Darkness and Light

The week gets darker and darker as we move from Palm Sunday toward Good Friday.  Our Holy Week readings come from the Gospel of John, which has as one of its main features the theme of darkness versus light.  

And so when Judas goes out to put into action a plan to betray Jesus, John tells us that it is now night.  It is now the time for darkness and the darkness is closing in on Jesus, who, as John told us at the very beginning of this Gospel, is the light to whom John the Baptist testified. Jesus is the light of the world. Light from light, true God from true God, the only begotten holy one of God.

And John also told us at the beginning of this Gospel that the darkness could not and did not overcome the light. So we know how this will end.

Still, for now it is dark; the dark is closing in; and again we are invited to peer into that dark. 

It’s easy to get hung up about Judas here and to wonder what Jesus means by giving him the bread and telling him to do what he is going to do. In John, Jesus already knows everything ahead of time, so we know that Jesus knows what Judas is about. Judas represents the one who wants to operate in the darkness instead of the light, but he’s not the only one.

And so we are invited to look into that darkness, not so we can look for and blame Judas, but so that we can see that the darkness is not the light and never can be. All throughout this Gospel, Jesus has urged his followers to look for the light and to walk in it, to live in it, to bask in it and reflect it.

And in contrast, today we are invited to look into that darkness and see how easy it would be for us to slip into it ourselves.  To see how we ourselves might be tempted to live there where power and influence and comfort are of paramount importance.  To see that living in the darkness will only bring forth dead and withered fruit.

If we focus on Judas and the betrayal as the act of one man, then we miss the larger picture. Jesus is surrounded by people who want to stifle the love he offers to everyone. They are often called “The Jews” in this Gospel, but of course all of the people in the Gospel are Jews. Peter, James, John, the beloved disciple, Jesus himself are all Jews.

But the ones who are in opposition to Jesus are the ones who are angry that he eats with sinners and challenges their customs. They are angry that he has raised Lazarus from the dead. They are angry about this overflowing love that Jesus shows towards ordinary people. He makes hundreds of gallons of fine wine out of plain water at a wedding. He feeds thousands of people on simple bread and fish. He makes an unnamed lame person walk and restores another nameless blind beggar his sight. He says that he came so that people - all people! - might have life, and have it abundantly.

And some of the people around him just don’t like that.  They don’t like that overflowing grace and mercy.  They don’t like that overwhelming love that goes just anywhere like the mighty waters of justice that roll down over everybody and the everflowing stream of righteousness with which Jesus wants to quench the thirst of the whole world.  They don’t want everybody to be beloved. They don’t want to hear that the poor beggar is not poor because he made bad choices but because the rich have sold out concern for his well being for a pair of cute sandals and the well-fed have pushed aside the hungry to get more food for themselves. They don’t want Jesus to be about extravagant abundant grace and mercy, about oceans of the best wine and acres of the best bread and unlimited indiscriminate love.

And they are not the only ones.

That’s what the dark does to us. It literally stunts our growth. It makes us stingy and small minded. It makes us jealous and fearful. It deadens us little by little.  

The darkness did not overcome the light. Love is going to win. But we come together again this week to look at the line between darkness and light, the line between love and fear, and ask ourselves again:

On which side shall we stand?


Ray Barnes said…
A lovely post Penny. Thanks so much.
You're very welcome, Ray!
Donna said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thanks, Donna. Often the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak for us adults.