Tuesday of Holy Week
Verses: John 12:20-36
COME, WALK WITH THE LIGHT
Tuesday of Holy Week, 3 April 2007
John 12:20-36 [English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."
COME, WALK WITH THE LIGHT
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Knowing the Lord Jesus as the Light of the World changes how we look at ourselves and, finally, how we look at everything.
If Jesus is God in human flesh, He is indeed the Light of the World. He is what each person needs long before she or he begins to know it. How much more precious it is when a child is taught the name of Jesus from before she or he is born! It becomes possible for that child to grow up never not having heard the name of Jesus in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. How dear are the parents and grandparents that teach the little ones to know the Light of the World and to walk with Him!
One of my relatives was devastated one night after tucking in her three-year-old grandson. When she told the boy that Jesus loves him, he asked quite innocently: “Who is Jesus?” It grieved my loved one that her son, the child’s father, who had been raised in the church, was not passing along the faith to his baptized child whom he had promised to bring to the services of God’s house, place in his hands the Holy Scriptures, and to provide for his instruction in the Christian faith. Her daughter’s Episcopal priest said that there is a name for those that bring their children to be baptized but don’t keep their promises: “Perjurers.”
These days more parents, and indeed more people in general, seek light for their world from a variety of sources. Simply stated: they don’t know Jesus as the Light of the World. And whatever dim rays of His Light that might be reflected in whatever light sources they rely upon, it is not the same thing to think oneself a good or decent or kind person and to be a son or a daughter of the Light.
Most political partisans these days, if you scratch beneath the surface, do indeed believe themselves to be enlightened persons due to whatever political, economic, or social values they hold dear. Some may go so far as to say that they believe as they do precisely because they are Christians. But, the irony is, of course, that folks from quite opposite ends of the political spectrum could say the same thing. Perhaps they each have, as Thomas Jefferson did, their own edited version of the New Testament that reduces the Christian faith to whichever verses reaffirm the way they prefer to see the world.
Again this is not the same thing as knowing the Light of the World and walking in His Light. But that may come as quite a surprise to those who think themselves both enlightened and, in some generic sense, Christians.
Frankly, a good antidote to what can only be described as being in the dark about oneself is to begin reading St. John’s Gospel this holiest week of the year. For from the beginning it makes such extravagant claims about Jesus as the enfleshed God. And very soon one happens upon, in John 3, the dialogue that happens AT NIGHT between Jesus and Nicodemus, whom many would have described as a thoroughly enlightened man.
And, in the midst of that dialogue, one begins to see that knowing the Light of the World rather changes the way one looks at one’s own life. And so John continues in chapter four with the wonderful dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, who certainly would have described herself as, if not enlightened, then, at least streetwise. And, on and on it goes, until one arrives at the masterfully drawn drama of chapter nine when Jesus heals a blind man who sees more than both the enlightened Pharisees and his own hapless parents. Then John brings us right up to today with the telling in chapter 11 of the raising of Lazarus from the dead; and we might well think, at this point, that Jesus means to raise us from the darkness of dead faith that we might yet know and love Him.
To know Jesus as the Light of the World changes the way one looks at her or himself and indeed at everything. Because one can no longer see darkness as simple ignorance; it is, in fact, opposition to Jesus and a persistent choice not to walk with Him.
Indeed it may be said that no one who walks with the Light of the World could ever be content with treating her or his neighbor with anything less than respect – even when disagreeing profoundly with that neighbor. And no one who walks with the Light of the World could ever keep silent in the face of hunger or abuse or neglect or callous disregard for the value of any human life (even that still growing in the womb).
So that in response to such hurts one may well find one’s voice and one’s wallet and one’s calendar, because the Light of the World compels one to do so. And, while that may well be viewed by others as political, it is, in fact, not the same thing as embracing a particular party line. For feeling enlightened in one’s views and even voting those views is not the same thing as knowing the Light of the World and walking with Him!
Again one may find dim rays reflected from the Light of the World in all manner of places and throughout the globe, but that is not the same thing as knowing the Light of the World and walking with Him. Indeed it is, as John 6 tells us, not possible to have the life of God’s Son Jesus within us if we do not eat His flesh and drink His blood in bread and wine. We may know Him through His written Word or know Him somehow by association with His friends. But if we do not come empty-handed week after week to the table of the Lord to receive the body and blood of Jesus in bread and wine – indeed to receive Jesus Himself – then we do not yet know Him intimately and are not yet walking in His Light in the way that He wants us to walk.
You see, knowing Jesus the Light of the World and walking in His Light cannot be reduced to the time one gives Him daily or to the moral choices one makes. From the first days of the Church, gathering together for the Word and the Holy Meal have always been integral to knowing Jesus the Light of the World and walking with Him. To be a son or a daughter of the Light is to gather regularly and faithfully with the community of the Light to whom He has promised eternal life to all who trust Him and are born again of water and the Holy Spirit.
Which brings us back to Tuesday of Holy Week and the Lord Jesus’ clear warning that darkness can overtake those that do not walk with the Light of the World. We are reminded this week of the name of one who is overtaken by darkness. It is Judas, Jesus’ betrayer. He knew Jesus the Light of the World, but Judas refused to walk with Him. Judas slipped off into the darkness, and sadly that is what is too often true of those who perhaps have known, at least of, the Light of the World, but have decided to walk apart from Him.
As we continue to walk through this holiest week of the year, may we not persist in Judas’ company but be drawn more closely to the Lord Jesus. May His Light lighten our darkness, even the darkness of our small self-awareness. And may we call upon Him, the Lamb of God, to take our manifold sins to His cross; and then bury us with Him in Baptism; and then forgive us, renew us, and lead us that we may delight in His company and walk as children of the Light from henceforth and evermore. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina
[To listen to this sermon, please click on the icon at the top right “This Week’s Message” page at www.stmatthewsch.org]