John 12: 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
This juxtaposition is so odd. Jesus preaches the light, then leaves to hide. We hide in the dark, don’t we? Not the light.
But as counterintuitive as this may seem, there is some suggestion of harmony and connection, here. Specifically, the Holy Spirit brought to mind discipleship, journey and life cycle. In the juxtaposition of being exposed to the light – to Jesus – with the absence of Jesus soon after – I am paused to wonder about what role place and time (context) plays in sustaining and maturing a believer – a child of the light. In these two verses I sense something about faith formation.
I thought of all the children – mine, included – who were raised in a worship community where Jesus’s ministry – his humanity as a wise prophet, inclusive and compassionate – might have been elevated over his divinity – his identity as the one and only son of the Lord, God, the messiah. Where the worshiping community gathered to do as Jesus did – to do good works, but where the reality of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, the forgiver of sin, the one sent to claim victory over evil, over Satan, and death – where that reality was wondered about but not claimed for the individual believer or the corporate worshiping community?
How is faith matured in this kind of worshiping community? Is this passage saying something about that?
My experience in some such worshiping communities is that they are filled with believers – followers of the light – children of the light – who don’t really know what they believe in when it comes to Jesus. Often they don’t have a conversion story having been baptized into the faith as an infant – so that it is almost taken for granted. In many ways this was my experience up to my mid-twenties when someone suggested that if I got to know Jesus, personally – got to know what I believed about him, read God’s Word as if all of it really happened as God revealed, as if the Holy Spirit was at work in me transforming my head and heart – I might find some answers to some of the big questions coming my way.
But, I digress.
The pairing of the two verses as a faith formation teaching – Jesus + Light, then Jesus hides – is a familiar image found throughout scripture and especially in agrarian metaphors. Like seeds – the mustard seed? – that are born in the light, then sowed by the Lord, God…
…hidden in soil, sheltered from the outside elements,
watered – baptized –
and then pulled up out of the soil by the light, to grow into the full plant the seed was called to be.
Extending the metaphor. How does the seed grow under artificial light? Light constructed by humans to replicate the sun and its contribution to growing the seed to a plant? The mustard seed will grow – but differently. Almost individually, in a sense. Not needing nor benefitting from the community of other believers, not grown up in a field alongside others. And though still beautiful in its own right, how much more lovely the field of believers than the individual plant on a table top under the lamp?
When a worshiping community constructs an interpretation of Jesus that waffles on who he is and why he came and why he died and was resurrected is it losing the full power of the light to mature the community of believers?
The gospel shouts out to me today – no whispers. Our worshiping communities will only grow if we have inwardly, personally, been raised up and grown in the true believing light of Jesus Christ. And we best not fear, as so many worship community leaders have through time, the recriminations from the world believers are called to serve in his name.
42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Our story is God’s glory.