Commentary by Fred Pruitt
Gospel of John, Study 3, Chapter 1: 9-11, The Light That Lights Every Man
1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
The excitement that comes from the Gospel of John, is not to me because it is such deep theology. It is deep theology – the very deepest – but obviously that is not what moves us in this story. The reason that John’s gospel grabbed me from the beginning, is because this story took hold of me as my own story was unfolding and it paralleled what I was discovering and experiencing in my own life.
I was on a blind hunt for light – though at the time I did not even understand that I was in darkness. It was just that something was wrong. Everything was out of sorts and I knew there had to be something that could put it right. But I did not know what it was. As I recounted in the previous study, I turned an opposite direction for the first time in my life, and somehow what arose in me from that turning was an overpowering desire to find out whatever it was, and an irresistible drive to follow it through.
As a child I had believed “in” God, had prayed the Lord’s Prayer every night before bed, and had prayed for fishing success, good grades and the like. Once as a boy I was fishing at a lake and there was a huge female bass sitting on her bed about 10 feet off the bank. The water was clear and I could see her plainly, just swishing her tail back and forth while guarding her brood.
“Oh God,” I began to pray with all fervor, “PLEASE let me catch that fish!” That became my mantra as I marshaled all my forces to that one aim: to land that fish.
I had always been told that bass wouldn’t bite on the bed, but I was determined to prove that theory wrong. I was fishing with live worms, so I baited a hook with sinkers the regular way, and gently threw it out to where the bass was sitting. The hook and worm dropped like a rock in front of her and settled on the rocky bottom, but she didn’t move a millimeter toward it. At least it didn’t frighten her way. Next I took a single worm all by itself, and tossed it into the water just in front of where she was. This time the worm sank slowly right in front of her mouth, undulating the whole way down. She hardly moved an inch as she glided slightly forward and took the whole worm in one quick gulp.
I got an idea then, so I tremblingly took the lead sinkers off my line so that only the hook was left, and pierced the worm just once through in its midsection so that I could let it float down in front of her just like the previous one had. Then I carefully threw the baited hook and hit the perfect spot. It slowly fell in front of her, undulating back and forth – I was not moving a muscle on the shore – and just as soon as it floated in front of her, she slid out again and took the worm – and the hook – into her mouth. My juices were flowing by this time and jumping up and down I yanked on the pole – and darn it – the hook and worm came spurting out of her mouth and recoiled out of the water and back toward me!
But the fish still remained in the same spot. I thought surely that would have spooked her but miraculously it was right where it had been the moment before. When I tried throwing the hook and worm again, the same thing happened. But this time she reached out and took the hook and worm and – SNAG – I HAD her! She started fighting – the whole time I had been praying, “Lord let me catch this fish! – and I was still praying while I reeled her in. Finally, I landed her on the bank and brought it up on the road to take the hook out. A man who had been fishing 30 or 40 feet down the bank saw me catch it and ran up, yelling, “Where’d you catch that?” It was a HUGE fish, and the man was as excited as I was.
She was only barely on the hook but still I had managed to haul her up onto the bank. So I stood up to tell the man where I had caught it – fat lot of good it would’ve done him anyway since it was the only one – and pointed out to the spot to identify it for him. Then I turned around just in time to see my precious fish – and specific answer to specific prayer – flop flop flop over the edge of the bank, roll into the water, and zoom away with lightning speed, never to be seen again.
I spent the next few years believing that God had answered my prayer that I would catch the fish, but that the fish had subsequently escaped because I had failed to ask God that I might keep the fish. I had not covered all my bases. Such was my view of God.
But a number of years later, I was no longer a boy and was after more than fish. I wanted what made the fish. It is like the drive to procreate. Like sex if you will. We start being overtaken and driven by forces we do not know about nor understand when it is happening to us. And just like that drive that brings us to our spouses, which involves all our senses, reason and physical being, so the drive to find the source of our being overwhelms us, too, and is very much the same thing.
That is why the first manifest expression of God is Light. Except there is this express Light, there is no revelation of God. God cannot be known except this True Light makes Him known. Only the True Light is able to express Him and make Him known.
When we are in darkness, what we need is light, because the light gives us the ability to see. Even though as a child I believed in God, my view of Him was perhaps somewhat like a cow’s view of the farmer. To a cow he’s the guy who brings the hay that fills his belly. The cow has no idea where the farmer comes from or what he is doing when he is not in the pasture, but he knows enough to follow the hay wagon when it rides through the field. To actually KNOW the farmer is another thing besides – and not really given to cows, because cows are not of the same image as the farmer.
We are not cows, however, but spirit persons made in the image of God. We have lost our way and the original image of God that was ours in our first estate, has faded almost away into nothingness. We are like starving wraiths compared to our origin. It was an image that in its beginning was bathed in the True Light of God. But since then, that image has hidden itself in us, so that what remains is almost a shell of what it once was. We still have amazing and wondrous capacities, but without the True Light to enlighten and empower them, they are scattered, confused and used for vanity, and have come under the power and so-called “enlightenment” of a false light.
“That was the true light,” the gospel says, and the word “true” is a very important word here. When we fell, we fell into a false light purporting itself as true, a light that said that God was a liar, and that we could take what God had forbidden us, and become in ourselves as wise as He is. We could become God.
To our first parents the false light said, “You will not die,” even though the Creator had expressly said they would die the very day they took it. Tricked by the subtlety of the serpent, their (and subsequently our) fair image of God faded into leanness in the space of a moment, and like the lean cattle of Pharaoh’s dream devoured the fat cows of their former abundance, their new “revelation” opened their eyes and immediately they perceived their own nakedness – shame, guilt, emptiness, lack of protection. They still seemed to be alive, and in that sense the words of the serpent seemed to come true. But not really knowing in their innocence what Life really is (God’s Life IN us), they passed from Life to Death in a moment, and in that moment, they lost all consciousness and remembrance of who they were and where they had come from. They became “dead as they lived.”(1 Tim 5:6).
They could still remember the Lord God who had given them life in the beginning, but suddenly what had been plain in their sight was now hidden and behind a thick veil, and from then on they could only sense Him through fear and self-loathing, and they hid themselves from him. The True Light in them had retreated and faded, being now for a time overcome and almost extinguished by a false light that is in actuality an aggressive and consuming darkness – and the history of mankind has demonstrated how great a darkness it is! (Matt 6:23).
But the True Light continued to shine. John tells us that the True Light continued to light every person who came into the world. Outwardly, God kept it alive as a worldwide witness through Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David and all the prophets and those who heeded their word. But inwardly God kept it alive in every man as an inner light, so that every man and woman ever born could have access within them to the real truth of who they were and what was their heritage.
Because even though the light faded in mankind, it did not fade in God who was still in mankind. We continued as from the beginning to “live and move and have our being” in Him. Wherever we wandered, we were never without the possibility of hearing His voice, thundering in our consciences, drawing our hearts to truth and love. He has never been without His witnesses, His “remnant,” inner and outer, in any time or place.
In the fullness of time, which is the setting of the Gospel of John, God sent this True Light visibly into the world to live among us, and through the Cross, to re-kindle in us the fair image that had faded away into insignificance, by being Himself born again in us as our True Image of God restored.
1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He has always been in the world, and the world has never known Him. Mankind in the fall exchanged substance for form. Or the Creator for the created. Everything that is derives life and existence from God through Christ, but in the rejection of God in exchange for ourselves as our own self-source, we are left with just the dry empty shell of things. And they have no life in them. We perceive God as some separate “being” apart from us, like the cow sees the farmer. And we see the creation also as some separate “thing,” apart from us, too, from which we attempt to wrench a living by the sweat of our brow.
The truth is He walks in us and we walk in Him. We may walk in Him according to His holiness, truth and righteousness, or we may walk in Him according to the devil’s pride and frowardness, but either way we walk in Him, and He manifests in our lives accordingly (Ps 18:25,26). The truth is that everything that is praises Him in its being by being what it is. Everything that is, in some way testifies to some extent that God is the life and existence of it. Everything lives and is what it knows.
When we use the word “know” in the scriptures, it is in the same context that Adam “knew” his wife. It was talking of course of their sexual union but the mystery of the sexual union is but an outward picture of being one with God. In sex we become one “flesh” with our partner (two “flesh” persons joined together as one) – in the Spirit we become one “Spirit” with God (two spirit persons jointed together as one – 1 Cor 6:17).
Therefore, to “know” is to be one with what we know in a state of unalterable union. We actually “become” the same as what we know. We really do not know a thing until we have become one with it. My old friend, Norman Grubb, always used to use the example of a carpenter and his carpentry, or a doctor and his practice of medicine. In the beginning when one is learning a trade or profession, it is something foreign to us – a set of things to memorize, to practice, to learn by repetition and sometimes trial and error. But after a time, we become so “one” with what we have been learning that we are no longer learning it, but we start “being” it. An apprentice becomes a master by learning his craft to such an extent that he does it almost unconsciously. He simply “knows” it, or “is it.” So a person who learns carpentry, after he has reached a certain level of proficiency, is then called a “carpenter.” He IS what he has taken into himself. He has become one with it, so that it is he and he is it. It is the same in anything in life.
But even though the testimony of God is everywhere in everything, man’s perception of God through separation has continually kept him at arm’s length from God. We do not “know” Him because we do not recognize Him even though He is right in front of our faces every moment of every day manifesting Himself in everything that is. Since we do not recognize Him (having been blinded in our minds by the false light – 2 Cor 4:4), at best we imagine God through our own stunted imaginations, and make up in our own minds, helped by the deceiver, some separate God “being,” in some separate palpable form, dwelling off apart from us, if we think of Him at all.
1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
First we must understand that we are all “His own.” God did not arbitrarily pick out a separate group of people who would be His only “own,” to the exclusion of all other peoples and nations. Since He has always been in the world, and the world has not known Him, and have “all gone astray” – as Paul makes abundantly clear in Romans 3:9-18 – then we all share in this tragedy of having “received Him not.” It is the common sin of the entire human race from Adam on – even those in the physical line of Christ that we previously named! There has been a time when that has been true for everyone in the world, though anyone at any time may alter that rejection into reception.
That is the universal truth. But in this story that John is telling, John is also talking about that special nation God called and fashioned for Himself, the seed of Abraham, physically the house of Israel and the Jews in particular. God called Israel, not to be His only special people, but to be as an example and parable to all the world, and to be the framework and setting for the coming of the Light of the world. Even as God called John the Baptist to “prepare the way of the Lord,” in the same way God called the people of Israel to know Him, testify of Him, and manifest Him in and to the world, and as a nation to prepare the way of the Lord, by having the testimonies and the scriptures of the revelation of Christ.
Everything about Israel has to do with the manifestation of Christ. All the wonderful and deeply meaningful stories in Genesis, the equally wondrous and deep stories in Exodus, the blood of the spotless lamb, the trials in the wilderness, the confrontation with the law, the conquest of Canaan with Joshua, the stories of the histories of Israel and Judah in Canaan with Saul, David, Solomon and the rest, all have to do with the coming into the world of the True Light which would “bless all the families of the earth.” It was never just about one nation’s history and one little piece of earthly real estate, except as that nation and piece of real estate could be a clear and certain testimony to the whole world of the Living God.
In that special sense God calls them “His chosen,” because they were chosen and fashioned specifically to testify of Him who was to come, and then to receive Him when He did come. But of course they did not. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” Those who, we think, should most have been looking for His coming, who should have, we think, recognized Him when He rode in as king on a donkey, proved themselves instead to be unjust and selfish stewards of the Lord’s vineyard, and their place was taken from them and given to the nations until the fulfillment of all things.
But again, we cannot blame them too much, because had we been them we would have done the same thing. It was proper and right that He was rejected and despised among men, in order for the “corn of wheat to fall into the ground and die … to bring forth much fruit.”
End of Study 3.