One of the things that I absolutely must do when I study a passage of Scripture is understand what the point of the passage is. I believe that it was John Stott who wrote that if you cannot summarize the point of your passage in one sentence, then you need to go back to the drawing board until you can; if you cannot explain your passage succinctly, then how can you expect that someone who listens to you will be able to understand it?
The point of John 1.6-13 is: Christ is the True Light.
Good enough, but we aren’t done yet. It’s also essential that we understand the passage in it’s context. Why did John write that Christ is the true light in this particular place? I’m glad you
I think John explained Christ in this way here for a couple of reasons. First, John is headed in this great prologue to his gospel for verse 14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the point and direction of all that he is writing in the first 18 verse of his gospel. Christ the eternal Word? Christ the True Light? He became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld the glory of God.
The second reason that John writes that Christ is the true light is because it gives us a fuller understanding of whom Christ was. Imagine that you are telling someone about your new boyfriend. “What is this boy like?” your best friend asks. “Oh,” you respond, “he is a very nice boy.” Does that comment give the sum total of your boyfriend’s character and conduct? One hopes not. Indeed, in all likelihood, you are going to wax eloquent about the virtues of your new boyfriend until your best friend begs you to stop because she simply cannot take any more! (but I digress).
John is concerned to reveal Christ’s character to us as fully as he possibly can (given the limitations of the written word) in his gospel. Two of his main themes about Christ are that he is the Word and he is the Light. Of course he does not stop there. Christ will be revealed in many other ways so that when we come to the end of John’s gospel and close the last page, we will understand whom Christ was very well indeed.
Why John the Baptizer here then? Why emphasize his place? I’ve already weighed in on the importance of witnesses to John’s gospel. The reason he introduces John the Baptist here is because John was the first and greatest witness to Christ. Indeed, as we will soon discover, John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah will come before the great and powerful day of the Lord (Mal. 4.5). Don’t take my word for that fact, take Christ’s own word: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11–15, ESV)
Christ the eternal Word and Christ the True Light became flesh and dwelt among us.