It's dark out there.
We've been learning that this week. And when it's dark, life is hard. We've learned that as well.
This isn't really news, of course. I remember how I felt about the dark when I was a child. I wasn't one of those children who needed to sleep with the light on (like the sister with whom I shared a room); however, when we were at the family cabin on Whidbey Island and I had to go to the bathroom at night the dark was rather...well, dark. There was no light near that 'bathroom', you see. Nothing but a flashlight to guide me out the door and down the path to the outhouse. And you know what was flying around out there in the dark? BATS. We saw them one summer evening just at dusk and ever after I was certain if I walked outside in the dark I'd run into a bat. And, obviously, that was VERY scary!
But there is some truth to the idea that there are things to be afraid of in the dark. Or, at least, that we were not made for the dark. We are NOT bats, and our eyes don't see well in the dark. Our ears (or whatever it is that bats use) don't hear sound well enough to guide us when we cannot see.
We need light. We need it like we need air to breathe. The amazing, radical "I AM" of John 8 may be the foundation of all of them. If "I AM the Bread of Life" connects Jesus to the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness, in saying, "I AM the Light of the World," Jesus draws us clear back to the creation of the world. In Genesis 1, God says, "Let there be light." Now Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." It's like He's taking a laser beam to reveal that He was at the creation of the world. He was involved with all that began with God's first words. The groundwork of who Christ is has to do with Him being the light. John makes this clear in the prologue when he says, as the Message puts it (so eloquently), "What came existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out."
So Jesus is the Light of the world. But He isn't just a giant flashlight or a shining neon globe. When He says He's the Light of the World, He's speaking to us, and teaching us to walk in Him. Listen to Him. When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8: 12) There are two distinctive marks of His followers that come from following the Light of the world.
First, we won't walk in darkness, and will be able to combat the schemes of the one who is the prince of darkness, the enemy. The enemy would like us to believe that our issues (mine or yours) are too difficult to be overcome. In fact, he'd like us to believe that he doesn't even exist. But in this simple statement, Jesus declares emphatically that yes, there is darkness but that we aren't subject to that darkness. We are "children of the Light (as He calls His followers in John 12:35)." We have been given everything we need to combat the enemy in this single clause in this powerful sentence: "will have the light of life." It isn't what we do ourselves that manages against the enemy or against darkness, it's that we 'have the Light of Life." We have Jesus. That's it. That's the thing, the one thing.
And that's my second point. Darkness cannot overcome light. You can't take a light into a dark room and have the dark overpower the light. Light always overcomes darkness. As a single match lights up a whole room, so His name can light up the darkness when the enemy tries to smother us. And that one name, that one HOLY Light-filled "I AM" is enough. It's the light of the world.
As children of the Light of the World, we're surrounded by people who don't see the Light of the world at all. Some of those we meet, talk to, and work with each day are people still living in darkness. I've been thinking a great deal about this this week. As we sat in that lock-in unit, I wondered about those who occupied the other rooms and what their hard stories might be. As we sat in the dining room at the elders' retirement facility, I wonder at those who sit at other tables, even those to whom we are re-introduced each time we appear. Do they see some kind of glow akin to a torch in a dark room when they see us? Is the Light of the World shining out of my conversation? Out of my attentiveness?
And, finally, John tells us in his first epistle, "If we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another." So it's walking in such ways that His Light shines out of us, walking so that we reflect Him that fellowship becomes a reality.
Light-- at creation, in darkness, in dealings, in fellowship.
That about says it all.