Book 3 of John Milton’s Christian epic poem, Paradise Lost, opens with his famous “invocation to light.” Speaking of Christ, the poet wrote: “Hail holy light, offspring of Heav’n first-born . . . God is light, And never but in unapproached light Dwelt from Eternity, dwelt then in thee, Bright effluence of bright essence increate [uncreated].”
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John the Apostle also wrote poetic, beautiful, and true words to introduce his Gospel. He was stirred to proclaim the truth of Christ with the imagery of light. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (v. 4).
Light is used here as a metaphor for life and salvation. Without Christ, we would have no hope of either. Although victory is certain, the battle between light and darkness rages on. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (v. 5).
John the Baptist was sent by God as a herald to the light, that is, as a forerunner and witness, announcing the coming of the light (vv. 6–8). He testified to the light and pointed others to belief in the light.
After 400 years without prophets, John had to say specifically that he was not the light. Humbly and remarkably, he consistently proclaimed this fact rather than yielding to the temptation to seek followers and a more prominent role for himself (John 1:19–34).
Just as “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), so also “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v. 1). Only Jesus, the eternally existent and incarnate Son of God, is “the true light that gives light to everyone” (v. 9).
John the Baptist was willing to sacrifice his own fame and glory to point people to Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:26–30). Are we willing to sacrifice anything that would block the light of Jesus—our own ambition, agenda, or status? May we be so filled with His light that people see Christ in our lives.