Jesus 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)
I must have read or heard those words hundreds of times. But yesterday they seemed to leap out at me, making me pause awhile and think what Jesus meant by that oft-quoted metaphor.
We take it for granted these days, with mains electricity in all the developed world, and much of the developing world too. In New Testament times, however, people were limited to candles or oil lamps. A lot of them were needed to light a big room, and they required a fair amount of effort to keep going. Their main form of light was, of course, the sun. Most of the work was done in the daytime outside, or in rooms with plenty of windows.
Light banishes the darkness.
In Patricia M St John's book, 'Treasures of the Snow', which I first read as a young child, there's an image which has always stuck with me: the idea that when we open shutters to let in the light, the darkness simply disappears. We don't have to rush around trying to get rid of it first, or worry about it at all once the light floods the room. So it is with our sin. Some people seem to think they have to get rid of all their wrong attitudes and behaviours before they're good enough to come to Jesus. Or even to enter a church. But it doesn't work that way. We come to Jesus because we're sinners, full of darkness. In his light, the darkness vanishes. It's forgiven. Forgotten. Gone.
That's not to say it doesn't sometimes return; of course it does. When we turn away from Jesus, our old habits recur. Life isn't always easy, and we're flawed humans. We will never be fully in the light as long as we're living on this earth. But any time, any place, we can turn to Jesus and have our sin - our darkness - wiped away in his light. He paid the penalty we deserve. He is always the light, and in him we too can have a the light of life.
Light uncovers what is hidden.
There is much that we hide, in addition to our sin. Perhaps we have some sordid family secret that we don't want anyone to know about. An abusive parent. A rebellious child. A sibling in prison. Perhaps we were badly hurt in the past, and try to hide it. There are many things which are not our fault - not our sin - yet which almost choke us as we pretend all is well, make cheerful small talk, smile and clap as we sing in church.
But we can bring everything to Jesus, including these things which make us embarrassed or angry. He can help us to forgive, and he can show us that in everything he is there for us. One day perhaps we'll understand why something happened - possibly even see some good come out of it - but equally, we may never know. What matters is that Jesus is there for us, loving us, taking us in his arms and letting us know that he understands.
Light reveals the path ahead.
It's easy to stumble or go the wrong direction in the dark. But by daylight we can see the road, and where it leads. Those who live without Jesus may have many plans for their future, but they don't really know where they're going. With Jesus, we may not know what tomorrow brings - we may only be able to take one step at a time - but in his light we know the path is there, and that he holds his hand out to guide us.