The Word: The agent of creation (July 17, 2022)

A uniform standard lesson for July 17, 2022.

Richard Boyce

Uniform Lesson for July 17, 2022
Scripture passage and lesson focus: John 12:27-50

In this lesson, we shift from thinking about Jesus as the Word to Jesus as the Light. Here, Jesus saves us by bringing light to our darkness, showing us the way forward and making us into “children of light” (v. 36). The language of light and darkness pervades the Gospel of John, from Jesus’ early encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:2), to the visit of the women at the tomb (John 20:11). How does Jesus’ work of dispelling darkness help us understand God’s work in creation, in the cross and in the salvation of the world?

The light of creation

When we read about the Word’s creative work in John chapter 1, we probably think primarily about God’s creation of the world out of the darkness at the beginning of time. We remember that when “darkness covered the face of the deep … God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:2-3). But darkness has a way of coming back, and God must always be re-creating and resurrecting and renewing — lest the primordial darkness return. There is a precariousness with respect to light in this broken world, a precariousness with which the Gospel writer is deeply aware: Jesus said, “the light is with you for a little longer … walk while you have the light” (v. 35). He continued, “while you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light” (v. 36).

It might be helpful to begin our lesson this week by reflecting on the precarious nature of light in our world today. Whom do we know personally whose vision and hope are failing? Could they use a little light to reassure them on the way? Where in our world are the forces of darkness rallying in such a way that every light seems to be disappearing? How could we let our light shine there? How are our actions and inactions fouling the air and water of our earth in ways that threaten to bring a cloud of darkness over this planet? Will our activity or our apathy shut out sufficient light for all God’s creatures in our care? God in Christ comes to bring the universe light, to show us God’s way and to make us into children of light — not just way back in the Big Bang, but each and every day we live.

The light of the cross

The most remarkable part of our passage this week is Jesus’ declaration that his glory/light will be made most evident on the cross. This is the hour for which he has come, and this is the event in which the light of God’s love will shine most fiercely. The crowd immediately questions this (v. 34). Jesus then makes it clear, quoting the prophets, that many, if not most, will miss this sign as they’ve missed the others (v. 37-43). There is a difference between the light/glory of human beings and the light/glory of God (v. 43). That difference becomes most clear and convincing on the cross. As the old hymn goes: “In the cross of Christ I glory/ towering o’er the wrecks of time/ all the light of sacred story/ gathers round its head sublime” (“In the Cross of Christ I Glory”). What looks like darkness is actually the beginning of a new age of light — where “the ruler of this world will be driven out” (v. 31). The cross becomes a light shining in
the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome.

The light that saves versus judges

Those who are investigating a person or community accused or suspected of a crime often begin by shining a light on the situation. Law enforcement officers carry flashlights. Police helicopters use searchlights. We often shine light in this world to judge or to get the judgment ball rolling.

According to our passage, Jesus shines a light not to judge, but to save. He said, “I have come as light into the world so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness” (v. 46). Jesus is like a lighthouse on a rocky shore, guiding boats away from destruction and toward a safe harbor. The church of Christ should likewise be a source of light in scattered communities, guiding all creatures away from destructive patterns and systems toward the beloved communities where all might find a home. As Jesus shone his light on the cross and in the resurrection, so we are called to be children of light wherever we go.

For discussion:

How can we transform lights for judgment into lights for salvation?

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