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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Walk while you have the Light!
Text:John 12:27-36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 93

Psalm 51:1,4,6 (after the law of God)

Psalm 43:1-3

Hymn 73:1-3

Hymn 73':4-5

Scripture reading: Revelation 21:1-22:5

Text:  John 12:27-36

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Why are so many children afraid of the dark?  I wonder how many of the kids here this morning have a night light in their bedroom.  Or maybe the light is on in the hallway and your bedroom door stays open.  I had a night light for many years.  Why?  Because something in me sensed that darkness is dangerous.  You don’t know what’s going on in the dark.  You don’t know who’s there.    

Even after you become an adult, the darkness can be dangerous.  You’ve got children and they leave toys on the floor.  What’s the worst thing you can step on in the middle of the night in the dark?  It’s got to be Lego.  No one wants to step on Lego in the dark.  But if you have some light, that danger disappears.  Light is the answer to the danger of darkness. 

Jesus speaks about the danger of darkness in our passage from John this morning.  In verse 35, he says, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.”  Darkness threatens every human being.  Jesus isn’t speaking about literal, physical darkness.  He’s speaking about something far more serious.  And, at the same time, he’s speaking about light as the answer to the danger of darkness.  He isn’t speaking about literal, physical light.  In fact, the light here is personal.  The light is a someone.  The light is Jesus.   Already in John chapter 1, Jesus was described as the light shining in the darkness.  And in John 8:12, Jesus himself explicitly said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

So when Jesus says, “Walk while you have the light,” he’s saying something about how people relate to him, how we’re supposed to relate to him.  The word “walk” in this context means something like follow Jesus.  “Walk” here means something like believe in Jesus and live with him as your Master.  This morning we’ll focus on the Light we need to drive away the dangerous darkness which might otherwise threaten each one of us.  I’ve summarized the sermon with this theme taken from verse 35:  Walk while you have the Light!

We’ll look at:

  1. The purpose of the Light
  2. The confirmation of the Light
  3. The urgency of the Light

We’re in the last days of Jesus’ life on earth before the cross.  Jesus himself is about to be plunged into darkness.  When he hangs on the cross, God literally turns out the lights.  In the middle of the day you get those supernatural three hours of darkness.  In the darkness, Jesus experiences the infinite wrath of God against our sins.  He experiences the hell each one of us deserves for our rebellion against God.  He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows.  Our sin was placed on his shoulders. 

It’s the weight of that sin which leads Jesus to say in verse 27, “Now is my soul troubled.”  Already at this point Jesus feels the weight of our sins placed on him and that’s what disturbs him, that’s what unsettles him.  He is the Son of God, perfectly obedient and sinless.  Jesus is innocent in every respect and yet our sins are accounted to him.  This is why 2 Corinthians 5:21 says he became sin.  Even though in himself he wasn’t a sinner, through what we call imputation Jesus became what God hates – God hates sin, he expresses his wrath against sin.  Can you understand why Jesus might be troubled by this?   

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, I was watching the Foreign Minister of Ukraine speaking at NATO in Brussels.  It was a press conference and a journalist asked him about a video of Ukrainian soldiers allegedly shooting a Russian prisoner of war.  His reply was unscripted and powerful.  He said that it would be investigated, but he also said that the journalist can’t understand.  He said the journalist couldn’t understand what it’s like to have your country invaded, to have your women and children raped by soldiers, to have people tortured and executed in the streets.  He just said, “You will never understand.” 

Similarly, we can’t understand the trouble Jesus felt in his soul as he was bearing all our sins.  We will never understand the perfect Son of God and the pain and upset it brought him as our sins were accounted to him.  He’s coming up to the cross and the deep darkness of our sins has already descended upon his soul. 

Jesus could react in different ways to this reality.  He could pray, “Father, save or deliver me from this hour, from the cross.”  But he won’t ask that because he knows the purpose behind it all.  The purpose of the cross isn’t a mystery to him.  The cross is deeply troubling, bearing our sin is profoundly upsetting to one who is the Son of God, but it’s not mysterious.

Why is the one who is the Light going to be plunged into darkness?  Why is he going to have the light of life extinguished?  There’s a two-fold reason.  They’re connected to each other.  One serves the other.  The first part of it has to do with what I said last time about the great love of our Saviour.  He loves those who have been given to him by the Father.  Though it’s painful and upsetting, out of love he will bear your sins to the cross.  Out of love, he will sacrifice himself to make the infinite payment your sins demand. 

And that purpose serves the other one.  Christ cares about the glory of God’s Name.  In fact, he prays for that glory in verse 28.  Instead of asking for deliverance, he asks that his Father would show himself as impressive through what’s coming.  That’s what it means for the Father to glorify his name.  If the Father glorifies his name, he will be showing that he is weighty and impressive.  This is Jesus’ greatest desire.  This too comes from love.  It comes from his love for the Father, a love that’s been there since eternity.  Because he loves the Father, Jesus wants to see the Father glorified through his suffering and death, through his bearing our sins on the cross. 

Now I want you to think about this in terms of the Ten Commandments.  Jesus is obeying one of the Ten Commandments here when he says, “Father, glorify your name.”  Now think:  which of the Ten Commandments is Jesus obeying?  Jesus was obeying the Third Commandment.  Not only did he not blaspheme God’s name, which is the negative requirement of the Third Commandment.  No, he also positively upheld God’s name and sought its honour and glory.  Jesus showed how he cared about the majesty and reputation of God, also through the darkness he was about to experience, and through the bearing of our sins on his soul. 

Loved ones, this is part of the gospel for sinners.  When Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify your name,” his obedience is yours in the sight of God.  Just as your sins were transferred to his account, his obedience and righteousness is transferred to yours.  We call that the “Sweet Swap.”  In this swap, this exchange, he received trouble in his soul, his light was eventually put out, but you receive peace in your soul, your light will burn into eternity.  He takes your sin, you get his righteousness, he takes your trouble, and you receive his peace.  He takes your darkness, and you get to live in the light. 

As part of living in the light, we hear our Master pray, “Father, glorify your name” and we want to echo that in our own prayers.  We’re disciples of Jesus and we’re listening in as our Master prays.  He prays out of the great love he has for the Father and he’s exemplifying the love we ought to have as his disciples.  Every disciple of Jesus should make this his or her prayer too:  “Father, glorify your name.  Glorify your name in my life.  No matter what happens, no matter the circumstances, make yourself impressive through me.  As I live my life as a disciple of Jesus, I want people to praise your name, just like he did, just like he does.”  Brother, sister, if you’re truly a disciple of Jesus, make his prayer your prayer:  “Father, glorify your name.” 

When Jesus prayed that, he received an immediate audible response.  This response confirmed to all who heard it that the man before them was about to do something momentous.  God the Father replied to Jesus’ prayer, “I have glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.” 

Through Jesus’ ministry up to this point, God had already revealed himself to be impressive.  We could think of the signs that Jesus performed, his miracles.  For example, God glorified his name by having Jesus call Lazarus out of the tomb back in chapter 11.  Jesus said exactly that in John 11:4.  He said that the illness of Lazarus was “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 

But now God the Father says he will glorify his name through Jesus again.  Once again he will show himself to be impressive.  That’s going to happen at the cross.  Think again of that supernatural darkness.  Three hours of darkness – completely unexplainable from a natural perspective.  No eclipse lasts for three hours.  God brought this darkness, it demonstrated his power over creation.  God has the power to turn out the lights whenever he wants and he chose to do so at that moment when Jesus was taking our hell on the cross.  If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.

The voice from heaven certainly made an impression on the crowd gathered around Jesus.  There was some confusion over what it was.  Some thought they heard thunder.  Others recognized language in the sound, but thought that perhaps it was an angel. 

In verse 30, Jesus explains.  He didn’t need that voice.  But they did.  They needed to hear that confirmation that something epic was about to happen.  Even if they couldn’t make out the exact words, the fact that he prayed and then there was this sound, that confirmed something important was imminent.  The cross was about to change the history of the world.

Christ speaks here of three earth-shattering things happening with the cross he’s heading for.  First, the cross represents the judgment of this world.  Sinful human beings put to death the most perfectly innocent man in the history of the world.   Many wars have seen acts of brutal violence, war crimes.  We might be tempted to nominate one of those as being the worst criminal acts the world has ever seen.  But none of those crimes will ever take the place of the cross.  The cross will always be the worst crime the world has ever seen – the worst crime the world has committed.  Because Jesus is the pure light, the cross is an act of horrible human darkness.  The human beings responsible for it stand under judgment for their actions.  They put to death the innocent Lamb of God.

The cross also represents the defeat of Satan.  Jesus describes him as “the ruler of this world.”  He will be cast out.  That means that he’ll be stripped of his power.  The cross is the fulfillment of what we call the Mother Promise.  There’s a promise in the Bible from which all the other promises are birthed.  It’s the promise of Genesis 3:15.  God promised Adam and Eve that they would have a descendant who would smash the skull of the serpent.  That’s what Jesus does at the cross.  When the light of his life is extinguished, that signifies not only the successful payment of our sins, but also that time is up for Satan.  He is finished.  He wanted to kill and destroy the human race by putting it in rebellion against God.  But with the cross, Satan is defeated and his doom is sure.

Then third of all, the cross represents an epic shift in the make-up of the church.  Up till this point, the church has mostly consisted of Jews, descendants of Abraham.  There was the occasional Gentile, but the church was mostly Jewish up to this point.  Now that’s all going to change.  The signs were already there – you could look back to the previous verses here in John 12 where there were these Greeks seeking for Jesus.  Now Jesus says here that after his crucifixion, he will draw all people to himself.  He isn’t saying here that all people are going to be saved through the cross or something like that.  What Christ means is that the church after the cross is going to be made up of all kinds of people from all kinds of different ethnicities.  “All people” means “all kinds of people.”  The cross is an epic shift from a mostly Jewish church to a mostly Gentile church.  The ethnic diversity of the church today is by design.  Our Master Jesus planned to have it this way.  As his disciples, we should delight to have it this way too.  The church is enriched by ethnic diversity to the glory of God.    

Now when Jesus said he was going to be lifted up from the earth, he was speaking about the cross.  In verse 33, John explains that point for anyone who may have missed it.  The crowd gathered around Jesus certainly didn’t need that explanation.  He said “lifted up” and they understood “death on a cross.”  They understood that, but it still confused them.  They were confused because they knew Jesus was claiming to be the Christ.  He claimed to be the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.  Remember:  Christ and Messiah have the same meaning, but one is Greek and the other Hebrew.  Both Christ and Messiah mean, “Anointed by God.”  God had promised that the Messiah would come to deliver his people.  The Bible had also said that the Messiah, the Christ would be eternal.  It’s in passages like Psalm 89.  The Messiah would live forever.  But now you have Jesus saying that he was going to be dying on a cross.  How does that make any sense?  They ask, “Who is this Son of Man?”  In other words, if he’s going to die, this Son of Man can’t be the same person as the eternal Messiah, can he?                          

Before we look at the answer Jesus gives, I want you to notice one thing with what the crowd is saying.  They’re right that the Old Testament spoke about the Messiah being eternal.  It does.  But they don’t have a full grasp of everything the Old Testament said about the Messiah.  They just have a selection of passages that say one thing, but they’re missing what other passages say.  We could think here especially of Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 53 says that God’s servant, the Messiah, will die for the sins of the people.  Isaiah 53 clearly speaks about death.  But the crowd is ignorant of these other biblical truths.

And if they did remember Isaiah 53, they’d probably still have been confused.  After all, how could the Messiah both be eternal and die?  How would you answer that question?  It has to do with the two natures of Christ.  Christ has always been eternal in his divine nature and always will be.  When he died on the cross, he died in his human nature.  Now that he’s been raised from the dead, his human nature with his divine nature will be eternal. 

Now let’s look at how Jesus responds to their question in verses 35 and 36.  While it’s true that the Christ is eternal, there’s a sense in which he isn’t going to be with these crowds forever.  He’s going to die, later be raised, and then ascend into heaven.  This “little while longer” creates an urgency for them to do the right thing with Jesus while they still can.

Christ describes himself as the light.  Light means life and security.  Darkness means death and danger.  In verse 35, Jesus speaks about the potential for darkness to overcome someone.  Darkness can master you, dominate you.  If that happens, he says, you don’t know where you’re going.  If you’re blind and you don’t know where you’re going, what are you?  You’re lost.  You’re confused.  You’re wandering around in darkness and that’s bad because darkness is dangerous.  Bad things happen in the dark.  That’s true in a physical sense, but it’s even truer spiritually speaking.  If you’re in spiritual darkness, you’re in grave danger of eternal death.  You’re in danger of the same wrath of God that Jesus experienced in the darkness while he was on the cross.  It’s the dark wrath of God that burns forever in hell.  Quite frankly, the danger of darkness here is hell.  It’s hell, a conscious torment of body and soul that lasts forever and ever.  Who would want to experience that? 

If you don’t, then listen to the urgent call of the gospel.  Jesus calls the crowds to walk while they have the light.  He’s calling them to be his disciples.  He’s calling us, calling you, to be his disciple, his follower.  That first of all means believing in him, believing in the light.  Loved ones, you’ve got to trust that Jesus is your light – your life and security.  That he went into the darkness for you, so you’ll never have to.  Do you believe in the Light? 

Like the crowds in our text, if you don’t believe in the Light right now, you may not always have the Light with you.  The call is urgent.  None of us have a guarantee that we’ll be here next Sunday.  “While you have the light, believe in the light…”  God hasn’t said that you have tomorrow.  “While you have the light, believe in the light…”  You don’t even know for sure if you’ll make it home from church today.  Loved ones, the call is urgent for all of us, “While you have the light, believe in the light…”  The message of Jesus as the Light of the world is being preached to you right now.  Right now is the time to believe in it if you haven’t already.  Whether you’re 7, or 17, or 57, if you understand what I’m saying, then believe in the Light.  Place all your trust in Christ and live as one of his disciples.  If you don’t, then surely the darkness will overtake you.  The darkness will have its way with you.  Danger and death await those who don’t believe in the light.  It’s better to walk while you have the light, to walk as a believing disciple of Jesus.

Those who do become “sons of light.”  That’s the last thing Jesus says in the first part of verse 36, in our text.  To be sons or children of light is to be a child of God.  If Christ is your light, then you’re going to be in a healthy relationship with God.  This is a relationship where there’s life and security forever.  You’re alive and safe with him.

That’s what’s promised to us in the book of Revelation.  We read from Revelation 21 and 22 and there we see the Light again.  In the New Jerusalem, the Lamb is present.  That’s Jesus.  He’s said to be the lamp of the city.  His light forever illuminates our future dwelling place.  That language is meant to tell us that our Lord Jesus will forever be our life and security.  All because of Jesus and what’s he done for us, we’ll live forever and we’ll be safe forever.  In this world, there’s death and a lot of times we feel unsafe.  In hell, there’s nothing but death and insecurity, violence, hurt.  But when we walk while we have the light, following Christ day by day, we can be confident that our future is bright.  AMEN. 


Lord Jesus, our Light,

Thank you for loving us so much that you bore our sins into the darkness.  We give glory to our Father and to you for this great sacrifice made in our place.  Thank you for defeating Satan, for casting out the ruler of this world.  Lord, we love you for drawing all kinds of people to yourself, including us.  Help us with your Holy Spirit now to walk while we have the Light, help us all to trust in what you’ve done, to believe in you as our Light.  May we always live as your disciples.  We pray urgently for anyone here who doesn’t yet believe in the Light.  Please work with your Holy Spirit to help them see their need for you.  Lord, we thank you for the life and security we have in you.  LORD God, we pray for the day to quickly come when we’ll be in the New Jerusalem, living in the light of the Lamb.  As we wait, O God we pray, “Father, glorify your name.”                                                              

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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