|St. John the Apostle|
No, I did not grab my Greek New Testament or my lexicon or any reliable commentaries or read through the entire gospel immediately to get the context of this statement. Instead, I sat with it that morning. I have been sitting with it since that morning. And here I am writing about it. Yes, I have read further in the gospel, and yes, I go back and reread that statement to discern how it fits with what I am currently reading.
But at present, it wants to stand alone. It wants to challenge me in some deep place, a dark place, a mysterious place with no name as yet. In my journal for that day's reading, I wrote "the darkness within me cannot overcome the light that is within me." I don't know, but I am thinking that this is mystical language. And of course, I would because that is what I like and prefer. Metaphors and analogies. Vague concepts and spiritual innuendos.
It could be that John simply meant something like "flip the light switch and wah . . . lah . . . darkness gone." But it appears otherwise. John gives darkness power to do something or to not do something. In this case to overcome or not overcome. To overcome light or not.
I like this switcheroo. John seems to be telling me (and certainly, I am personalizing this, and surely, it reflects my inner state of being at present, but nevertheless), he seems to be saying that what is dark in me will never overcome the light in me. Contrary to what I might believe about my life's circumstances or my own abilities, contrary to self-incrimination, self-accusation, or self-darkness, these things will not overcome the light within me.
They will not overcome what shines in me. They will not conquer that which gives me life. But of course, this is what John says in the verse preceding this one. Life is light. The key to this overcoming business is belief. I saw that John says something about this in verse twelve. So in my mind, I can either believe the darkened things about myself or believe the lightened things.
Seems to me that John would like for me to believe that Jesus came to enlighten me so that those self-darkening thoughts and feelings would no longer overcome me. Doesn't mean they no longer exist or that I can pretend they don't exist. It means that they won't do-me-in, they won't choke-me-out, they won't sink me like a chain around my neck in the middle of a swamp.
Instead, there is a steady burning light that doesn't go out, doesn't succumb, doesn't submit. Its source is eternal, fueled by heaven. In John's words, its name is grace and truth, grace upon grace. Grace lights me up, and the dark things that would like to throw me into despair have no power to do so. That is a powerful bit of lighted information. Something I don't want to forget.