• The Light of All Mankind

     

    A Meditation on John 1:3b

    In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:3HCSB)

    We’ve previously meditated with wonder on the Apostle John’s simple and profound statement,

    In him was life,… Him of course is the Logos.  John leads us into his Gospel’s ‘grand foyer’ through a doorway which is the riveting declaration, In the beginning was the Logos (Word/Information Expressed), who not only was with God in the beginning but indeed was God.  John has just explained that the Logos was responsible for the beginning, for ‘the initial singularity’.  Through him everything came to be.  Without him nothing came to be that has come to be – including every being that lives.

    So the Information Expressed was a living being in the beginning.  While now in agreement with Scriptures on the reality of a beginning, an initial singularity, most scientists believe that living things originated from inanimate matter.  John’s Gospel asserts that a living being is the source of all that lives as well as everything which does not live!  We’ve wondered upon the reality that every living thing - in every mode of its living and being, in the engineering marvel of its functions, in its growth, in its reproduction, in the beauty of its form, movement and sound - reveals the life that was in the Logos, the Information Revealed!  How wonderful is this the Information Revealed.

    Now John declares, that life was the light of all mankind.

    The Logos/Information Revealed is evidently the life source of every living being including human beings.  But the life he conferred upon mankind is evidently of greater scope than the life experience by other living things .  The life that was in the Information Revealed, became the source of human life in a manner that was their light;  the light of all mankind!  It seems reasonable to assume, given the form of the statement, that this light is a feature of living human beings from the beginning.

    So a light of some kind shines upon humankind?  Or everyone in the human race emit light of some kind?  No, evidently not literally at least, in either case.  We may reasonably conclude theregfore that the light of all mankind is an abstract concept, a metaphor.  This does not make it any less real or fair dinkum!

    John does not directly explain his metaphor.  But what he says next offers a clue to understanding it:  

    The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4HCSB)

    Don Carson describes this verse as a masterpiece of planned ambiguity consistent with John’s writing style in his Gospel! (Carson, 1991)  In our StraighTalking covering this text, we noted the Holman Christian Standard Bible offers a footnote to explain the Greek verb translated overcome may also be translated grasp, comprehend, overtake as alternate translations.  The NET Bible translators (Bible.org) confirm that the Greek verb katelaben is not easy to translate offering as alternate translations, masteredcomprehended and overcome.  Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek Words (Vines) advises it properly signifies "to lay hold of;" then, "to lay hold of so as to possess as one's own, to appropriate." Hence it has the same twofold meaning as the Eng. "to apprehend;"

    This scholarsly re-assures us in concluding that the light of all mankind refers at least to human capacity to know, to have knowledge.  Our meditation today focusses on this.  Next Sunday (if God wills) we will meditate on resistance or opposition to this light.

    What is it that distinguishes mankind above all other categories of living beings that came to be through the Logos/Information Expressed?  It is our capacity to intelligently comprehend ourselves, one another, other living things, our world, indeed the entire universe.  We apply the duality of darkness and light in contemporary reference to ignorance and knowing respectively.  When not comprehending or understanding we say we ‘cannot see’ or we are ‘in the dark’.  When comprehending or understanding we say we ‘can see’ or someone 'switched on the light'.

    The life conferred upon mankind by the Information Expressed granted beyond capacity to know, capacity also for wisdom, sapience or sagacity, i.e., the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and wisdom (Wikipedia) – hence homo sapiens!  What an extraordinary and wonderful light!  But given the source of being of humankind is the Information Expressed and given God chose to make this category of living things in Our Image, according to Our likeness (Genesis 1:26) is it surprising that he confers upon them, the capacity to know the information upon which he evidently created the whole universe including themselves.  And critically, the life he confers upon them includes intellectual capacity to encode information in various forms to permit its communication i.e., the capacity for language.  In fact this capacity underpins human ability to know, to comprehend.

    Throughout its history, mankind has appropriated this light, this knowledge and applied it with ever increasing prowess.  Application of knowledge has permitted accelerating capacity to acquire knowledge – through writing to printing, to computing.  Now, Google has announced an early test of the capacity of quantum computer which performed a test task one billion times faster than a classical computer.  How extraordinary is this light?!  We might even say it is a crowning glory of humankind – cause for very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent, renown (Dictionary.com) to attend to mankind!

    But however wonderful mankind’s capacity might be to know and to apply knowledge of itself, of every other living being and of the whole universe, however brilliant this light, this glory, it fades to insignificance in the light (pardon the pun) of mankind’s ultimate capacity to know, to see.

    I’m speaking of the capacity conferred by the Information Expressed upon mankind to comprehend him, to converse with him, to be in communion/community with him.  This is the ultimate act of creation.  In this manner, that light was the light of all mankind.

    There is no higher calling, no higher duty of a man or woman than to know God, to comprehend the Information Expressed.  Though human capacity for wisdom, for power and for wealth are all great and apparently reasonable grounds for boasting, God declares by the prophet Jeremiah (9:24) that no one should boast about these,

    But the one who boasts should boast in this,
    that he understands and knows Me—
    that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love,
    justice, and righteousness on the earth,
    for I delight in these things.

    John’s immediate reference to darkness & its failure to overcome or comprehend the light of all mankind, signals the creative purpose of the Information Expressed in giving life that was the light of all mankind is not realised.  We’ll meditate upon that reality next Sunday.  Suffice to say today that John’s Good News describes how this purpose is accomplished through the Logos/Information Expressed himself.

    The verses which follow in John’s prologue (the next parts of his greater foyer) describe in wonderfully expressive, compact language how God does this.  Firstly, (v14)…

    The Word became flesh
    and took up residence among us.
    We observed His glory,
    the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
    full of grace and truth.

    …then revealing (v17) that the Logos/Word/Information Expressed is Jesus, God’s anointed king and concluding (v18) by unveiling the original creative purpose accomplished:

    No one has ever seen God. 
    The One and Only Son—
    the One who is at the Father’s side—
    He has revealed Him. 

    The Apostle Paul’s summarises this extraordinary accomplishment in 2 Corinthians 4:4 in intriguing terms: 

    For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ [God’s anointed king].

    So, the light of all mankind is:

    • our unique capacity to ‘see’ the information contained within the fabric of the universe that came to be by the Information Expressed
      • our unique capacity to ‘see’ the information contained within and expressed by every living being to which the Information Expressed gave the life that was in himself
        • our unique capacity to ‘see’ and know ourselves and one another to whom the Information Expressed gave the life that was in himself, to relate and to communicate together
          • our capacity to ‘see’ and know God, the Information Expressed, to relate to him, to converse together with him
            • the Logos/Word/Information Expressed himself, radiant in the unrestrained, exact expression of God’s being, revealing God the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3)

    Three concluding considerations for our meditation:

    1. How worthy is the Information Expressed of our wonder, our praise and our worship?
    2. He is the light of all mankind.  He is the light of me.  Is he?  Do I see him?  Do I see him in every information that is true about our universe, about one another, about me?
    3. With what passion and commitment do I choose to know him - in the deepest, most intimate way?  Does my passion match the Apostle Paul's (Thessalonians 3:8):

    I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.