In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not (John 1:4-5).
The beginning of John’s Gospel highlights the themes that will pervade its message: Jesus as the Word, the means of creation (John 1:1-3), and now Jesus as life and light (John 1:4-5).
It stands to reason that since the Word was the agent of creation, that the Word provides life. This is not a new message; this is what God intended for Israel to learn in the Wilderness (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). Man, ultimately, is sustained by his Creator and the words that come from Him.
Nevertheless, the Word is also the light of men. It is not coincidental that the first created thing in the universe is light (Genesis 1:3). Light is more than just a period of time during which people can see; light is the time for life and provides the energy that sustains life. Light and life are inseparable. Little wonder then that light ends up standing for all that is right, good, and beneficial– all the qualities of God.
Yet consider the flashlight. In a bright room, the light of a flashlight is difficult to see. In a dark room, however, the same amount of light emitted all of a sudden is much clearer. And so it is with the Incarnate Word.
Darkness, as the absence of light, is used to describe all that which is the absence of life. Dark days are unpleasant. People experiencing sadness speak of it in terms of darkness; when we feel that evil is ascendant, we associate that with darkness.
And the darkness in the world is vast. We are constantly reminded of the suffering, misery, and pain that is experienced throughout the world. Government agents, people in corporations, and other “institutional” figures are often to blame for such evil. And yet how much evil takes place among individuals? How many times do people hurt each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually? For that matter, as uncomfortable as it may seem, how often have we been the ones to engage in the works of darkness, rebelling against God, causing pain and grief for our fellow man (Romans 3:9-23, Titus 3:3)?
It is easy to be scared of the darkness. It often seems that the darkness wins. We see evils pile upon evils. We see it happen in other countries. We see it happening amongst our own friends, family, and other loved ones. Oppression. Violence. Natural disasters. Famine. Lying. Cheating. Adultery. Betrayal. Anger. Sometimes it is the people we expect; far more troubling is when it is done by the people we least expect to do it, or it is done to those who we believe deserve it least.
The darkness is terrible, and the suffering that exists in the world is indeed vast. But the situation is not hopeless: we are not left entirely in the dark. The Light has shined into the darkness, and try as it may, the darkness has not “apprehended” it (John 1:5). Darkness, try as it may, cannot overcome the Light of God.
This is our strong assurance and sustaining hope. The forces of darkness, however strong, cannot overcome the Light of God in Christ (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18). Love, compassion, goodness, and mercy will prevail. Even though we may experience great personal and collective suffering and loss, such cannot separate us from the light and love of God in Christ (cf. Romans 8:31-39). Therefore, we do not have to be afraid. We must not give up in exhaustion, assuming that the darkness has won. It has not. It cannot.
Our Creator took on the form of the creation and pointed the way forward for humanity. The darkness might be strong; the darkness might seem to be on the verge of swallowing up the light. But it never will. The Light has overcome the darkness; people can be freed from sin and death. We may suffer; we may hurt; but we can win the war and obtain the victory through Jesus Christ. Let us trust Jesus our Light and Life and be sustained in Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry