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Mar 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

The Uncreated Light


March 3, 2019 – Mark 8:27-30 and John 8:25-30

Intro: John chapter 8 begins with one of most beautiful stories of Jesus

It’s the kind of story we enjoy reading again and again
(If you don’t remember well the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery who was brought before Jesus in an attempt to ambush him, grab your Bible and read John 8:1-11)
– there’s just one problem with this story
• biblical scholars agree that it John did not place it here
◦ it is not found in the majority and most ancient Greek manuscripts
• some copies of Luke’s gospel contain it,
◦ and in some copies of John it appears in different places
– what we can surmise is that it was a well-known and much loved story
• too important to lose – so it had to be preserved and put somewhere

To me, this seems to be the perfect place for this story
– certain themes in this story are expanded and played out in the chapter:
The temple — the story begins with Jesus entering the temple
◦ and the chapter ends with him leaving it (an “envelope structure”)
Sin — no one present who accused the woman was without sin (v. 7)
◦ later, Jesus said those in the crowd would die in their sin (vv. 23-24)
◦ whoever practices sin is a slave to sin (v. 34)
◦ no one in the temple could convict Jesus of sin (v. 46)
(he was the one person without sin)
Condemn or judge — in Greek, katakrinos and krinos
◦ none of the accusers stayed to condemn the woman
◦ and Jesus, who could have condemned her, did not (v. 11)
◦ later Jesus said, I judge no one (v. 15, as he just demonstrated)
• Central to woman’s story is stoning
◦ and that’s how Jesus’ story ends the chapter
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple (v. 59)
– so the story fits the chapter

Following this story, Jesus made an announcement

Pharisees who heard him reacted immediately
– from that point on, Jesus is answering objections
• the crowd misunderstand and underestimated him
• so he walked them through the maze of their wrong thinking
– in three instances, I see him revealing truths that were hidden in the Synoptic gospels

First, his announcement: I am the light of the world

In the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus said, You are the light of the world
– how did the disciples (and crowd) become the light of the world?
• we could say, “By living the beatitudes”
◦ but it is doubtful that they had mastered them already
◦ Jesus went on to say that people do not

light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand (Mt. 5:15)

• I wonder if Jesus is explaining where they got their light
◦ that he is the one who lit their lamps
◦ here he says,

Who ever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life(they “have” it by receiving it from Jesus)

◦ in next chapter Jesus will say:
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (Jn. 9:5)

– John emphasizes light and sight all through his gospel
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (Jn. 1:9)
. . . and we have seen his glory (Jn. 1:14)
what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? (Jn. 6:30)
Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails…I will never believe (Jn. 20:25)
– but “seeing” is not how we know God or walk with him

as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
for we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)

• rather than helping us to know God, sight can get in way
◦ after all, why did Jesus have to blind Paul to save him? (Acts 9:3-9)

Jesus is light, but not the kind we see with our eyes
– we make distinctions between natural light and artificial light
• but there is another light and it is visible only to the spirit
◦ “uncreated” – not like when God said, Let there be light
◦ but the light of God himself, God is light (1 Jn. 1:5)
• uncreated light is a cornerstone of Orthodox spirituality
(the light revealed to the disciples in his “transfiguration”)

Gregory Palamas (14th century mystic), “This mysterious light, inaccessible, immaterial, uncreated, deifying, eternal, this radiance of the Divine Nature, this glory of the divinity, this beauty of the heavenly kingdom, is at once accessible to sense perception and yet transcends it.” [Quoting St. Basil,] “. . . it is visible to the eyes of the heart”

The light shines in the darkness (Jn. 1:5)
• for a long time I assumed this meant the light shined like a beacon or lighthouse
◦ but now I realize that the darkness is still dark,
◦ but it is illuminated with a light invisible to human eyes

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you
(Psalm 139:11-12)

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

• Jesus also spoke of spiritual blindness

(of the Pharisees) Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit (Mt. 15:14)

◦ when it comes to having life in God, follow One with the light
◦ Jesus is the light! – And this brings us to the next question

Verse 25, So they said to him, “Who are you?”

Later they ask, Are you greater than our father Abraham? (v. 53)
Do you remember the Samaritan woman asking Jesus,

Are you greater than our father Jacob? (Jn. 4:12)

– they asked, because they sensed a challenge to their heroes
• in Matthew 12, Jesus referred to someone and something

greater than the temple, greater than Jonah, and greater than Solomon

◦ but Jesus left it there without explicitly pointing to himself
◦ nor did he suggest how he was greater
– but here, John allows us to hear Jesus speak in a clear voice (vv. 14, 19)

Let’s back up – in Mark chapter 3, two stories are “sandwiched”
– this means the two stories are told together, one inside the other
• each one illuminating the other
– the outside (slices) tell of Jesus’ family; the inside tell of the scribes
• both were trying to make sense of his actions
◦ his family thought he had lost his senses
◦ the scribes said, He has an unclean spirit (demon)
• John takes us deeper into both stories
◦ in John 7, we see that his family’s actions resulted from unbelief
◦ in John 8, the religious leaders were openly hostile

“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I don not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” (Jn. 8:48-49)

John brings all of this to the central question, Who is Jesus?
– it’s a question Jesus himself raised in all three Synoptic gospels (e.g., Mt. 16:13-15)
• John shows us that Jesus dropped plenty of clues:
◦ God is his Father–to know Jesus is to know God (v. 19)
◦ They’re from below and of the world; he’s from above and not of the world (v. 23)
◦ he has the truth that sets people free from sin (vv. 31-36)
◦ he came to them from God (v. 42)
• some of these statements are ambiguous
◦ but there is no ambiguity in verse 58

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I day to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

◦ his meaning was clear to them; they picked up rocks to stone him

A third truth hidden in the Synoptic Gospels

Verses 27 and 43 specifically address why the people did not understand
– the reason in verse 27, It is because you cannot bear to hear my word
• it clashed too much with their cherished beliefs, prejudices and paradigms
a second reason they did not understand (v. 47, & I emphasize “of God”)

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

• they were religious, but they were not of God
a third reason they did not understand Jesus was,

because my word finds no place in you (v. 37)

• he had told them,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples (v. 31)

• do you remember how Jesus redefined family in Mk. 3:35?

And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

• the problem here, is that his word could not find a place in them
◦ this is like the parable of the seed and the soil (Mt. 13:1-23)
◦ Jesus’ words need a special environment to flourish

Conclusion: I will finish with this thought

When we read Jesus’ teaching, his word searches for a place in us
– one that is open, receptive and responsive
• willing to hear the truth, whether pleasant or unpleasant
• the place in us that wants to know God
– God searches for the place in me that is searching for him
• they had no place for Jesus – in their theology, thinking, or lives
◦ his word was rendered ineffective – powerless to generate life

At the end of his ministry, Jesus said,
I go to prepare a place for you
I have to ask myself,
What place have I prepared for him?

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