness—the morning star. And when the morning star appears on the horizon, then we know that the night is almost over, the darkness is just about to give way to the dawn. With that in mind, I would like for us to see how this claim of Jesus can begin to shine in our lives.
Think, for example, how Jesus Christ, the bright morning star, brings light to darkened minds.
Let’s be frank here. Are there not times in our experience when we wonder if God exists and if life has any ultimate meaning or purpose? Are there not times when we are tempted to echo Voltaire’s final verdict on life: “It is all just a bad joke”? Oh, it’s not likely that we ever say anything like that out loud, but my guess is that most of us at one time or another have thought something like that. After all, we are living in the age of scientific and intellectual sophistication—an age when the subject of faith can be easily dismissed.
Well, if that kind of thinking is yours, then please pay attention. I have a word for you. Not my word—Christ’s word. He says: “I am the bright morning star.” Christ, you see, changes things. It’s like centuries ago when the Greek runner was dispatched from Marathon to carry the news of triumph to the waiting city of Athens. For 26 miles that hastening hero ran -ran so hard and so fast that on arriving at Athens he could utter but one word before he fell dead. That one word was “Victory!” But with that one word all of Athens was changed. Fear was banished. Joy ruled the city. Just so, on the cross in His dying, Jesus Christ gives forth the cry that changes things: “Victory!” There on Calvary, He gave a new sense of meaning and purpose to our human experience. Just as the morning star brings light to the darkness of the night, so Christ brings light to darkened minds.
And what I find intriguing is that more and more of the great minds of our day are acknowledging that. A straw poll conducted by a national magazine among universities, research establishments, and industrial laboratories indicates that as many as 8 out of ten of our leading scientists and engineers hold to belief in a Supreme Being and follow a religious faith. Alan Heyward, the renowned British scientist, has written a book called God Is and in that book, he writes: “God is the being who created our superb universe. God is the God of Christianity.” Or consider what Carl Jung, the great medical and social scientist, had to say when asked by a reporter if he believed in God. Jung replied: “I do not need to believe in His existence; I know!”
Or do you remember last May when the front page of our newspaper carried the story that two great entertainers, Sammie Davis, Jr. and Jim Henson, had died on the same day at just about the same time? The back pages of the paper noted another death which occurred that day. Walker Percy, the physician-turned-novelist who may in time be regarded as one of the great writers of our time also died that day. Just weeks earlier, in an interview, Walker Percy unashamedly admitted that he believed in Jesus Christ, that he attended church regularly, and that he immersed himself in the study of the Bible. The interviewer, astonished that in this modern age such a great intellect would hold such a belief, asked Percy why he was a believer. Percy replied: “What else is there?” The reporter countered: “What do you mean what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, Marxism, Buddhism, materialism, and agnosticism. There is astrology, occultism, metaphysics, and the New Age.” Percy replied simply: “That’s what I mean. What else is there?”
What else is there indeed! My friends, begin to lay hold of this promise of Christ: “I am the bright morning star.” He can shine in your life replacing the darkness with light, replacing confusion with commitment, replacing aimlessness with purpose. You can hear Him cry “Victory!” in your life—and that changes things. Yes, Jesus Christ, our bright morning star, brings light to darkened minds.
Then think how Jesus Christ, the bright morning star, brings cheer to darkened spirits.
A little boy was sitting on the front steps of the house of the village doctor. An inquiring patient asked the little boy: “Is your father at home?” The boy replied: “No, he is not.” The patient then asked: “Well, then, do you know where he is?” The little boy answered: “I don’t know exactly where he is, but I do know this—wherever he is, he is helping someone.” To me, that is a perfect parable of the presence of our Christ. Where trouble is, where sadness is, where sin is, where sorrow is, there Christ is.
Do you remember a young girl named Sylvia Likens? She was in the news some years ago. She was the first widely reported child abuse case in what has become a depressingly familiar litany of such tragedies. Sylvia’s mother was dead and her father was a carnival worker. During his extended absences, he boarded young Sylvia at the home of Gertrude Banizevsky. Now Gertrude Banizevsky and her daughter, Paula, subjected Sylvia Likens to unspeakable tortures. When at last, mercifully, the young girl died, even the police authorities were shocked at what had been done to her. Gertrude Banizevsky and her daughter were sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after Mrs. Banizevsky was taken to prison a young preacher began to visit her regularly. The results of those visits were revealed in a story in the Indianapolis Star. Gertrude Banizevsky had met Jesus Christ, she had been baptized, she had become a student of the Word of God, she was pursuing her high school education in prison. A photograph of her was shown to the jurors in her case who had looked at her day after day during the trial and not a single one recognized her so changed was her appearance. Now who could love anyone like Gertrude Banizevsky? Christ could. And a servant of Christ could. And because of that love, the darkened spirit of Gertrude Banizevsky came to the light.
My friends, life is hard, sometimes it is terrifyingly hard. And sometimes in our sinfulness we make it harder than it needs to be. But the Gospel declares that we have a present Lord. He is in the battle of life with us. He loves us and He will never stop loving us no matter what. He is the balm to heal the wounded spirit. He is the strength to fire up the fainthearted. He is the grace to make the sinful clean. He is the light to shine so brightly in the darkness of the human spirit.
Now think of how Jesus Christ, the bright morning star, brings hope to darkened hearts.
There comes a time when the last and deepest darkness settles over us, a time when the very spark of life itself is extinguished. It is what Ecclesiastes calls “a time to die.” But even in the darkness of death, we can behold the bright morning star of Jesus Christ. “For now is Christ Jesus risen from the dead” and “because He lives, we shall live also.” Jesus Christ is our sure unfailing hope. He is our bright morning star.
Ernest Gordon wrote a magnificent book of Christian faith, hope, and courage called Through the Valley of the Kwai. At one point in the book he tells of a soldier who was brought to a make-shift hospital in the prison camp where Gordon himself was a Japanese prisoner of war. The soldier was dying; gangrene had set in; there was no hope; the last darkness was beginning to fall. The young man told Gordon that he was afraid of dying; so Ernest Gordon pledged himself to overcome that boy’s fear. For the next several days, Gordon spent many hours sharing with this boy the faith in Jesus which Gordon himself had only recently come to know. As the end drew near, the yellow glow of a coconut oil lamp illumined the sad scene. The young soldier whispered to Gordon: “Christ is here, isn’t He?” And Gordon replied: “Yes, He is right here.” Then Gordon took the young man’s hand and he began to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” The young soldier’s eyes were closed but his lips repeated the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven…hallowed be Thy name…Thy kingdom come…” At that point, the oil lamp burned out, but the prayer continued in the darkness. “Thy will be done…” The lips of the young soldier stopped moving. There was no more sound, only darkness, deep, deep darkness. Gordon then placed the boy’s hands at his sides, smoothed the boy’s hair, wiped his own tears from the boy’s forehead, and then went out into the darkness. Did I say darkness? No. For even in the hell of that prison camp, even in the midst of that tragic, wasteful death, Ernest Gordon looked up and saw a single star shining brightly in the night sky. It was the morning star. It signaled the coming of the dawn. And in that moment, Gordon remembered the claim of His Christ: “I am the bright morning star”—and he knew that Christ was near. He knew that just as the morning star heralded the coming of the dawn, so Jesus Christ, our bright morning star, heralded the coming of the dawn of eternal life.
Jesus brings light to our darkened minds—He gives us a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Jesus brings cheer to our darkened spirits—He gives us grace to overcome the sins and the sorrows of our human experience. Jesus brings hope to our darkened hearts—He will grant us a safe journey through death to that life which shall never end.
It is said that the night is darkest just before the dawn, and that is why the brightest star is the one which shines in that deep darkness—the morning star. And when the morning star appears we know that the darkness is just about to give way to the dawn.
Jesus said: “I am the bright morning star.” Therefore, when you see Jesus, any darkness in your life will give way to the dawn of new life in Jesus Christ…”