The Parable of Walking in the Daylight
The gospel of John contains very few of the well-known parables of Jesus. But John did record a number of brief parable-like allegories. What could be called the Parable of Walking in Daylight is an extension of a repeated theme from John's gospel which beckons us to the "light" of Christ.
Immediately within the first few sentences of John's gospel, before hardly a breath is taken, we hear John explain, "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind." Just a few verses later he says that Jesus is "the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." What makes light so compelling? Why is light so fundamental to our understanding of Christ?
Let's first read the parable.
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
To put this into context, towards the end of Jesus' ministry his friend Lazarus had become very sick and Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to return to them and heal their brother. But even when he learned of the sickness, Jesus stayed away two more days and explained to his disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
It seems that Jesus' disciples were confused about why Jesus was not leaving promptly. Don't we still wonder why he didn't immediately go to Lazarus? Don't we wonder why God doesn't seem to respond immediately to our needs? He's not waiting until we respond with the correct form of "Please," is he? No, God is not so cavalier.
The disciples thought that maybe he was trying to prevent from being apprehended by the authorities. Everyone knew the Jewish establishment wanted him arrested by this time in his ministry. This significant parable was a response to his disciple's question. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
The parable essentially said that he was not afraid of the worldly authorities nor of death and neither should we be for we are walking in the 'light' now. But he also explained that we should not try walking in the darkness either, for it is that kind of walking that leads to our destruction. This message is as much for us today as it was for them.
In context with the rest of the gospel of John, we must consider Jesus as the "light." Jesus knew full well that Lazarus would not die, because the glory of God would be shown through this miracle. This miracle led him to his death and resurrection. It was this particular miracle that was the tipping point for the Jewish authorities. They knew they had to do something about Jesus and quickly. John next records Jesus' anointing by Mary, his return to Jerusalem, his betrayal and his crucifixion following this special event.
When his disciples cautioned him to not return to Jerusalem because the Jewish authorities were going to arrest him, they were correct that this would lead to his arrest. But what they did not understand was that it would lead to the salvation of the world.
Jesus, of course, was not afraid, because he was walking in the light—for he is the light of all mankind. Jesus also explained this through David: "Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil." God's light is with us even in our darkest hour.
In John 12:35, Jesus explained further, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going." But how do we know we are walking in the light, when we can no longer "see" the light of Christ? Faith, hope and charity (love). It is through these three character traits of the Christian that we know Jesus is with us. Because we cannot have those traits without Christ. They are impossible for man without God.
Some say that we are living in a time of darkness, because our light, Jesus, no longer walks with us. But I don't think that's the full story. In fact, I think that Christians are called to walk in the daylight of Jesus at all times.
Some quote Matthew 9:15, to explain that we are in a time of fasting and a time of darkness, when Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." However, in John 14 Jesus clarifies it for us when Jesus says, "In a short time the world will not see me again, but you will see me again. Because I live, you will live also."
I tend to feel that this time of mourning and of fasting was the time between his death and his resurrection. Yet it is also a time for all of us today, when we live without the light of Christ directing us. In Matthew, Jesus explains, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" This "eye" of ours is what we spend our time focusing on and thinking about. What do you spend most of your days thinking about? When it is the love of Christ, you are walking in the light. When it is not, you are walking in darkness. This is the purpose of him sending his Spirit, so Jesus would live in us.
In John 12, Jesus explains in yet more detail, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness....Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” We are children of the light. As corrupted as the word "Christian" has become in this age, doesn't it emit a feeling of light? It certainly does for me.
Not only do we shine Christ's light for ourselves as we walk, but of arguable more importance, we also shine his light for others. That's what children of the light do. We can't do otherwise, when the love of Christ is our focus—the lamp of our body—we shine Jesus to the whole world. That's why we're still here in the "valley of darkness."
Like Jesus stepping boldly toward Jerusalem, with his fearful disciples at his side, we must approach our 'Jerusalem' with the light of Christ burning within us. What are the difficulties in your life today? How can you trust God, rather than being fearful for the events in your life? How can you quiet your life today, so you can hear Jesus' Spirit within and have confidence that Christ's light is burning brightly? How can you shine Christ's light today for someone who is in desperate need of Jesus?
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:7-10