Reject the darkness of religion, and embrace the Light of life
Jesus was in Bethabara, about twenty miles from Bethany, when a messenger brought Him the news that His friend Lazarus was sick. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha sent the message – “’Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’” (John 11: 3) Jesus’ response was – “’This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” (John 11: 4) After hearing that Lazarus was sick, Jesus stayed in Bethabara two more days. He then said to His disciples – “’Let us go to Judea again.’” (John 11: 7) His disciples reminded Him – “’Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?’” (John 11: 8) Jesus responded – “’Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’” (John 11: 9-10)
John wrote earlier in His gospel about Jesus – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1: 4-5) John also wrote – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3: 19-21) Jesus came to reveal God to mankind. He was and is the Light of the world. Jesus came full of grace and truth. Although the Jews wanted to stone Him; Jesus knew that Lazarus’ death was an opportunity for God to be glorified. A circumstance that seemed so permanent and tragic to those who knew and loved Lazarus, was in reality a situation where the truth of God could be manifested. Even though traveling back to Bethany (two miles from Jerusalem) would bring Jesus once again near to those who wanted to kill Him, He was wholly surrendered to glorifying God and doing His will.
Around 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9: 2) Also referring to Jesus, Isaiah wrote – “I, the Lord have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42: 6-7) Jesus came not only as the promised Messiah for Israel, but as Savior for all mankind.
Consider the testimony of the apostle Paul before King Herod Agrippa II – “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26: 2-18)
Paul, as a Jewish Pharisee, had given his heart, mind, and will to his religion. He was zealous for what he believed, even to the point of participating in the persecution and death of Christian believers. He believed he was religiously justified in what he was doing. Jesus appeared to him in mercy and love, and turned a persecutor of Christians into a preacher of the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.
If you are a zealously following a religion that justifies shunning, persecution, and even murder; know this, you are walking in darkness. Jesus Christ spilled His blood for you. He wants you to come to know Him and trust Him. He can transform your life from the inside out. There is power in His word. As you study His word, it will reveal to you who God is. It will also reveal to you who you are. It has the power to cleanse your heart and mind.
Paul went from religious activity that he thought pleased God, to a living relationship with God. Won’t you consider today that Jesus died for you. He loves you like He loved Paul. He wants you to turn to Him in faith. Turn away from religion – it cannot give you life. Turn to the only God and Savior who can – Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He will one day return to this earth as Judge. His will, will be done. Today can be your day of salvation if you turn your heart, mind, and will to Him alone.