Light and the corresponding themes of enabling sight and glory run like threads through John’s Gospel. Jesus is characterized as the light of the world, unvanquished by opposing forces of darkness. John 1:5 encapsulates this concept wonderfully: “the darkness has not overcome it”. That word “overcome” could be rendered as “comprehended”, “grasped”, “swallowed”, “engulfed”. The Greek is literally “downgot”. In common parlance we say we have “got it down” when we have completely understood something; we also think of “bringing down” prey. John is saying the light both baffles and eludes the darkness, still shining clearly despite the brutalizing forces of blinding ignorance. The cross is described in terms of glory (see 17:1) – a moment of blazing light.
I have paraphrased the section where Jesus first speaks, to bring out John’s emphasis in the Greek on seeing with understanding – “perceiving”. The light of Jesus’ presence enables in-sight. We see this again in the resurrection story (20:3– 8), where three times John uses verbs for “to see” (I have emphasized the three words in the passage). In the Greek, the words have different meanings: glimpsed… examined… understood.
John is encouraging us to realize that the light we see in Jesus is a catching force, and can become indwelling light in our souls as we gaze upon Christ and his story, and as his gaze falls upon us. Notice the attachment, in both the resurrection story at the end and the meeting Jesus story at the beginning, of the concept of dwelling – where one is staying. This Gospel is about indwelling light, being at home with light, light coming home.
John thinks of coming to faith as “seeing the light”. How would you describe the process of finding faith, for you personally?
John sees the presence of Christ as illuminating. Can you think of Christians whose faith seemed to “shine out” of them, or make them shine?
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” What might this mean in practical, everyday terms? How are we going to actually do this?
God of light and glory, may the radiance of your Holy Spirit so fill our hearts and lives that all we say and do reflects the beauty of Jesus, the light of the world. For we ask it in his holy name; Amen.