Friday, March 26, 2010

Darkness Cannot Overcome the Light - A Reflection for Holy Week

“When the great crowd of the Judeans learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Judeans were deserting and believing in him.”-- John 12:9-11

Darkness cannot withstand the light that is cast upon it. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” writes St. John in the opening verses of his gospel narrative. It may seem as though darkness rules the present age, for we live in an age of pessimism. We live in a time when words of good news are dismissed as sentimental and idealistic, and a world in which those who pronounce good news are thought of as peddlers of starry-eyed dreams. If there is a good news story to be heard, it is relegated to the end of the broadcast, to the final page, below the fold, and if some better bad news comes along, we will kill the good news altogether.

At the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, a good news story was being told: Lazarus who had died was alive, and through his resurrection many people were coming to believe in Jesus. This good news story was too much. It unsettled the Judean leaders and drove them to scorn. Indeed, this good news angered them so much that they sought to snuff out the life of the one who proclaimed this news, and also the life of the one whose life had been restored. Jesus and Lazarus had become marked men. The leaders of the Judean people simply could not comprehend what this good news meant.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. The Greek word, “to overcome”(katalambanein), has a variety of connotations. It has been translated variously throughout the years. Many of the early Church Fathers tended toward the definition, “to comprehend” or “to grasp,” and this is certainly the rendering in the King James Version, which reads, “The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.”

At the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany, the light was shining in darkness, but darkness failed to understand it, failed to grasp it: the darkness comprehended not the light, and in failing to understand it, it sought to snuff it out. The leaders planned to destroy Jesus and his witness Lazarus. Not only did they seek to destroy the light itself, but to destroy any witnesses to the light.

But paradox upon paradox, to destroy the light was only to cause it to shine more brightly! Those closest to the Lord understood this, Martha proclaimed him as messiah and confessed her faith in the resurrection of the dead, Mary anointed him as for burial in anticipation of his reign, and Lazarus’ very life witnessed to the reality that death would not destroy the light of the world. Jesus announced, “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people unto me.” He proclaimed boldly that against the onslaught of darkness and night, against the torture of crucifixion, the darkness would not overcome the light. Good news rises like a phoenix from the ashes of death. The darkness failed to comprehend the light and the darkness failed to overcome the light.

Thus, the darkness can make its claims on the day, but it shall not prevail. The darkness shall attempt to snuff out the light, but it will not succeed. The darkness will seek to silence and envelop all those who testify to the light, but it has no power over those who witness to the light, because even the darkness of the grave itself cannot contain the bright Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the World, who cast his rays into the darkest corners of the depths of our hearts and souls and replaces the shadows of doubt with the light of life.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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