Unlike the synoptic writers who start with events surrounding Jesus’ birth (Matthew and Luke), or with the ministry of John the Baptizer (Mark), John’s gospel has a cosmic tone as he goes all of the way back to the beginning. We hear echoes of Genesis 1 as he writes about the beginning, the word, and light. Some have suggested we see in Jesus’ baptism the parting of the waters (Genesis 1:6-7).
John introduces Jesus as light by first telling us that “in Him was life,” (v. 4). It seems to me that he is saying something more than simply that Jesus was alive as we are. I think he is saying something about the quality of Jesus’ life—He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with His Father. His life (unlike ours), was unmarred by sin. He was the ultimate model of what it means to live a fully obedient, submitted and joyous life. You could look at Him as John the Baptist did and instead of saying, “Look, the Lamb of God,” (v. 29); you could say, “Look, the Life of God.” That’s what we see in Jesus.
That explains what John says next when He writes that, “The life was the light of all mankind,” (v. 4). The way that Jesus lived is the way God intended for all of us to live. That we have fallen so short is attributable to many things, but the lack of a model is not one of them!
John then tells us that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (v. 5). If we live as light, there will be opposition. There was for Jesus and there will be for us. How did Jesus oppose the darkness? By being full of grace and truth (v. 14,17).
I’ve noticed that most of us tend to be one or the other—we can be full of grace or we can be full of truth, but it’s a real challenge to be both. When we’re high touch (full of grace), we don’t marginalize people by reducing them down to whatever their shortcomings might be. We see them as they are (sinners like us who are made in God’s image and cherished by Him). We love them where they are.
When we’re high truth (full of truth), we are convicted about the how the truth is one of God’s primary tools of liberation (John 8:31-32). We stress the necessity of repenting and embracing it. We’re sensitive about any potential compromise. Both grace and truth are incredibly important, but like your thumb and forefinger—neither one works well by itself.
Light warms and exposes. Truth must be shared graciously and grace must be shared truthfully. May we live like Jesus—as people of high touch and high truth.