Genesis 1:1-23 John 1:1-18
Let There Be Light
1. Today we read together the story of the creation of the heavens and the earth which is placed right at the beginning of Genesis. From that [story] I would like for us to remember the words of verse three in particular. "God said, 'Let there be light.' Thus, there was light," (1:3).
The Earth Was Chaos
2. The situation, before God had said "Let there be light," is described as follows: "The earth was chaos, darkness was on the surface of the abyss, the Spirit of God was moving upon the surface of the water," (verse two). The word "chaos" is translated in [the Japanese version of] The Bible Society edition which we were using before as "formless and void." [In our language] it is a compound word made of two words. The earth is formless, empty, without order, without existential significance. It is a nothing of a world as though the darkness was actually covering a bottomless deep. Using such language, the Bible depicts the first condition of the earth -- that is, this world.
3. So, this is a story about the beginning of the world. But, what this passage is really trying to relate is not merely "[some bedtime once upon a time] tale from the past long ago." What it is talking about here has to do with "the earth." Therefore, this story has to do with human beings from any time period, as long as he or she is alive on this earth. Until God says "Let there be light," "the earth was chaos, darkness was on the surface of the abyss." In this descriptive statement [I can] find at least three sharp points that the Bible is sticking at [us] humans with, who are alive in this world. Namely, number one, God is the very one who gives form to this world, he gives it order, he gives it significance. Then second, without God's word and God's work, this world is by fundamental nature chaos and it is only darkness. Next after that, third, it is the conclusion you would expect it to be, but apart from the God who gives order and meaning to this world, this world would have to go back to its initial chaos.
4. As a matter of fact, in the seventh century B.C.E. and extending to the sixth, there was a lone figure who spoke such a message strongly to the people. They called him Jeremiah. Look at Jeremiah chapter four and verse twenty-two. The people rejected God's word, they turned their backs on God, they would not admit their sin as sin, and did not know how to repent right, [so] God had spoken to these people through Jeremiah with the following words: "Truly my people are ignorant. They don't know me, they are foolish children, they have no sense. They are skillful in doing bad but don't know how to do right," (Jeremiah 4:22). Then as if already seeing before his eyes the dreadful end that would soon come upon these people who were refusing to know God, Jeremiah said this: "I have seen it. Now see it. The earth turned to chaos. The heavens had no light in it. I have seen it. Now see it. The mountains were trembling, the hills were shivering. I have seen it. Now see it. Man vanished, the birds of the air have all fled away. I have seen it. Now see it. The fruitful earth has converted to a desert, the towns have all crumbled in the presence of the Lord because of his fierce wrath," (Jeremiah 4:23-26).
5. We can see in this descriptive statement of "The earth turned to chaos" as is written here the words that we saw earlier in Genesis that [the earth] "was chaos - formless, void." He says "I have seen" the earth like that. No doubt Jeremiah was probably seeing in his mind's eye that the world with its back turned against God was under the wrath of God and soon would most certainly fall apart, it would turn "formless, void" and lose its light and turn into utter darkness. For that reason as well, he was made to give the people that message.
6. Then, the vision Jeremiah had seen and the word of the Lord which he had spoken had before too long become reality. The kingdom of Judah was knocked down, the temple to which the people used to turn was burned up, the walls of the capitol city of Jerusalem were leveled down and wound up as heaps of rubble, the nobles were hauled out to Babylon and turned into captives. "The earth became chaos, the heavens had no light in it." -- Surely so, the people had actually come to see a world such as that. Thus, the words from the creation account were not words far away from them at all. "The earth was chaos and darkness was on the surface of the deep." The sketch of the initial situation that spoke of [this chaos and darkness] was not "[some bedtime once upon a time] tale from the past long ago" in any way, shape, or form that had no bearing on them. [It did have a bearing upon them] because it was a true picture of the world in which they lived.
7. Well, I told "their" story. But, how about "ours?" For many modern people, this story from Genesis must sound too primitive, so naive. But, can we so easily let these words of "the earth was chaos" go in one ear and out the other? Probably instead, though, [we] usually [use] this word "chaos" as the most appropriate word to express the reality we're in whether in our individual personal lives, or in our home life, or in the way society is, don't [we]? But, actually though, we really might be starting to see on a global scale [this] world described with the word "chaos." Aren't we starting to? What about the phrase of "darkness was on the surface of the deep." [It's] a deep abyss where nothing crawls anymore, a world where there is no light on it at all, [just] darkness covers it. Those really are quite appropriate words to sketch out the world that we are seeing, aren't they? Whether two thousand five hundred years ago or in modern times, the state of the world having lost sight of God can be described with the words "chaos" and "darkness" alone.
A New Creation
8. But, precisely when the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth becomes "our story," then the word of God reverberating in the chaos and the darkness truly becomes a message that powerfully comes upon us.
9. "God said, 'Let there be light.' Thus, there was light," (verse three). The work of God began from there. The work of God to change for good the situation of chaos and darkness had begun. Then after that, the story proceeds very orderly. With the repetition of the phrases "God said," "So it came to be," "God saw it and considered it good," an orderly world which God considered good was being built. To the captives who were finding themselves in the words "The earth was chaos and darkness was on the surface of the deep," this story from sheer repetition probably became a source of much comfort and hope.
10. I mentioned earlier there is a point here that "Apart from the God who gives order and meaning to this world, this world would have to go back to its initial chaos." But, there is an even bigger message for us here. It is the message that "The God who first gave form, order, and meaning to this world is able to give this broken down world form, order, and meaning again." The story of the creation of the world shows that God "is able to re-create the world."
11. At "the beginning" God didn't just leave the earth in chaos or a world where darkness covered the deep. So then, [when it comes to our] world, [our] country, our homes or our lives, neither should we expect God to just leave them deserted in chaos and darkness. When God speaks his word, when God says "Let there be light," the light will be brought right there. Order will emerge and meaning will be born anew. A new creation will take place there. That's the very place where their hope was and that's the very place where our hope is as well.
12. Furthermore, in a decisive manner God has said "Let there be light" once again to the world. The words that tell us this are the other words from scripture that we read today, the words from the beginning of The Gospel According To John.
13. What this passage [from John] has written in it is as plain as day taking into account the very first paragraphs from Genesis. In this passage Christ is called "the word." Then, "the word became flesh and dwelled among us," (John 1:14). The word became a person, and walked on this earth as the one called Jesus of Nazareth, which is how that God has spoken in a final and decisive manner. God has spoken to this world by sending into the world God the Son, who is one with God the Father. "The word" which once had a part in the creation of the world has come into the world which has turned its back on God and become chaos. There was life in the word. It had God's life. And "The life was the light illuminating humanity," says the scripture. It's true, and it is the same "light" as that time. If I may put it like this, just like God [said] the first time, he again said "Let there be light" and sent his son into the world.
14. So, because God said "Let there be light," light was brought forth on this earth as before. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. The person who follows me does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life," (John 8:12). The light has already been given. Therefore, if a person is with Jesus, he or she has the light of life, and is no longer in the darkness of chaos.
15. I stated earlier that "The story of the creation of the world also shows that God 'is able to re-create the world.'" That re-creation has already begun. It has begun since the new "Let there be light" from God. It has already begun in us. It is just as Paul said when he wrote, "Therefore, anyone who is joined to Christ is a newly created person. The old [person] is passed away, a new [person] is come into being," (Second Corinthians 5:17). Whenever a new creation is started in us, we should expect it to surely move on towards completion. We're on the way towards perfection. It's the same for this world, too. In our eyes this world just seems like it is heading towards collapse and ruin. But, this world is the world into which God sent the Christ and God has spoken his word. Since that is so, this world is also on the way to perfection. As a result of that, as we give testimony to the light that has already been brought forth, we can live on this earth with courage and hope.