The Invincible Light

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness never overpowered it. John 1:5

We had already seen, in a previous post, how the opening verse of John’s Gospel reminds us of the opening verse of the Jewish Torah. In John 1:5, the apostle alludes to that primeval event—the arrival of invincible light—as described in Genesis 1.

The creation account in Genesis says darkness covered the newly created watery planet. Darkness isn’t an entity by itself; it is the absence of light. God’s command sent light to the earth. He made light shine on earth in such as way that there was a recurring series of nights (darkness) followed by days (light). The day-night cycle provided the planet a rhythm, a primary measure of time. Thus, God separated the day from the night. Light and darkness appear as a contrasting pair, either symbolically or literally, in the rest of the Bible.

The genre of the creation account demands a literal reading. The darkness mentioned in Genesis 1:2 was just the absence of light. However, in John 1:5, it is clear that John added a layer of symbolic meaning to light and darkness. The Logos is the True Light. If the True Light represents God’s ultimate self-revelation, darkness represents a state of separation from God, dominated by ignorance or false beliefs about God. It is a state of spiritual death. The light of divine revelation that Jesus offers, unlike Gnostic knowledge, does not just inform people about God; it leads them from death to eternal life. This is why Jesus said those who follow Him will have the the light of life (8:12) The apostle too testified, “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.” (1:4)

Darkness also represents forces that oppose God’s self-revelation in the Logos, the Word. Thus, right from the beginning of the Gospel, the author introduces the reader to an epic battle between the True Light and the forces of darkness. This conflict runs through the length of this book as a dark thread. We see two groups of people—those who love the Light and are drawn to it; and those who love darkness and stay away from the light. Darkness stands as a metaphor for sin and its resultant shame that cause people to hide from God. According to Jesus, those who welcomed Him belonged to the light while those who rejected Him had chosen to remain in darkness because they did not wish to be exposed.

… the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. (3:19-21 NET)

Darkness represents blindness. Some choose to be blind. Those who refuse to believe in Jesus claim to have sight but they are blind. Jesus said to the man who was born blind, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.” (9:38)

Further, darkness represents the devil and his works. The children of darkness are under the devil’s sway. Jesus encountered active opposition from such folks. The Jews in Judea who refused to believe in Jesus called him a demon possessed Samaritan (8:48). They sought to kill Jesus (8:40). Jewish leaders used threats to prevent people from following Jesus (9:22). The chief priests (yes, plural!) in Jerusalem plotted to kill Lazarus too because news of his resurrection caused many Jews from Jerusalem to believe in Jesus (12:9-10). Jesus called such murderous Jews the children of the devil.

You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning (8:44)

The murderous devil had taken hold of Judas Iscariot, about whom Jesus said, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?” (6:70-71) The full force of diabolic darkness was unleashed upon Jesus through Judas’ betrayal, the subsequent illegal arrest, a sham trial, and ultimately, cruel crucifixion. No wonder John compares that phase of Jesus’ life with night. (11:8-10)

And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. (13:27)

Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.) (13:30)

The sentence – Now it was night – is not merely a description of time. It has a dramatic effect. That night was different from all other nights.

The darkness of ignorance, falsehood, sin, death or even the reign of the devil had to make way for Jesus, the heavenly Light that came into the world. Jesus faced the dark schemes of the devil that night. His victory was so complete that He declared, “It is finished” before taking his last breath. The battle against sin, death, and the devil was over. A new dawn was ushered in through His resurrection.

Those who proclaim Jesus partake in the same ultimate victory in spite of apparent dark nights they might face in their earthly life. One day, the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness never overpowered it.

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