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The Light Diet That Really Works

John 8:12-20


The title of the article tricked me!

It said: “We all need light diets.” I assumed that the author was referring to lowering our calorie intake by limiting the food we eat. Instead, as I delved into the article, I discovered that he was talking about our need for a steady diet of pure light from the sun. He stated that in an industrialized society, we are in danger because we do not get enough regular, controlled exposure to healthy light. We use tinted windshields in our cars and tinted windows in our homes. We sit in front of the artificial and damaging light of television screens or computer terminals. We wear sunglasses. Many of us work in buildings with no windows at all. And many physicians are now sounding an alarm because when we don’t have enough light, our endocrine system is affected and there are various negative side effects. So the author was saying that we need to have a good “light diet”—that is, we need steady, controlled exposure to light that is pure and natural if we are going to be healthy.

Well, I am not a medical person and I don’t know that I understand all of that. But I do understand this: The world is sick with sin and the side effects of it are on every hand for us to see. I do understand that the only answer to that problem is a steady diet of pure light from the Son—the Son of God. I want to refer you to the magnificent words Jesus addressed to the crowds in the temple—words in which He was speaking of Himself. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world.”

Those words constitute Jesus’ declaration of His deity.

If you were to say to a child: “What is light?”, the child might reply: “It is what we see with.” If you were to say to a scientist, “What is light?”, the scientist might respond, “Light is a mixture of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between 400 and 700 billionths of a meter and an intensity distribution characteristic of the radiation from a body that has a temperature of 6000° C.” Now the second of these definitions sounds far more erudite than the first, but the fact of the matter is that for both the child and the scientist, light is largely a mystery, almost entirely beyond our comprehension.

I think that is why the writers of the Old Testament spoke so often of God in terms of light. The Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Isaiah, referring to the Messiah said: “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Micah, one of the minor prophets, said: “When I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light to me.” The pages of the Old Testament are filled with these references comparing God to light.

Now Jesus was very much aware of those Old Testament understandings of God as light, and so when He said, “I am the light of the world,” He was declaring Himself to be God. And the writers of the New Testament picked up the same theme. John speaks of Jesus as “the light shining in the darkness.” He says that Jesus is “the true light that enlightens everyone.” Do you recall the magnificent scene on the Mount of Transfiguration where the three disciples saw the deity of Jesus revealed and they noted that He glowed with a magnificent light. Or do you remember when Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road, he said that he saw “a great light, a light brighter than the sun”? So both the Old Testament and the New Testament announce that Christ is the light and the light is God. Here then is a strong claim for the deity of Jesus.

Let’s take a quick dip into the world of physics. As you know, in a year, light travels about 6 trillion miles. We call that a light year. Now the nearest star to the earth, not counting the sun, of course, is 4.3 light years away from us. That’s about 25 trillion miles. Now our fastest rocket at this point travels less than 30,000 miles per hour, but even if we could boost the power of our rockets so that they got closer to the speed of light, it would still take us 10 years to get to the nearest body in our own galaxy. Now you might think that that would make space travel impossible because how could you carry enough food and fuel for ten years. But it’s not impossible because you see the faster one goes, the slower time passes. That’s what Einstein taught us in his concept of the dilation of time—that the closer one moves to the speed of light, the more time slows. For example, if we were to take a trip to Alpha Centauri, it would take 20 earth years to get there and back. But for those traveling in a rocket ship at close to the speed of light, it would take only sixty days. Time passes much more slowly for them.

Now hold onto that and let me add an idea to it. Theoretically, if we could travel at the speed of light, then time would stop, time would stand still. Now apply that to Jesus’ words “I am the light of the world,” and remember that the Scriptures also say of Jesus that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no time involved when Jesus is spoken of. Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am,” suggesting that He is timeless and that concept of timelessness jives perfectly with the concept of the movement of light. Therefore, when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” He is not just laying claim to Old Testament truth and to New Testament truth, but also to the most sophisticated physics of our time. Here then is a strong claim for the deity of Christ: “I am the light of the world.”

And those words also constitute Jesus’ defeat of the darkness.

300 years before Jesus was born, Alexander the Great died, and his empire was divided up. The man who was given charge of what we know as the Holy Land despised the Jewish people. In order to mock their faith, he ordered a golden idol to be built in the middle of the temple and then he ordered the Jews to worship the idol. They refused and hundreds of thousands of them were slain. Those who managed to escape formed a rebel band led by members of the family of the Maccabees. Eventually, they retook Jerusalem from the enemy. The first thing they did was to remove the golden idol and to purify the temple which had been defiled. They did this by spreading bright light throughout the temple. And the rabbis of that day decreed that the Jewish people from that time on should never forget the act of purification with the lighting of the menorah, the seven-branch candlestick. Of course, that is what our Jewish sisters and brothers refer to as Hanukkah.

Now in the temple in the time of Jesus, the four menorahs, the four greatest candlesticks, stood in the outer court of the temple. It was said that the light they shed was so bright that its glow could be seen throughout Jerusalem. Now why do I tell you all this? Because here in John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus uttered His words “I am the light of the world,” while He was in the treasury, in the outer court of the temple. So Jesus would have been standing right next to those four great menorahs that cast a radiant light upon all Jerusalem and standing there, He said: “I am not just light for Jerusalem; I am the light of the world, and I defeat darkness wherever it is found.”

Think of what Jesus meant when He said that. Light is the symbol of growth. We learned in high school biology that when water and carbon dioxide are combined with light it creates photosynthesis which results in growth. Light is the symbol of health. Germs gather and fester in darkness. The skin becomes pale without adequate light. Our bones bend with rickets. Our eyes lose their luster. Light is the symbol of goodness. Where does most crime occur? In places of darkness and shadow. Light is the symbol of beauty. How could you have a Rembrandt or a Renoir painting without light? What would the Winged Victory or the Venus de Milo look like without soft light playing upon their surfaces?

Without light there would be no rain. Without light there could be no wind. Without light there would be no sunrise or sunset. Without light ducks would not know when to lay their eggs, and pumpkins would produce barren seeds, and people would suffer from crippling diseases, and none of us would ever have seen a rainbow or a rose. Is it any wonder then that of all the words which could have been cited as the first words of God recorded in the pages of Scripture,the words chosen were these: “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’”

My friends, light stands for goodness and growth and beauty and health—and remember darkness cannot stop light. No matter how much darkness you have it cannot overcome even the smallest light. Jesus then stands for all that is good and beautiful and beauty and wholeness in life, and no darkness, no matter how evil, will ever be able to overcome Him. That’s what He meant when He said: “I am the light of the world.”

Then those words constitute Jesus’ deliverance of direction for our lives.

Canada’s Gaspe’ Peninsula has one of the most magnificent seacoasts in all of North America. They have a little story they like to tell up on the Gaspe’ Peninsula, and it starts out like so many sea stories do: “It was a dark and stormy night and the captain was on the bridge of a very large ship. As he scanned ahead with his binoculars, he saw a light off in the distance. He sent out a radio signal: ‘I am a very large ship traveling at full speed. Change your course.’ Back came the reply: ’You change your course.’ The captain was indignant because he was not used to having his orders challenged. He sent out another message: ‘This is Captain Berger in command of the cargo carrier, Galveston, with a dead weight of 400,000 tons. I order you to change your course 90 degrees to starboard.’ In a moment back across the waters came the message: ‘I only weigh 1000 tons but I am a lighthouse. Now who is going to change course?”‘

Well, there are those who set sail on the seas of life claiming that they have the right to tell others the direction in which they ought to go. There have been many who in one way or another tried to throw their weight around. But they all pale before Jesus Christ because His is the light which is steady. His is the light which is unmovable. His is the light which is dependable. His is the light that is an unfailing guide. His is the light which gives ultimate direction to your life and mine.

Look at how His words give light. The common people heard Him gladly. Children scrambled all over themselves to hear the stories He told. People whose lives were dead-ended found release in what He said. People whose lives were lives of ill-repute were changed by His Word—a woman of the streets by a well in Sychar, a tax collector up a tree in Jericho, an antagonistic religious leader coming to Him under the cover of night. Or look at the light which shone through His works—water changed into wine, the sea calmed, the blind enabled to see again, the epileptic and lepers healed, the dead raised up.

My friends, in a world dark with sin and selfishness, we need a steady diet of strong, pure, healthy, cleansing light—we need the pure light of these words and the works of Jesus to show us the way we are to live our lives everyday. For you see, when He said: “I am the light of the world,” He was holding up the ultimate direction for all humankind.

Let me leave you with this…

Claim for your very own the divine, darkness-defeating, life-directing light of Jesus Christ—and follow His light in your life. In the end, it will lead you home…

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