‘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.’ John 11.9,10
Time keeping in the days of the New Testament was different to ours (No pun intended). We are used to a standardization of time unknown to people then. Both the Roman and Jewish practice was to divide the 24 hour day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. Hours therefore varied in length depending on the time of year. Jesus reference to twelve hours of daylight is not to be taken literally and does not refer to planning his journey time to Bethany. Rather is relates to his whole ministry leading up to the twelfth hour, the culmination of his work on earth and his death on the cross.
There appears to be a disconnect between the disciple’s objection to Jesus’ return to Judea to attend to Lazarus and Jesus response about the length of day and walking in daylight and stumbling in the dark. The disciples are concerned for Jesus physical safety and with good cause. Jesus is concerned with pressing on with obeying the Father’s will right up to the last moment. When reading this passage, it can be approached in two ways. To understand what Jesus was doing and how he was revealing himself to be the resurrection and the life, the prophesied Son of God bringing about salvation for all who believe in him. Additionally, we can see in Jesus a model or example of how we should view our own lives.
Light in John’s gospel draws upon the physical light and darkness of creation to convey moral and spiritual conflict as well as God’s means of salvation. John says in v1.5, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ Jesus speaking of himself to Nicodemus says, ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ John 3,18,19
Jesus despite the potential dangers was going to press on and bring the sign of his ultimate overcoming of death and the light of salvation through raising Lazarus from death. We gain from Jesus’ reply the sense of urgency in his mission as well as determination to complete the task to the end. He was not going to be diverted away from God’s light. In that sense Jesus is the example of how we should view our life up to the end. He is our encouragement. Hosea captured the spirit of this, ‘Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ Hosea 6.3 Jesus had previously summed up his sense of urgency with, ‘We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.’ John 9.4Hebrews also encourages us to press on with God’s mission for our lives. ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12.1,2Do we allow obstacles to our faith deter us from “walking in the light”?
Have we a clear vision of our goal?
Be thou my vision