Not the Light but the Lamp

Read: John 5:30-36

John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (v. 35 NIV)

In today’s passage, John the Baptist is described as “a burning and shining lamp.” He gave off light, but he was not the primary source of the light. We read this same conviction in the opening of John: “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9).

The true light is Jesus Christ. In Augustine’s words, “John was only a lamp; everyone, including the apostles and prophets, is only a lamp in comparison with Christ, who is the true light” (quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament).

This is part of the good news that we receive in Christ. Jesus himself said, “I can do nothing on my own” (v. 30). When Jesus invites us into the relationship he shares with the Father, he is calling us, too, to do nothing on our own, but to do everything through the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not our witness that gives light but the power that comes from the true light of Jesus Christ made known by the Holy Spirit. We, like John, are not the light but the lamp. God uses us to bring the life-giving light that shines in the darkness and cannot be overcome. —Kristen Deede Johnson

As you pray, ask God to help you bear witness to Christ’s light through the power of the Holy Spirit.