John 3:19–21 (ESV)
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Consider, for a moment, that pasty, vampiric color a teenager gets when he spends an entire summer away from life and enveloped in a video game. He appears to be whiter than snow. One might even think they would see through him should the sun miraculously cast its beams onto him. Now, consider the bricklayer or roofer or oilfield hand. Notice a difference? They appear as dark as pitch when compared to the teenage boy, assuming both parties are caucasian. Why is this the case? Well, obviously, the one has something of a tan. The question that arises is “Why?” The Sun. One has spent copious amounts of time and energy under the beaming rays of that star we call the sun and the other has done nothing outside the walls of his bedroom in three months.
Why do I bring this up? I bring this up because I was going through my notes I wrote some time back and stumbled across this very thought in my leather-bound notebook. My question was thus: “Why is it that we get darker in the presence of the Sun? Is it coincidence? Could this be an illustration of the light and darkness we see in the gospel according to John?” The more I pondered, the more convinced I became that it was no coincidence. This was communicating that very truth John, so often, wrote about. See, the teenager that was out for the summer would have despised the sun because his actions were done apart from and in rebellion of that very sun while the man who had been working in the sun for years would have had absolutely no problem with it. That brought to mind the Scripture written above. It is, by no means, a perfect illustration, but a good one nevertheless.
If we look at the two people I have described allegorically, the man represents the righteous man whose works were carried out in God. The teenager represents us insomuch as we shy away from spiritual light because our works were not done in that light. We will be judged for our unwillingness to go to that light. But there is something of a catch. We think we are perfectly fine because of how we appear.
This is the great irony of the gospel:
Matthew 19:30 (ESV)
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Appearance means very little. You may appear whiter than snow, but that does not mean that you are. Likewise, you may appear very dark and yet be the kindest of saints. Light has a way of revealing which you are. All men who go out into the sun either are dark or soon will be. This illustrates quite well that the sinful man may look nice and neat and clean but be just as dead and dark as the next man. (Nicodemus in John 3; The Rich, Young man in Matthew 19 and Mark 10) It also illustrates for us the righteousness of one who appears unrighteous. (Saul of Tarsus in Acts 8; The thief on the cross in Luke 23)
More interesting than that is the fact that the longer we are, as sinful man, exposed to that light, the more visible our darkness becomes. Most applicable are the statements of Paul in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 15.
Romans 7:24 (ESV)
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
1 Corinthians 15:9 (ESV)
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Both of these texts show us that prolonged exposure to perfect light brings to mind our own darkness. But it does not take prolonged exposure for that to take place. That prolonged exposure simply makes it that much more prevalent. Isaiah writes,
Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Isaiah simply saw the Lord and was woeful because he realized his own darkness. So, both to conclude and recap, the physical sun is a representation of the Son in that it shows us our physical darkness even as He shows us our spiritual darkness.
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ has given us His ability to revel in that light that we get a taste of now, but will get to enjoy in its entirety upon our death. Praise and honor and glory be unto God for such a wondrous thing as His gospel and the many illustrations thereof that He has placed around us that we may observe His works!