Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome. For the Life and the Love of the Father are in Him, and with such divine Love He has manifested Himself to us, in order that we may have that Life with Him forever.
In Him you see what otherwise cannot be seen. In Him you see God, and you know God as He truly is. And in His very flesh and blood, you know and receive the works of God, which are grace and truth. For in His flesh, all of creation is fulfilled and perfected. So are you also redeemed from the darkness of death, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ is the Propitiation for all your sins; and not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. This is the Light that scatters the darkness and shatters the works of the devil. Because the sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God, for the salvation of sinners, accomplishes the good and gracious will of God, and makes known the Father to all the children of men. In this, the Name of God is glorified and hallowed among us, and His Kingdom comes to us from heaven.
To know God rightly is to know this Love of the Father in Christ, and to be sanctified by His Spirit through His forgiveness of all your sins. As all of this is now revealed to you, and given to you, through the Word of the Gospel, so do you have peace in place of despair, and life instead of death. For not only is God with you in Christ Jesus, but He is for you; He is on your side. He is here to help you, because He loves you. His life and death and resurrection — in His own Body of flesh and blood — are the guarantee of that Love: which was, and is, and is to come.
This is your Light in the darkness. This is how you get your bearings, so that you know who you are, and where you are, and where you are going, and how to get there. For knowing God as your Savior in Christ Jesus, you have Life with Him forever. Everything else takes its cues from that.
So, then, by His Word and Holy Spirit, live that divine Life which is yours in the incarnate Son of God. Walk in the Light, which shines upon you in His Gospel. Which means, first of all, that you give careful attention to His Word. For that is where and how the Life of Christ is set before you.
Blessed are your ears, which hear the reading and preaching of the Holy Scriptures! And blessed are you, when the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ gives to you His Holy Spirit, so that, by His grace, you believe His Holy Word and live according to it!
Faith follows Christ Jesus in His Word, and love follows faith.
That is how you walk in the Light; namely, by listening to and learning from the Word of Christ, so that you might thereby live and love as He does.
Open your ears, therefore, to hear and heed His Word; and so keep your eyes on Jesus, and follow Him. You are His disciple, and He is your Light in the darkness.
Look neither to the right, nor to the left; and do not turn around to look behind you, but move forward in faith. I do not mean that you should forget what the Lord your God has done and said and given in the past; but do not linger on your own past works and accomplishments, as though your life were there, in glory days gone by. Rather, leave the past in repentance and forgiveness, and give thanks to God for the promise of His mercy and the hope of the Resurrection.
Do not look sideways at your neighbor with envy and jealousy; nor compare and compete with your neighbor, as though he were your opponent or your enemy. But consider the people around you with the holy compassion of Christ. Care for them in love, and with forgiveness for their sins. Do so, especially, within your own place in life, on the path to which Christ Jesus calls you.
To turn aside or depart from that path, is to wander away from the Light, to walk in the darkness. Then you will surely stumble and fall — and do not suppose that you will manage anything else.
Child of God, do not sin! For in such darkness there is only death and despair. Do not scheme and strive to light your own way, so as to get life for yourself by your own designs and ingenuity. And do not abandon the faith and fellowship of God for the friendship of the world.
But here is how you shall live: Do your duty, according to God’s command and your neighbor’s need. That is to exercise the faith and love that you find in Christ Jesus. And be content with what you have been given, in the confidence that God, who loves you, has given His only-begotten Son to die for you, and has also raised Him from the dead, in order to give you all good things in Him.
In the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, in His eternal great High Priesthood as your Savior, you live, now and forever, in the presence of His God and Father. That is your “royal priesthood,” which is carried out within your own particular place in life, whether that be in service to a ripe old age, or by way of an early martyrdom; whether in Jerusalem, Athens, Ephesus, or Rome.
Wherever God has put you, love your neighbor there, with whatever means the Lord has put into your hands. That is the chief purpose of your time, treasures, and talents, namely, to glorify the Name of the Lord your God, by using what He has given you to love and serve your neighbor. You’re quite safe to do that, because the Lord Himself provides for you, in love, all that you need, and far more than you could ever ask or hope or imagine.
Instead of seeking to get and to keep whatever you can for yourself, freely give to your neighbor what you have freely received from the Lord of all, by His grace.
That is what St. John the Apostle and his fellow Apostles have done; with special thanks and praise to God for the holy Evangelists, who have recorded for the Church the words and deeds of Christ our Savior! What they received, they also have given; nor were they emptied or undone by doing so, but filled up and glorified in the very Son of God. That is how it is with the good gifts of God: they are multiplied as they are divided and distributed, as in the case of the loaves and fishes.
So has St. John written what he himself saw and heard and touched — for the reading and the hearing of the Church on earth, even to the end of the age.
In this Apostolic Word, no less than in the flesh and blood of Christ, the Life of God — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is manifested.
This proclamation of God is an admonition and a warning, to be sure, which calls you to repent; to turn away from your sins, from darkness, and from death; to cease doing wrong, and to do what is right. But the Word of the Apostle is not a scolding or a threat. It is the very Word of God, in which the Gospel predominates, because the Gospel is the very heart of God in Christ.
St. John writes to you, in order that you may be set free from sin, not through your own works and righteousness, but through your Advocate with the Father, who is Jesus Christ the Righteous.
The Apostle and Evangelist writes, so that you may be set free from death, and that you may have Life in Jesus through faith in His forgiveness of all your sins.
This is the great joy of St. John and of all the holy Apostles, that you should have fellowship with them in this Word that has been written. Imagine that! — As we rejoice in the fellowship of the Apostles, so do they rejoice in you, who believe and live in Jesus by their Word. And not only that, but your fellowship with the Apostles is the fellowship of the Holy Triune God, whereby you also now live and abide with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit.
In order for that to be true — and it is most certainly true — it must be as St. John has testified, that everything he witnessed, and all that he received from Jesus, he has conveyed to you with this Word he wrote. Not simply as history and information, but as the ongoing continuation of all that Jesus began to do and preach from the beginning, even to the ends of the earth. Which is why the whole world is now filled with this Word of Christ, and even the whole world cannot contain it.
Beloved disciple of Jesus, what St. John saw with his eyes, and looked at, and touched with his hands, is here given and poured out for you. Recline here upon Body of the Lord who loves you, at His Supper, and know that, in His flesh and blood, you are safe in the bosom of the Father; because the Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from sin and releases you from death. For where there is forgiveness, as there is forgiveness for you here, there you shall not die, but live.
This is the true Light, which shines for you in the darkness; the Light no darkness can overcome.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A sword in the hat is better than a foot in your mouth. All the better if it is that double-bladed sword that slices and dices between bone and marrow. But I have always liked to sort things out by thinking out loud with friends and colleagues. And since my opportunities to do so are limited, I figure I can multiply my thinking and sorting here.
Married 31 years, my wife and I have had ten children born to us (six boys, four girls); we have another son and daughter by marriage (and will soon have another daughter by marriage), a son who went ahead of us to heaven from the womb, six grandchildren and counting. I was ordained in 1996, and have been the pastor of Emmaus since then. I have a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies from the University of Notre Dame (2003), and an S.T.M. from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana