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Lent reflection Cover Image

Pointing to the true Light, John 1:6-13

7th Mar 2019

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (NRSV)

true light

This reading always makes me sit up when I hear it, mainly because it contains my name, John, who is described as a man sent from God. If I am reading it out aloud in church, I am even more self-conscious, just in case people think I am making a huge claim and drawing attention to myself. The irony is that John was a man who did not draw attention to himself, who very deliberately pointed to someone else, Jesus, the true light. There are many paintings and statues of John doing just that, with arm outstretched pointing to Jesus.

Perhaps there were many people who looked to John and thought he was the true light. We know he could draw a crowd out in the desert, and the more he berated them the more they seemed to flock to hear him. How easy it would have been for John to soak in that popularity and convince himself that people were blessed and saved through his ministry alone. But John was a servant of God, and one of the characteristics of such people is that they do not draw attention to themselves, but always point to Jesus.

This may be hardest when we are more successful in ministry, heading up the fastest growing churches, gathering the largest crowds at conferences, publishing the bestselling books or recruiting the most followers online. It may be harder when we have smaller but no less significant successes, bringing light in people’s lives through acts of love and kindness. Discipleship that brings results carries with it the temptation to elevate our own efforts, and by implication downgrade the efforts of others perhaps less successful. We need to remember that John used all his talents and every bit of his fame to point away from himself to Jesus. His obvious humility and deep reticence to claim credit for his own ministry was his greatest strength, for John knew, as every disciple knows, that Jesus is the beginning and the end of all that we do for God. Whatever we do this day, may we remember the witness of John, the pointer, who drew attention not to himself but to the true light of the world. Whatever success or failure we might have, if we can do just that, we will have fulfilled the greatest task of our ministry.

Revd Dr John Tomlinson, St John's Director of Studies