Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Wonderful Counselor, Light of the World

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
- Psalm 119:105

Today I want to explore the wonderful counseling of Jesus as the Light of the World. If you’ve ever read the beginning of John’s Gospel, you probably know where I’m going with this. Jesus as the Word will come in Week 3 with the theme of Everlasting Father. So let us suspend the circular understanding of this of name of Jesus and simply look at the guiding characteristics of Light.

It is no secret that the Apostle John enjoyed writing and he was good a describing Jesus in a poetic and timeless way. In John 1:4-9 he writes,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
-John 1:4-9

Recording his time with Jesus on earth, John equates Jesus’ whole person and ministry as embodied Light. He brings the Light up again in chapter 3 and again in chapters 8 and 9, quoting Jesus’ own astounding words, “I am the Light of the World.”

Asheritah Ciuciu reflects on this in her book, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus. On pages 32 and 33, she says,

“Jesus illuminates our lives with His brilliance, shining into every nook and cranny. Even the revelation of hidden sin is a gift, like the fortunate early diagnosis of a disease or cancer. He reveals not only our sin but also all that is beautiful surrounding us. He awakens our souls to see the history of redemption and the wonderful works of God all around us. As David says, ‘In your light we see light’ (Psalm 36:9).”
After reading this I began thinking about light in the Nativity story. Apart from the brightness of the angels, the biggest source of light was the star that hung over Bethlehem. Matthew is the only Gospel writer who mentions the Star of Bethlehem, as it came to be known. And for someone who often referred to the Old Testament as proof of Jesus’ prophecy fulfillments, Matthew doesn’t even refer to a passage in the book in Numbers which many believe is a prophecy about both Jesus and the star:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.
- Numbers 24:17

Rev. Dr.  Eugen J. Pentiuc writes extensively about the connections between Numbers 24 and Matthew 2 on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website blog. In an article entitled, "The Star of Bethlehem or the Star of Jacob? A Forgotten Prophecy," he writes,
"Balaam's prophecy contains three key words:

1.    The prophet speaks of a ‘star’ (kokab) emerging from Jacob. As the “star” in ancient Near East was used to designate a god or a deified king, the focus of this prophecy seemingly falls on a descendant of Jacob who would have divine qualities. The verb used here to describe the star’s movement is darak “to tread, to walk, to travel.”

We might add that the three “wise men, magi, astrologers” (magoi), in the New Testament application of Balaam’s prophecy, speak of a “star” (aster) that “had appeared” (phainomenou) in the “east” (anatole) (Matthew 2:1–2, 7, 9). This matches quite neatly with the place of Balaam’s prophecy, namely, the eastern side of the Jordan River.

2.    The prophet Balaam mentions a “scepter” (shebet), which commonly signifies royal authority, as in Genesis 49:10.
3.    The son of Beor emphasizes that both star and scepter, or god and king, emerge via a human agent, specifically the patriarch Jacob (also called Israel). This means that the one who is both divine and royal will also be human. Thus, the one prophesied by Balaam will be at the same time God, king and human being. Read in the context of the gospel account . . . this was seen prophetically in the gifts offered by the magi to the infant Jesus at his birth. According to Matthew 2:11, the three magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each gift was telling Jesus’ fate on earth from a particular viewpoint: Gold indicated that he would be a king; frankincense that he would be a God; and myrrh that he would die, emphasizing his humanity.”
This is all very fascinating. But the most fascinating thing is the uniqueness of the prophecy’s spokesperson, a non-Hebrew prophet named Balaam. This is paralleled with the non-Jewish Magi who discover a special star shining in the East. Two pagan groups concerned with understanding the movements of people on earth and the heavens above—both chosen by God to deliver news about the “time and circumstances of the Messiah’s birth.”

How else is this possible, except for Jesus as the guiding Light? 

In C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, this rich theological truth is encapsulated in Aslan’s words:
“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,"—an echo of Jesus’ words in John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

Jesus, the Light of the World, is the God who illuminated His own story so that He could show us the way. This Advent, as we light each candle, string each strand of twinkle lights, and stand awestruck by the festive lights sparkling against the darkness, let us remember why Light is such an important part of Christmas celebrations and worship. Jesus illuminates our need for Him just as the Star of Bethlehem signified the coming of a new King, the only one who could really bring Salvation and Grace, Truth and Might.

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