Let’s start today’s post by comparing two passages of scripture:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3, WEB)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3)
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (John 1:4-5)
God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. There was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen. 1:4-5)
Clearly, John meant us to connect the opening of his gospel with Genesis through his phrase, “in the beginning.” But that’s not the only connection. Light also links these two accounts. It’s not until later in the creation story that God makes the sun, stars, and moon, so this first Light must be something else. And it’s something powerful enough to cause Day and Night before any of the physical light sources we know of existed.
Messiah in Light
John identifies this Light at creation with the Messiah, Jesus (John 1:6-16). (Language note: Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ. Both words mean “anointed”.) It’s not just Christians who’ve made this connection, though. Even Jewish rabbis who are still waiting for a Messiah other than Jesus recognize the Light in Genesis does refer to the Messiah.
God’s first words in the Bible are: ” ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.” When we study the creation account closely we notice that it was not until the fourth day that God created the “two great lights”, the sun and the moon. The Sages understood this too to be a Messianic allusion, and so the Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, “Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?” and answers, “It is the light of the Messiah” …
The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, ‘light’, to be one of the secret names of the Messiah, since we read in the Aramaic part of the book of Daniel that, “He knows what dwells in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2.22). (from “The Messiah In The Old Testament In The Light of Rabinnical Writings” by Risto Santala)
The Yalkut, a rabbinic anthology from the medieval period, says this:
‘And God saw the light, that it was good.’ This is the light of Messiah … to teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah … under His throne of glory. (quoted in “What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah” by Rachmiel Frydland)
Even without knowing who the Messiah is, these rabbis understood that the Light in Genesis points to Messiah, whom they saw as the “center of all creation”
(I’m indebted to Rabbi Hallbrook’s message on Psalm 91 for bringing these Jewish writings to my attention).
From the World’s Foundation
Before we go any further let’s make one thing very clear. Jesus is not a created being. He is God and, like the Father, has always existed. When we talk about His connection to “Let there be Light” we are talking about His role as Messiah, not saying He was created in that moment. The Greek language used in the New Testament clears this up, because when it speaks of Christ as “The beginning of God’s creation” it literally means He is the source, originator, and cause of creation (KeyWord Study Bible, edited by Spiros Zodhiates, note on use of G746, arche in Rev. 3:14).
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth, visible things and invisible things, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. (Col. 1:15-17, WEB)
From the very foundation of the world, God (Father and Son) determined a plan to bring people into their family through Messiah. He is “the true light that enlightens everyone” and who came into the world as flesh to live among us and give us “the right to become God’s children” if we “believe in his name” (John 1:9-14).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love, having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire (Eph. 1:3-5, WEB)
The Light of the World
Light is closely associated with God throughout the Bible. When Jesus identified Himself as “the Light of the world,” His Jewish audience — who’d grown up hearing scripture read every week on the Sabbath — would have immediately started thinking of verses like “Yahweh is my light and my salvation” (Ps. 27:1) or prophecies about Light to come.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. The light has shined on those who lived in the land of the shadow of death. (Is. 9:2, WEB)
This is one of many prophecies that Matthew’s gospel tells us were fulfilled by Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 4:12-16). Further reinforcing the connection between Messiah and Light, John the Baptist’s father prophesied shortly before Jesus’ birth, “the dawn from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). The Light in Genesis who made Day and night before there was a sun or moon is the same Light that dawns from on high as Jesus Christ.
Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, WEB)
One of Jesus’ purposes on this world was to teach us to walk in the light and “become children of light.” He said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness” (John 12:35-36; 46). He’s been working on this for us — all the human’s who have ever and will ever live — since before any people existed. That’s how much God loves us and wants a relationship with us.
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