************ Sermon on Luke 1:76-79 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 19, 2004
"The Rising Sun ..."
A Zechariah talks of darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. Physical darkness happens when the power goes off. Spiritual darkness happens when we are away from God and the light of His presence. In fact, darkness means opposition to God and the things of God.
When the Zechariah looks at the world he lives in he sees so much darkness. He sees unbelievers, men and women and children, who refuse to acknowledge God. They either have made a deliberate decision to do without God in their lives or they have chosen to ignore Him. Whatever the case may be, these men and women and children live in sin and in rebellion against God and His ways.
Zechariah also looks at the darkness in the public institutions of his day. He sees the Pharisees and Sadducees and the rest of the Jewish Sanhedrin with legalism and hypocrisy. He sees Pilate and Herod and the cult of worship that surrounds the Roman Emperor. He sees the Roman Empire – based upon conquest, subjection, and idol gods. He sees false faiths and religions that worship what is made rather than the Almighty Creator. If Zechariah were living today, he would also see those who want no Christ or prayer or the Bible in public schools, city halls, or courtrooms. He would see the pro-choice movement. He would see the gay rights movement. He would see false prophets and teachers that lead thousands astray with their lies and heresies.
Zechariah sees darkness in Israel. The Promised Land is under foreign occupation. The people of God have not heard the voice of prophecy for some 400 years; for 400 years the voice of God has been silent.
Zechariah knows there is a spiritual world of darkness too. He knows about Satan and his host of evil spirits and demons. He knows how they oppose God and Christ at every turn. He knows how they rejoice in lies, prejudice, arrogance, wrongs, and every form of sin.
Lastly, Zechariah looks within his own heart. He sees that darkness is there as well. He knows that within himself and you and me there is sin and evil and all sorts of desires that run counter to the will of God. He knows and remembers his sin of unbelief when the angel shut his mouth until John was born.
B Darkness. Darkness everywhere. Deep darkness. Darkness that many times throughout history threatens to overcome the light. I think of the days of Noah. When God looked down from heaven upon the world of men, he saw only one family that still loved Him and served Him. I think of Sodom and Gomorrah. Not even 10 righteous persons could be found in that city. I think of Israel during the days of Elijah. Out of a population numbered in the millions, only 7,000 did not bend the knee before Baal. I think of Nazi Germany or the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., and China. I think of Western Europe – less than 10 percent of the people attend church on a regular basis anymore. I think of an escalating divorce rate – for every two couples getting married there is one couple getting divorced. I think of the increasing acceptance of adultery and premarital sex – so much so that less than 10 percent of all newly weds are virgins. I think of the violence and guns that make our cities dangerous places to live and work. The darkness threatens to overwhelm and overcome the light.
C Darkness. Darkness everywhere. Deep darkness. This is the verdict: men love darkness instead of light (Jn 3:19). These are not my words; this comes from the Bible. This is illustrated best by a story I've told you before:
Topic: DarknessThis is a parable of our sinful human condition. We love the darkness instead of the light. We prefer sin and evil to righteousness and good. That's how black and how deep our darkness is.
Title: Lover of Darkness
When the Bastille, a castle-like prison in Paris, was about to be destroyed in 1789, a convict was brought out who had been confined in one of its gloomy cells for many years. But instead of joyfully welcoming his liberty, he begged to be taken back. It had been such a long time since he had seen the sunshine that his eyes could not endure its brightness. His only desire was to die in the murky dungeon where he had been a captive.
A Deep within each person is a God-created awareness of darkness. And, deep within each person is a God-created desire for light. The Apostle Paul speaks of God's General Revelation that is enough to leave anyone without excuse when they take the wrong way instead of the right way (Rom 1:20f). John Calvin speaks here of the conscience or of common grace.
What do people do with this awareness of darkness and desire for light? The normal response of sinful man is to suppress their knowledge of the truth (Rom 1:18). The normal response of sinful man is to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like man and birds and animals and reptiles (Rom 1:23). The normal response of sinful man is to look in the wrong places and turn to the wrong things. The Greeks, for instance, turned to philosophy, wisdom, and knowledge. The Jews turned to their legalism. Superstitious people of all ages turn to false faiths, false religions, false prophets, and false teachings. The modern man and woman turn to science, psychology, or therapy.
B In contrast to all of these, Zechariah tells us "the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death." He is talking about Jesus. Even as the sun chases away night's darkness every morning so Jesus chases away's sin's darkness. Jesus is the "rising sun." Jesus is morning's light. Or, as John puts is, Jesus is "the true light that gives light to every man" (Jn 1:9). He is "the light (that) shines in the darkness" (Jn 1:5). This means that men everywhere should turn to Jesus instead of philosophy, knowledge, science, or whatever. This is the proper response – the only response – when people look within and become aware of darkness and a desire for light.
Notice, this Son light comes "because of the tender mercy of our God."
Jesus is the rising sun, the light of the world. Yet, many don't recognize Him for Whom He is. This happened with the Jews. They wanted to seize Him and stone Him. Today, too, many don't recognize Jesus for Whom He really is. Why else would they neglect Him or ignore Him or reject Him?
TOPIC: ChristLike the man who failed to recognize gold when he held it in his hands, many fail to recognize Jesus as the rising sun, the true light, of the world. What about you? Do you know Who He is?
SUBTOPIC: Glory of
A number of years ago a story appeared which told of a man who picked up a beautiful rock from a North Carolina stream bed and used it as his cabin doorstop. Years later a geologist who was hiking in the area stopped at the cabin and noticed the doorstop, which he immediately recognized as a huge lump of gold. In fact, it proved to be one of the largest gold nuggets ever found east of the Rockies.
III Light Overcomes Darkness
A The purpose of the sun is to bring light. The purpose of the sun is to give life. The purpose of the sun is to oppose darkness, to overcome and dispel darkness. This is true for Jesus too. That's what Zechariah says to us:
(Lk 1:78-79) ... the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Over and over again, no matter how strong it seems, darkness has not prevailed over light. Over and over again, no matter how hard it tries, the darkness is not able to overcome the light.
It is possible for the darkness to overcome the light in our homes. The power can go off, the batteries in our flashlights can go dead, the fuel in our lanterns can be used up. But this can never happen in the spiritual realm. The darkness cannot prevail because Jesus is the "rising sun." He shines upon the darkness of sin. He shines upon the darkness of death and the grave. He shines upon the darkness of this world.
B We see this in the beginning already. "In the beginning ... the earth was formless and empty," says the Bible, and "darkness was over the surface of the deep ..." (Gen 1:1-2). And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light (Gen 1:3). The darkness did not prevail.
The darkness was deep and black when man first fell into sin. Curse after curse, judgment after judgment, was pronounced by God upon the serpent, upon the woman, upon the man, and even upon the ground. But the darkness was not so deep and so black that there was no light. For God announced a Savior Who would crush Satan's head even though Satan would strike His heel (Gen 3:15). The darkness did not overcome the light.
The darkness was also deep and black at Calvary. For three hours, in the middle of the day, a heavy darkness descended upon the land. For three hours Christ was forsaken by His Father. For three hours the forces of darkness held sway. But even then the darkness did not overcome the light. Not only did the darkness lift, but three days later the darkness of the tomb was replaced with the brightness and glory of the resurrected Lord. Again, the darkness did not overcome the light.
The same thing happened during the ministry of Jesus. Jesus saw a man blind from birth. The poor man lived in darkness. Jesus announced, "I am the light of the world." Then He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. When the man went and washed in the Pool of Siloam his darkness was turned into light; he was given sight (John 9). The darkness did not overcome the light.
The darkness and the grief was great at the tomb of Lazarus, at the death bed of a little girl, at the funeral of the widow of Nain's son. But Jesus is the rising sun who shines on the darkness and dispels the darkness.
C What has happened throughout the history of salvation happens today as well. Today, too, the darkness does not overcome the light. Every time a sinner – by the grace of God – repents of sin and turns to Jesus, light overcomes darkness rather than darkness overcoming light. Every time a Christian – by the strength of God – resists sin or flees sin, darkness fails to overcome the light. Every time a good deed is done – the hungry are fed, the lonely are visited, the sorrowing are comforted, the poor are assisted, the sick are encouraged – we see an instance of light overcoming darkness. Every time an abortion is stopped, an illness is healed, a broken relationship is restored, and a wounded soul is made whole, then too we see light overcoming darkness.
D "The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death." This should be obvious in your life and in my life.
First, we should be people without the darkness of sin. We are in the Son light, not in the darkness. So we should live as children of light (Eph 5:8) and not as children of darkness. Paul identifies the deeds of darkness for us: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, idolatry (Eph 4:29 - 5:7). If we are in the light, none of these should be found in our life. Instead, our lives should be full of the fruit of the light: goodness, righteousness, and truth (Eph 5:9).
Second, the Son light of Jesus should be obvious in us. People should be able to look at us and see the radiance of Christ.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Reflected
Title: What is a Saint?
A young boy about nine years old went with his parents to Europe one summer. Part of their tour was visiting the great old cathedrals of the past. As he would visit cathedral after cathedral he saw the massive stained glass portraits of the disciples and of other saints. He was so impressed as he stood in these great empty halls looking through the beautiful stained glass windows.
Upon returning home he told his Sunday School teacher about the great churches of Europe and the glass portraits of the saints. His teacher asked him, "What is a saint?" As his mind went back to those massive beautiful stained glass windows, he said, "A saint is a man the light shines through."
"The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death." We celebrate and rejoice that the rising sun has come and His name is Jesus.
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