Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Holy Week Reflection for March 27, 2013

Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (John 12:35-36)

Darkness can be a comfort. When it’s time to sleep, darkness can soothe and quiet the human heart, offering an environment for rest. But it can also be a terror, obliterating all sense of orientation and direction, projecting fears of specters and skulkers into its inky blackness.

Even the smallest light—a wooden match, a birthday candle—can shatter darkness and reveal the true nature of our fears. Ghosts and goblins were only footstools and tables. But formerly dark corners assumed to be empty could be illuminated sufficiently to reveal hypodermic scorpions and invasive vipers. The light unmasks our fearful illusions but it also exposes dangers that disguise themselves as things benign.

John uses light imagery quite often. In this account, Jesus speaks of his own presence among his people as light in the midst of darkness. He calls upon them to “believe in the light.” At first it sounds as though he is talking about intellectual illumination, an enlightening of the mind that dispels the darkness of ignorance and false belief.

But there is more going on here than simply a mental shift. Jesus calls them to belief so that they “may become children of light.” There is the suggestion of transformation here, a movement of life from the immersion in darkness to an identity that is lit up like a Christmas tree. It hints at what would later be seen as the ultimate intention of God for the world: “See, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Transitioning from darkness to light is more than a change of the mind; it is also a change of a life.

Once Jesus speaks these words—words that were somewhat cryptic to his hearers—he left them and hid for a while. When he was with them they were amazed, challenged, offended, horrified, and energized. Now they could experience his absence for a while, imagining what it would be like for him to be gone from them, leaving them in darkness.

Soon enough, they would find out. And so can we.

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