How is all of the Christmas prep going? Anyone have their shopping done? Christmas shopping can take a toll on people for real. It can be intense. Maybe you heard the story about the guy who wound up in jail for Christmas shopping. You heard it here. The judge asked the defendant what he was charged with. The man said, “Doing my Christmas shopping early.” The judge said, “Well that’s no illegal. How early were you shopping?” to which the man replied, “Before the store was open!” J We used to applaud initiative. What happened to the early bird getting the worm? I don’t know. It’s just intense, right? Thanks for stepping away from the hustle and bustle to explore God’s Word with me this morning. Turn to John’s Gospel and chapter one.
John wastes no time in his gospel when it comes to describing who Jesus is, in declaring what He came to do, and in pointing others to follow Him. We learn in chapter 1 that Jesus is the “Light,” the “Lamb,” and the “Life!” And it is a good thing because you and I need all three. We need Light to see the Lamb and we need the Lamb in order to have Life.
Let’s read a few of these verses together.
John 1:1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word, (that is JESUS) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:29 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
One thing we know from the study of Scripture is that Jesus is both the Creator and Re-creator of all things. Verse one of our text today tells us that Jesus was with God in the beginning and everything that was made was made through Him. Nothing exists that Jesus didn’t have a hand in. These opening verses of chapter one take us back to Genesis one. You see a parallel or pattern between the opening of the Old Testament and the opening of John’s Gospel here near the beginning of the New Testament.
Genesis 1:1-4 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 2 tells us the earth was formless and empty and that darkness was over the surface of the deep. The very famous “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” passage in Isaiah 9:2 foretells the condition of things at the time in which Jesus would be born. It describes the nature of the atmosphere, the condition of the culture. We read: 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Just as light came into the creation story to create light from darkness, Jesus the Light came into the Christmas story to bring light into the darkness. At the dawn of creation He said, “Let there be light.” At Jesus’ birth God was saying, “Let there be illumination!” Let my Son, Jesus Christ, reveal what is wrong and reveal how it can be made right. Oh, when God starts something, when God births something, when God creates something light comes on the scene.
Light keeps us from stumbling in the darkness.
When we recognize that Jesus is the Light we need, and we invite Him to lead our lives, He gives us a path to follow that provides direction and strength and contentment and safety. Without His leadership, people live in search mode, in wandering mode, always looking for the next thing that will satisfy, always seeking something that will sustain them and give them peace. Peace comes from knowing you are on the right path! Peace comes from knowing that you are heading somewhere wonderful. Peace comes from knowing that you are living life according to the purpose for which God intended.
It isn’t fun to feel clueless. It isn’t fun to feel like we are in the dark about something. I struggle when I know people know something I don’t, and I want to know! I don’t want to be the one in the dark, the one without the information about crucial situations. I don’t like it when I get the sense that there is something someone is not telling me. Jesus isn’t like that! He is a Revealer of information. He is a giver of purpose. He is Light that gives us understanding that we desperately need. John not only said Jesus was the light and life in verse four, but Jesus said it of Himself in John 8:12. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
If you don’t want to be kept in the dark, walk with Jesus. He is the Light of this life and the Light in the One to come. As Jewell Harrison says, “This gets gooder and gooder!” Listen to these verses about the reality of heaven and Jesus as the Light! Revelation 21:23-25 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. Where Jesus is in all His glory, at the right hand of God in heaven, is nothing but light! I don’t know about you, but Daylight Saving time does a number on me. This getting dark thing at 5:30 is depressing. Good news! One day when believers see Jesus face to face we will never deal with darkness again!
No wonder that Hell is called the place of “outer darkness.” It is the place of outer darkness because Jesus isn’t there! He is the Light, and He isn’t there! And if He isn’t there, it is pure darkness. When you see something good, something pure, something holy, something special that has a positive element to it, it isn’t because someone stepped up to the plate and did something good, but it is because Jesus, the Light of the World is still shining in His people throughout the world, and until the end of time as we know it, the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit of God that hovered over creation when there was nothing but darkness and also participated in the creating of light is hovering over our world today and is bringing light into dark places wherever it will be received!
Light gives us understanding. Light shows us what we can’t see and reveals what we don’t know. How many of you know those things are crucial? When your little children play with colored toothpicks on the floor in order to make shapes out of them and they don’t pick them up, and when you are walking through that same room in the dark, and when you step on the toothpicks, and one lodges inside your foot and you have to go to the Emergency Room to have it surgically removed, you wish you had, had some light to give you the understanding you needed to see the sticks and avoid injury! Hypothetically speaking, of course. J
Ephesians 4:18 is a New Testament verse that reveals how dark people are in their understanding, how they lack a perception of the truth when they don’t know Christ, when they haven’t experienced His light in their lives. Ephesians 4:18 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Do you see that? You can’t have the life of God without the light of God. You will be separated from the life of God without Jesus, the Light. Without Jesus, the Light, you will have the life of man, but not the life of God. Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between the life of man and the life of God. One is a restless life. One is abundant life. One is a limited life. One is a limitless life. One is a life of destruction. One is eternal life and peace, love and joy in the Holy Spirit! People who think they are good to go without Jesus, that Jesus is just for those who want to choose Him for their lives, are ignorant and dark in their understanding about why it is imperative that they allow Him room in their hearts.
In fact, people who are celebrating Christmas who don’t know Jesus are spending lots of time, money, and effort, and they don’t even truly know why they are doing what they are doing! Imagine being invited to a wonderful party and not even knowing who it is being thrown for! And even though you don’t know who the party is for you jump in to make food for it, buy and wrap presents for it, get on ladders and hang flashing lights and all kinds of decorations for it, burn the candle at both ends, add lots of preparation to your already busy life, and you don’t even know the honored guest. That is what is going on, people!
People who celebrate Christmas but who don’t know Christ don’t even have understanding about why they are doing Christmas. The madness of the Christmas season isn’t that people are fighting over black Friday deals or hovering over their computers for Cyber Monday deals or that they are staying up late baking and freezing goodies, or are running repeatedly to Home Depot to purchase stuff to hang outside of their houses! The madness is that millions of people are doing all of that stuff without even know what they are celebrating! That is a basic understanding that they are missing, and if they don’t even get Christmas, how will they get the day to day reasons we need to have Jesus, the Light of the World, to illuminate our path? See and hold onto the Light of the World this Christmas.
So we move from the Light to the Lamb. John tells us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And just as we need light for understanding and to help us walk on the right path, we need Jesus the Lamb to help us be right with God as we journey through life and walk His path. You can’t be right with God without knowing Jesus as the Lamb of God. You might be a nice person. You might be a hard worker. You might be fun to be with, but you can’t be right with God without knowing Jesus as the Lamb of God.
You see, God had given the Old Testament people a way to deal with their sin. We may call it our weaknesses, our shortcomings or our failures, but the Bible word is “sin.” We do things against God . . . sometimes even without meaning to. We just have this propensity, this nature, this self-preservation nature and self-serving nature which prompts us to do things that offend the holiness of God. We were born with this broken condition.
The way God provided to deal with this problem was the sacrificial system. Sin causes death, and the only payment for sin is blood. The blood of a lamb or bull or goat was sacrificed repeatedly in order to purge people of their sin, but it was just a temporary fix. So, the sacrifices had to be repeated over and over and over. Since sin is the worst thing we can do against God and leads to spiritual death, and the best thing someone could do for humanity is to give their life’s blood for them in order to give them spiritual life, Jesus became the “Sacrificial Passover Lamb.”
Let me remind you that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was known for raising a special kind of lambs, lambs that were meant for more than just using their wool or eating their meat. Bethlehem lambs were raised for people to purchase and to take to Jerusalem to make sacrifices for their sin. Daily there would be an offering of lambs in the temple. Sacrifices would take place once in the morning and once in the evening (Ex. 29:38ff). Of course there were special occasions in the life of Israel that also required the sacrifice of a lamb, but the most significant of those was the annual Passover Feast (Ex. 12). During that observance, every Jewish family would sacrifice a lamb.
Oh the male lambs born in Bethlehem likely had just one sacred purpose. They were born to die. They were born to shed their blood on the temple altar as a symbol of atonement for the sins of all of the people of Israel. How special, how amazing that Jesus was born in sheep country and that He was laid by His sweet mother in a manger where animals would feed!
Behold the Lamb of God is right. Every sin that anyone had ever committed or would commit was placed on Jesus on the cross of Calvary, and through the shedding of His blood, as our sin and our rightful punishment was placed on Jesus (on God Himself) we were given the opportunity to be free of the wages of sin which lead to death and we have the option of choosing eternal life.
As horrific as it was, the worst part of the Calvary experience wasn’t the betrayal of Jesus’ friends. It wasn’t the whipping and beatings. It wasn’t the torturous walk from the place of sentencing to the place of execution. It wasn’t the sensation of nails coming being driven through His hands and feet. It wasn’t the piercing pain in His head from the crown of thorns that was pushed into His skull. It wasn’t the shameful exposure of His body as He hung there naked. It wasn’t the psychological torture of the jeers, the mocking, and the stares. It wasn’t the inability to get a good, sustaining breath. It wasn’t the physical fatigue, exhaustion and dehydration. Here is what Jesus as the Lamb suffered the most. It was the fact that God the Father distanced Himself from Jesus as He became the curse for us. It was the fact that God was silent at the cross. It was the separation from His Heavenly Father (that is what sin does! It separates us from God. That is the darkest of night and the most terrifying thing that can happen to anyone for eternity when they reject God’s love forever) it was that separation which Jesus signed up for that no one else would have been qualified to endure. And He did it on behalf of humanity!
People focus on the physical suffering of Jesus, but He wasn’t the only person who suffered physically. People had been crucified before Him. People were crucified after Him. People have been burned at the stake and beheaded for their beliefs. Prisoners of war, people who endure incredible pain as a result of illness, many understand physical suffering, but NO ONE but Jesus could understand the intensity of the spiritual suffering and suffocation that comes from being the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the entire world as He was cut off from His Heavenly Father! Where there is sin and no presence of God, there is NO HOPE, friends! That is situation Jesus willingly put Himself in. Without His willingness to do that, you and I wouldn’t have a chance at peace with God which includes eternity in Heaven because God and sin can’t co-exist. Just as God shed blood in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, He planned even before the world was created that Jesus, His Son, would be the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (Rev. 13:8). God, in His mercy took care of our sin problem Himself.
We know that God raised Jesus, the Lamb of God, from the dead. We know Jesus the Lamb conquered death, hell and the grave, making a way for us to do the same. We know Jesus the Lamb of God rose into Heaven and is seated in power. And those jeers and stares and mocking insults Jesus endured on the cross have been replaced with words of worship and honor and celebration as we once again look to Revelation to see a word about Jesus as the Lamb of God! In Revelation 5 Jesus is referred to not only as the Lamb of God, but as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah! He has overcome and of His victory these words are written:
Revelation 5:11-13 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
It is our willingness to honor Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our personal sin that will give us peace with God forever!
The final thing I want to talk with you about today is that Jesus is the Life. Life is a key theme in John’s Gospel. The word “life” is used thirty-six times there. What are the essentials for human life? There are at least four. You have to have light, air, water, and food. Did you know if the sun went out that everything would die? So we have to have light, air, water, and food. Jesus is all of these! He is the Light of life and the Light of the world (John 8:12). He is the “Sun of righteousness” risen with healing in His wings! (Mal. 4:2).
By His Holy Spirit, He gives us the “breath of life” (John 3:8; 20:22), as well as the Water of life (John 4:10, 13-14; 7:37-39). Jesus is the Living Bread of Life that came down from heaven (John 6:35ff). Nothing gives us contentment and a sense of satisfaction like a life with Jesus. He not only has life and gives life, but He is life (John 14:6). You may be alive, but you can’t truly LIVE without Jesus.
Jesus makes life worth the living. His name is life. In Him we live and move and have our being. When people place their trust in Christ they lay down their lives and pick up His life, and it is a good thing because His life is a powerful life. His life is a life of authority. His life is a real and sure threat to the enemy of our soul. His life keeps producing life. He can do a new thing any time anywhere under any circumstances. He can bring life even from death. His life is a constant connection to the presence of God.
We go back to Genesis again in chapter 2 and verse 7 where we read that man became a living soul when God breathed into His nostrils. Remember, our God is the Creator God and He is the Re-creator God. He has given you physical life, and He can give you spiritual life. That is what being BORN AGAIN means. God has given you one kind of life and all who are breathing are experiencing that. But He has another kind of life to offer, a spiritual life, that connection with God that is a daily, ongoing breathing inside us as we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives.
John 14:6 tells us Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one gets to God without Him. We head again from Genesis to Revelation where several times the writer mentions the “Book of Life.” This is the book wherein are recorded the names of those people who have chosen life in Christ. Is your name there? Have you seen the light? Have you accepted the Lamb? Have you surrendered your life? Jesus is the Light, the Lamb, and He will give you new life if you will give Him your life today!