In Him was life, and His life was the light of men.

John 1:4


When Jesus walked the earth, the entire godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dwelt in him in bodily form. So too did the eternal life of the godhead. In him was life: the eternal life of the triune God.

Whenever he spoke or performed miracles, the divine life within him poured out into the world and became the light of men. The glory of God shone forth in all he said and did, briefly filling the darkness of this present evil world with light.

As we know from the Gospels, some were drawn to the light. They said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Others, however, hated the light, sought to extinguish it, and—for a brief moment at the end of Jesus’ ministry—actually thought they did. But the resurrection told the truth.

This is a great mystery, one to make us marvel at the wisdom of God. In Christ there was life. Yet because of our sin, that life could not get out of him and into us once and for all. Therefore God let the darkness extinguish the light—ever so briefly—so that the life of Christ might forever dwell in all who come to him.

To help us understand and remember this, God gave us a picture.

You recall that during Holy Week, just before Jesus’ passion, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, came to him, holding an alabaster vial full of costly oil of spikenard. Without a word, she broke the vial and poured the contents on Jesus’ head and feet, anointing him for burial. John carefully notes that when she did so, the fragrance of the perfume filled the whole house.

This is how it was with Jesus, and this is how it is with us. God the Father, at the Cross, broke the alabaster vial of his body, so that he—bearing our sins, and receiving in his own person the just penalty for those sins—might make atonement for us.

But why did he make atonement for us? We must never forget: It was so that he could pour out the oil of the divine life—not just upon us—but into us; so that in us, once and for all, there might be life, and that our life might become the light of men.

John brings the prologue of his gospel to a close with these words: “And the light shines in the darkness; the darkness did not overcome it.”

Why does the light still shine in the darkness, both now and until the end of the age?

It’s because our Lord was willing to let his Father shatter the alabaster vial, so that the holy life within him—with all the light and fragrance it was meant to bestow upon a sin-darkened world—might pour forth from his new and eternal body: us.

Heavenly Father, and Lord Jesus, thank you for this inexpressibly great gift. By the power of your Spirit may we always walk worthily of it; and may we always be willing to be broken, so that the life, light, and fragrance of Christ may be released into the lives of others wherever we go. Amen. 

John 1:4; 12:1-8