“I am the light of the word,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 (from this week’s reading John 8:12-20).
Have you ever walked in darkness?
Though the bedroom late at night, at a camp site far from any light source, or during an unexpected blackout? It can be terrifying. Without light we can easily stumble, walk into a tree branch, or go in the wrong direction. Of course, the existence of daylight doesn’t necessarily prevent any of these from happening, either. But certainly light makes getting around easier. In the light we’re less likely to stumble, walk into something, or walk the wrong way.
Light helps us see. But sometimes, light helps us see things we don’t want to see … or we don’t want to be seen by others. Light can be uncomfortable, too, drawing attention to those things we’d rather hide.
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Jesus is the light of the world.
We’ve heard this before. Back in the first chapter of John, we read that “What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:3-5). These first verses of Jesus as the light point us toward the promise of light, the light to which we are drawn and which we often crave.
But just a few verses later we see that this light isn’t always welcomed warmly, so to speak. “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him” (John 1:9-11).
Light is funny like that – warming and making sight possible, but also revealing and discomforting. Trees bend toward the light to receive its power, while sometimes we draw blinds to keep the light out.
This is Jesus, folks. He is the light of the world, casting out darkness – the darkness of the world, yes, but also the darkness of our lives. It is so easy for we who are raised in Christian culture to see Jesus as an unobjectionable good. Why would people reject Jesus? But I think we are often blinded by our cultural Christianity to the disruption and discomfort that Jesus really brings, and the dark places and blind spots on which Jesus shines light.
It can be hard to let the light of Christ into our lives, to bear how it reveals the brokenness and shortcomings of our humanity. And when our humanity is exposed, we can be reluctant to admit it or to share it with others in Christian community. Strength, after all, is what we value in our society. Humility and weakness, not so much.
Yet that light which reveals is also a light that heals, warms, and transforms. It is a life-giving light that calls us into a new life. We ought to take comfort that it is through weakness, vulnerability, and foolishness – not strength, impenetrability, or wisdom – that God works in this world (see 1 Corinthians 1). That is, it is through broken and fallen people like you and me, and on broken and fallen people like you and me, that Christ’s light shines.
We walk not in darkness, but in the light of Christ. This is good news.